Now we were travelling further into Siberia on the way to lake Baikal, the worlds deepest lake.
This journey was longer than Moscow to Yekaterinburg and not as comfortable. No first class carriages were available to book so we had a second class. We still had it to ourselves but the top bunks were made made up and made it feel a lot smaller. Also lots more passengers were using the toilet and it was often not clean. On second class the toilet is locked for up to ninety minutes when entering a station so often a queue formed. But apart from that we still enjoyed finding different noodles to use with the hot water from the samovar and looking out at the endless taiga, a forest of pine, spruce, and larch and looking out for the small towns near the track.
Each station is different and makes for a good place to stretch your legs and explore a little.The more you still staring out of the window the less you want to move but we did walk through the train once just to see what third class was like. Once this would have been fun I’m sure we would have learnt lots about the locals but don’t think about it if you’re over twenty five! Just too much discomfort and a total lack of privacy.
Three nights and two long days later we arrived at Irkutsk Passazhirskiy station in the morning ready to be taken to a home stay in Listvyanka on lake Baikal. This was one of the highlights of our journey. The lake is around twenty five million years old and the deepest in the world. It contains twenty percent of the worlds unfrozen fresh water and many unique species. After a walk along the lake and a visit to the fish market we took a bus to a cable car to take us up for a view over the lake.
Later Nickolai our host offered us a banya, a Russian sauna, complete with birch twig beating. I made excuses but J bravely went ahead and apparently enjoyed it! this was followed by a traditional dinner in his wooden clad dining room.