The Trans-Siberian Railway comprises one of the most famous, romantic and enjoyable of the world’s greatest train journeys. You can make a several-day trip along from St.Petersburg and through some of the most interesting parts of the Transsib — lake Baikal and Irkutsk. The tour involves closer contact with the real life of Siberian people than just watching it through a train window. Traveling on the Trans-Siberian Express along the Trans-Siberian Railroad through Russia is another way to discover our fascinating country.
Siberia makes up more than 75 percent of Russia’s land mass. Its 12,488,400 sq.km domain stretches from the Ural Mountains in the west across to the Pacific Ocean in the east, from Kazakhstan, Mongolia in the south through China and up to the Arctic Ocean in the north. It is larger than Canada. More than 34.8 million people (23 percent of the Russian population) live in Siberia. Three out of four Siberians live in urban areas, the remainder practice nomadic herding (in the northern regions) or live as farmers and hunters in the region’s isolated areas. Siberia is so immense that a person standing on the beach in Maine is closer to Moscow than a person standing on the eastern coast of Siberia.
The name Siberia comes from sibir, a Mongolian word for “sleeping land.” In the early 1700’s, Siberia became a place of exile. It continued to be “the last stop” for criminals and political extremists until recent times. From the beginning of the 20th century, most Siberians have been finding that their ancestry stems from free migration into the area when many Russians settled along the main transportation line, the Trans-Siberian Railway. These new pioneers contributed to the growth of industry in the cities throughout the region, including Irkutsk, Chita and Ulan Ude.
While almost everyone thinks of Siberia as desolate and cold, the weather does in fact varies according to location and altitude.
For the Russian people, Lake Baikal is a natural treasure. The deepest lake in the world (1637 m), Baikal has unique features: its area is 35 000 sq. km, which is approximately equal to Belgium’s territory. Baikal holds twenty percent of the earth’s fresh water and harbors more endemic species of plants and animals than any other lake in the world. Fed by 336 rivers and streams including the Angara, Barguzin, Selenga, Turka and Snezhnaya, the lake holds fifty species of fish including bullhead, sturgeon and omul. No other lake can be compared with Lake Baikal in age, reserves and properties of water. Scientists estimate the age of Lake Baikal as 25-30 million years. Most lakes, especially those that appeared in the ice age, exist for 10-15 thousands years and then are filled up with sediments and disappear from the surface of the Earth. Lake Baikal has no signs of aging.
The Director of the Buryat National Section of the UNESCO Association Erdeni Ulanov once said: “Baikal is not just a lake, but something greater and deeper. It is bottomless and majestic, but not an ocean or sea in which man loses all his visible bearings. There we sense the greatness of nature, feeling at one with it, not alienated from it, which is a rare phenomenon in developed countries. Baikal is a bridge to space. You must see Baikal to be able to say what it is like.”
Travel to Lake Baikal — the Gem of Siberia, explore its unique surroundings, taste Siberian cuisine and surprise your friends at home with pictures of an existing paradise.
This city, founded in the middle of nowhere in 1661 as minor exile settlement, developed into a prosperous cultural and business center with the population of 10,000 people and is now referred to as “the capital of Siberia”.
For more than 330 years, Irkutsk has stood on the southern shore of Lake Baikal, and for centuries people living in this city were conscious of the uniqueness of its location. The city is divided by the Angara — the only river carrying the precious Baikal waters away from the lake while more than 300 large, small and tiny mountain rivers flow into it.
The city has lived through a lot of trouble during the three centuries of its history, Waves of wars, revolts and revolutions swept as far as Siberia, earthquakes and fires kept changing the city’s image. But still, Irkutsk has managed to preserve its singular look. The snow-white Church of the Savior and the Cathedral of Epiphany have survived since early days, and many log houses have become historical monuments.
During Soviet times, Irkutsk was turned into a major center of aluminium, pulp and paper industries and industrial chemistry, while the tsars’ prisons for revolutionaries and criminals were turned into Stalin’s “zones” for now rehabilitated dissidents and “public enemies”.
Now, Irkutsk is a city possessing the status of one of the seven Russian cities with unique historical heritage. Despite the fact that Irkutsk is well over three hundred years old, the average age of today’s population is only 31.6 years. It is a city of youth and students. There are 36 institutes and colleges and 9 vocational schools. Irkutsk is also a theatrical city. In the evenings bright lights are switched on at the entrances of five theatres. There are 15 cinemas and 34 libraries that house a total of 2.5 million books.
RSPB travel has been providing comfortable trans-siberian holidays for our valued clients, to arrange yours, simply contact us for more details.