We have made a stop and a break from our Trans-Siberian Railway coach for one day of sightseeing at Lake Baikal. The temperature is just minus two degrees – it feels positively spring-like!
Our single-coach train is brand new. Lace curtains grace the windows. TV screens at each end of the coach are linked to cameras mounted on the train so there is no excuse to miss any of the sites our guide brings to our attention.
The view on the monitors is accompanied by sounds from the nature outside – the waves against the shore, birds singing, the music of the Norwegian/Irish music group Secret garden.
The view from the windows is stunning. Lake as far you can see. Along one side there are high mountains covered with snow. The air is misty and the scenario is in countless shades of grey.
We pass a small village and our guide, Marina, explains it has 30 inhabitants. Tomorrow we will be taken through a village with just nine inhabitants. Although they have been offered alternative housing all nine refuse to leave their homes.
Tunnels open the way to the shore-side train, there are 44 in all our guide Marina tells us. The tunnels are built to a generous eight meters high by nine meters wide so there is plenty of room for the walkers who share the same route.
The tunnels range from 778.4 metres down to just 30 – the so called wishing tunnel. We’ll cast our wishes tomorrow. The tunnels and bridges record the history of this route. The lake-side route used to be the main way for the Trans-Siberian railway. Italian masons were employed to build the most crucial bridges and tunnels and their handiwork is so strong that it even withstood a richter 6 earthquake last year.
We pass by a beautiful wooden hotel with volley ball net and basket for basket ball. It looks nearly unreal in this wild nature. Soon after we enter a new tunnel and when we get out of it we see an even more beautiful wooden hotel, with swimming pool and tennis court. Here the train stops and we are told that this is where we will stay the night – just next to the Lake Baikal.