Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our hunger abated by the very tasty fish and chips at the Harat Pub, we retraced our steps to the Avtovoksal, the long distance bus station that we knew would have buses to Listvyanka. We’d passed through the area before, and been bombarded with offers of taxis (our luggage made us obvious targets), so we knew the general location, but not the specifics for our bus. We asked around a little bit in the parking lot, and were pointed in a general direction, but then told (from what we could gather), to get a ticket from inside. In the ticket office, we hit a small language barrier with the cashier, and I was offered a note with “1900” written on it. Some consultation of our travel guide led us to the conclusion that that meant that we would need to wait until 7:00 to catch the public bus, which would have meant getting to Listvyanka after dark (risky business in a town with no street lights).

We decided to avail ourselves of the minibuses (privately run vans that run between the towns as they fill up). We wandered in approximately the right direction, helped on by the signs in the minibus windows and by friendly pointers from locals, and found the Listvyanka minibus in short order. We were the first people in the van, so we weren’t sure how long it would take to fill up. However, we didn’t have to wait more than about 15 minutes until a stream of people arrived and topped it off, and then we were off.

The countryside we were driving through was rather hilly, and the van struggled somewhat on the uphills. I started nodding off part way through (any of you that have traveled with me know that cars have a remarkable soporific effect on me), so I missed some of the scenery (and the bus windows fogged up pretty early on, since there were 12 passengers in it). However, I started taking notice as we got to the lake. The first part that we got to was unfrozen (probably because that was near where it flows out into the Angara river past Irkutsk). Before we got to our destination, though, the ice had thickened to the point where we could see cars driving over it.

The minibus dropped us off, and we set off in search of our lodgings. There is one main road in Listvyanka, running along the edge of the lake, and then several offshoot roads into valleys where the houses are. We knew we needed one of these offshoots, but weren’t entirely sure which one. So, we kept the lake on our left, and headed out. The views across the lake were spectacular! It’s wide enough that we couldn’t see the other side in most directions

We also got to see some very nice wooden houses on our way. The village seems to still have a pretty classic rustic Russian style, although according to the travel guides we have, it may be succumbing to its own success as a tourist attraction.

Our accommodations are at what looks to be a pretty newly built guesthouse. It’s quite spacious, and when we walked in we were hit immediately with a nice woody smell.

The view out our window up the valley is quite pretty, overlooking a bunch more of Listvyanka’s wooden houses.

We got ourselves settled down in the guest house, and then went for dinner at the restaurant next door. We got there, and realized that they didn’t have an English menu, and I had forgotten our dictionary and phrase book. So, I went back to grab them while Bridgit waited. When I got back, she was heading to another, adjacent restaurant, along with our waitress from the first place. It turned out that the first one we went in was only open until 8, while the other was open until 11. Inside, the restaurant had a nice rustic nautical theme to it, complete with bar shelves in the shape of the prow of a boat, ships steering wheels on the end of the solid wood tables, and wooden fish hanging on the wall. To our dismay, we were the only ones in the restaurant, and were being served by a waitress, and at least one (and maybe two) cooks. To top it off, what little we could understand from the menu seemed to be indicating that the meat dishes came in the form of veal tongue and something liver, which neither of us were too keen on. We ended up ordering grilled vegetables and potatoes, but they were, I think, meant as garnishes rather than full meals (since to a Russian, a meal is apparently not a meal without some meat in it). As a result, we spent less than the cost of an entrĂ©e for the two of us together, and had occupied two or three people for an hour, including starting up a large wood fired stove in the kitchen for the grill. Embarrassing!

Embarrassment aside though, the food was delicious! The vegetables were grilled with a lot of pepper and some vinegar (I think), and served with sour cream, and were super tasty.

Tonight we’ll listen to the dogs bark up the valley, and then it’s up and at ‘em for a 9:00 breakfast and 10:30 appointment with the dogsleds!


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