Bol’shoye Goloustnoye

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    • Day 15

      Lake Baikal and Bolshoe Goloustnoye

      September 9, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

      We arrived bang on time in Irkutsk at 6.22am on Saturday and as we manhandled our substantial luggage down about a yard onto the platform there was Ksenia, our new guide, waiting exactly at the right place with our name on a sign. It was a quick hug and goodbye to our train friends and then we were in a nice new black Kia Sportage (yes another Kia) with Ksenia and our driver Igor for the two hour journey to the small village of Bolshoe Goloustnoye on the shores of Lake Baikal.

      Ksenia is in her twenties and an English teacher at a local private school who does Tour Guiding part time at weekends and during school holidays. She will be with the two of us exclusively for the three days we are in the area. We will be living in guest accommodation attached to a farmhouse.

      We arrived and were shown to our basic but comfy looking wooden chalet, one of a row of four. Breakfast (and all 3 meals a day) was in a separate unit and lo and behold in there was the Indian couple who we spent the day with on a tour in Yekaterinburg. They are the only other guests and they are leaving tomorrow morning.

      Our location is a proper working village of 700 with one shop, one cafe and very little tourism. The local trades are primarily fishing and agriculture. The indigenous population are Buryats who are very recognisable, looking like Mongolians. They represent about 80% of the local population now.

      In the afternoon Ksenia takes us on an orientation walk around the village and a 10 minute stroll down to the shore of the main reason for being here, Lake Baikal. This lake is a monster in size and staggeringly holds over 20% of the World’s fresh water! It is 395 miles long from end to end but what creates it’s volume is it’s depth as the lake is over one mile deep in places. In winter it freezes completely to a depth of several metres. Today the weather is mixed with sunshine and showers but tomorrow is supposed to be better and a long walk up into the hills is planned.

      Back at our chalet it’s bath time or as Russians call it ’Banya’. Our accommodation has a very smart Banya which is attached to our row of chalets. It is very similar to a sauna so was very welcome after several days on the train without proper washing facilities. 40 minutes in the hot Banya and then mixing hot and cold water to tip over yourself is a great way to clean up.

      Then it was a hearty home cooked dinner, with a couple of beers from the local shop, and an early night. The beds are pretty hard but bearable and despite the cold outside temperature we have two good heaters in the chalet to keep us warm. No problem going to sleep.

      Awoke on Sunday to shocking news.........Watford have sacked their Manager!! Anyway after recovering from this it was an early morning tea and then breakfast back in the dining room. We also woke to cocks crowing, cows mooing and the odd dog barking, all very rural. Weather windy but blue skies.

      What better for a Sunday in Eastern Siberia than a long walk with Ksenia which we’ll cover separately. We were back for lunch and then sat in the sun on our terrace reading, the silence only interrupted by a large Asian Sparrow Hawk appearing at high speed from nowhere and attacking a bush filled with sparrows. The bush was only about 10 yards from us and it gave us a real surprise when the Hawk made it’s initial attack and then smashed it’s way back in the bush for a second go. There were no fatalities as far as we could see.

      Things then settled down for the rest of the afternoon and after a 4 o’clock Banya (we were braver with water temperature this time) we walked down to the lake for a beer in the only bar in town (which had wi-fi....hallelujah!). Dinner was being served at 7:30pm prompt and as we were the only guests we made sure we were back in time and enjoyed our soup and dumplings.

      It was then time for a bit of packing, a coffee and a read before bed. It’s time to get on the move again and tomorrow (Monday) morning we are being driven back by Igor to the City of Irkutsk for a day and one night before boarding the Trans-Mongolian train for the first time on Tuesday morning.

      We have had a very enjoyable time here at Bolshoe Goloustnoye on Lake Baikal. It has been very basic, but given us a chance to see how life really works in a Siberian village. As we have thought before during our time in Siberia, what must it be like in a few weeks time once the snow comes and temperatures start dropping to -30C? It doesn’t bear thinking about how we would cope that’s for sure!
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    • Day 14

      View from the train

      September 8, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

      Just a couple of short video clips through the train window, first as we travelled through a Siberian Village (with musical accompaniment) and then a typical view as we travelled through a silver birch forest in the rain.Read more

    • Day 15

      Galina's Homestay

      September 9, 2019 in Russia ⋅ 🌙 9 °C

      Just to close up on our time in Bolshoe Goloustnoye we thought we would just mention our accommodation. There are very few tourists that come to this Village so only a few places offer accommodation. We stayed in a chalet attached to a farm and enjoyed what you could best describe as a homestay.

      Galina was the lady of the house and she looked after everything. We saw her husband wandering around from time to time but apparently he is a victim of the booze, as is the case with quite a few of the Villagers here as modern day life takes it’s toll on small remote communities.

      So she looks after all guest related issues herself and also runs their small farm, with some support from her two girls and grandchildren. She prepared for us very good, filling home-cooked Russian food and despite having not a single word of English was the perfect host.

      The Banya facility was great and our room was fine with the exception of the beds which were hard beyond belief (we both agreed on that!). But it has been a very different and enlightening experience living with a real family, in a real Village, in the real forest, of the far East of Siberia.
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    • Day 12

      Last day on the Trans-Siberian

      September 6, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

      Well it’s 11pm Friday and we are in our warm and comfortable compartment on the Trans-Siberian and our overriding thought is that we wish we had at least one more day on board!

      Today has flown by. We were awake by 8am and the beautiful countryside was passing by whilst we enjoyed a morning cuppa tea in bed. Then we made ourselves some porridge for breakfast got dressed and greeted our fellow carriage passengers and our Provodnista.

      Mid-morning was our first long stop (42 mins) at the big industrial City of Krasnoyarsk where there was time to get off and stretch our legs on the platform as well as wave goodbye to our ‘well hard’ new found mates from Serbia who were sadly leaving us at this point. Their toothless smiles were memorable (possibly reappearing in a future nightmare).

      We spent a bit of time reading and taking in the views and then it was lunchtime so we topped up our pre purchased spicy pork pot noodles (very retro) from the Samovar and tucked in. Believe us or not it was a decent lunch!

      The afternoon consisted of chatting to neighbours, drinking coffee, eating Hobnobs, reading our books and researching our next port of call, as well as receiving the daily vacuum cleaner visit. Mid-afternoon we had a 17 minute stop at Ilanskaya so we had a good conversation with John’s Mum on FaceTime showing her around the train and the platform and introducing her to our neighbours and the Provodnista. Oh...the absolute wonders of technology and certainly beyond our expectations to have live contact from the middle of Siberia.

      Late afternoon we took some time to re-pack as we reach our embarkation point of Irkutsk at 6.22am tomorrow and we do not want any last minute panics.

      We had arranged to go to the bar for drinks with our friends at 5:30pm, however we crossed into another time zone at 5pm, which immediately became 6pm so 5.30pm never actually existed. Confused? How do you think we feel!

      Anyway we made it to the bar and sat with Tony, Kirstine and Will until around 10.30 when we all, very sensibly, agreed that we should get a few hours sleep in. We are all, coincidentally, getting off at Irkutsk, however the train carries on to Chita which is another two days down the line and none of us are interested in missing our scheduled stop.

      Tonight we ate in the bar/restaurant area with myself and Janet both having a really good meal of smoked salmon pancakes, ‘greek’ salad and boiled potatoes. Beer was again the order of the day and we have to thank the wonderful waitress who looked after us so well over the two nights and always made us first in the queue (regardless of who was in front of us). Our experience is that most working Russians normally adopt an initial position of caution and coldness but once you work to break through this exterior we have enjoyed great service with a real warmth and sense of humour.

      We had tagged this long train journey as having the potential to be a real (if not the) highlight of the trip and it has not disappointed. Our cosy compartment, our neighbours/beer buddies, the Provodnista, the bar, the scenery plus the overall sense and atmosphere of adventure that exists on this Trans-Siberian train have all provided us with an unforgettable experience.

      But we move on. 5.30am alarms set for a 6.22 arrival and then the next stage of the trip, a two day visit to Lake Baikal.
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    • Day 15

      Bolschoe Goulustnoye

      August 1, 2018 in Russia ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

      Ein sibirisches Dorf am Baikal am Rande eines riesigen Flußdeltas, das Ziel unser heutigen Tour. Hier erlebt man echtes Dorfleben. Wir unternahmen eine Wanderung in die Taiga und zum Sumpfland am Delta.
      Etwas befremdlich wirkte das Camp, in dem Jungs an Maschinenpistolen ausgebildet worden.
      Bekannt wurde das Dorf durch die Dokumentation von Klaus Bednarz "Die Ballade vom Baikalsee".
      Wir trafen Margarete und Otto mit ihrem russischen Guide unterwegs wieder.
      Ich fragte ihn,warum denn das Nationalparkbüro so unauffindbar am Stadtrand von Irkutsk versteckt ist. Er erklärte mir, das man kein Interesse hat Tourismus zu entwickeln. Das sei auch ganz in seinem Sinne
      Er erzählte mir noch ein Beispiel. Die Straße nach Olchon (eine schöne Insel im Baikal) ist eine üble Buckelpiste über die jede Menge Touristen anreisen. Es gab die Idee, diese zu asphaltieren.
      Aber was machen dann die vielen Fahrer mit ihren geländegängigen UAZ- Kleinbussen?
      Also bleibt alles wie es ist. Russische Mentalität eben.
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    • Day 6

      Bolshoe Goloustnoe

      May 21, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

      BG (I'll use this abbreviation for the long town name) is a small Siberian village about 2 hours from Irkutsk (see another post). It is located on the shore of Lake Baikal (see another post). The economy here is mostly tourism based nowadays, and there is evidence of some prosperity, especially compared to other villages I've passed through out here. There is even a fair amount of new construction.
      The first pic is an overview of the village from Wise Mountain (see another post). Most notable is the traditional wood construction of the buildings. Pics are of the church and several examples of traditional Siberian village wooden houses. The last looks like a small meadow but is known as Dry Lake. It has water only every 3-4 years after extremely heavy snowfall. In the right background you can see 2 horses: mother and foal. The little one was probably only a few days old as it was still unsteady on it's feet.
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    • Day 7

      BG guesthouse

      May 22, 2019 in Russia ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

      The unnamed guest house at 56 Kirova Street is where I stayed here. The first two pics are of the buildings, and the last two are of the banya or Russian sauna. It was heaven. After a day of walking, hearty Siberian food, a banya, and a cool Siberian night, I slept 13 hours.
      Very comfortable and highly recommended
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Bol’shoye Goloustnoye, Bol'shoye Goloustnoye, Большое Голоустное

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