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Published: September 27th 2011
Food at Train Stop
At this train stop, the women had open bowls of food. That was very unappealing to me.
We are halfway to our quest of making it around the world.
FYI: This is my 100th Blog!
We got off the train on Sunday in Irkutsk and were happy to be met by our guide/driver - Ivan. He took us for breakfast and then for a nice tour of the city. In 1920, Stalin closed all churches in Russia. People were not allowed to legally worship again until the fall of Communism. Stalin blew up the largest cathedral in Moscow and in Irkutsk (& possibly in many other cities.) Some churches remained vacant but others were used to store grain and other items.
Of the 10 churches that survived in Irkutsk, some have been renovated and are now functioning. A few are not being used but are being renovated. I saw a beautiful brick Gothic style Catholic Church that was built in 1870 for Polish Immigrants to Russia. The government converted it to a concert hall in 1975 and did not give it back to the Catholic community.
We went to Victor Park, another park commemorating Russia's victory in WW II. This war affected every family in Russia in some way. Twenty million Russians died in this war.
This park is a memorial to WW II.
Jim Hammett, Everette, & Walt
The war was over in Russia on May 9, 1945. For this reason, there is a huge celebration every year on this date - - with lots of parades, programs, etc.
Many of the old style houses still exist in this part of Siberia. Some are dark wood but others are painted bright colors. One feature is that the windows are trimmed with fretwork. They remind me of gingerbread houses.
After the tour, Ivan, drove us to the small town of Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal. We stayed in a small chalet/hotel that was run by 2 nice Siberian ladies. We walked down a dirt road to the Sunday market and mixed with the locals. The hotel owners prepared the local delicacy, omul -a salmonlike fish for our dinner. On Monday morning, we took a boat ride on Lake Baikal, the largest lake in the world. It holds 20% of the world's fresh, unfrozen water --more than all 5 Great Lakes. As we rode across the lake, we could only see land in one direction. Many fresh water seals live in the lake but we didn't see any. The foliage on the hills surrounding the lake was beautiful.
Two Headed Eagle
This eagle is a symbol of Russia. He is looking out for the country by looking both to the east and to the west. He is holding the decree for the TransSiberian RR. On the back of the decree, it says "Grateful Siberia."
At one time, the TransSiberian RR went along part of the lake. At one point, we got out of the boat, climbed a steep embankment, and walked through one of the many tunnels.
This area of Russia has an earthquake every day - just a slight tremor. We saw buoys for fishermen's nets and a few fishermen pulling their nets. They do not export the fish but consume them locally. The fish are smoked/dried and sold at the local market. This lake freezes over in the winter from January to April. According to our guide and our own skin, the Siberian winter is setting in. Snow is predicted in the next week.
From Russia, we are headed south to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. We will go out into the Gobi Desert and spend a couple of nights in a ger (yurt.) It is suppose to be much colder in Mongolia.
I hope all is well with you and your families.
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