Lake Baikal, known in Russian folk song as the “glorious sea”, is probably the oldest lake (25 million years), it has the clearest water (the Japanese planned to pipe the non distilled living water to Japan in WWII ). On the Golden Eagle we will be drinking it, bottled, all the way to Vladivostok. It is certainly the greatest inland sea in volume . Almost 1700 mts. below sea level, it is also the deepest of all the freshwater lakes in the world and an active rift ,a break in the
crust which is still widening by 2 cms per year, with consequent hot springs and earthquakes. Drained only by the Angara river, it is fed by 300 rivers and tributaries and freezes over in the month of January, up to two meters of ice deep.
Apart from the great variety of fish in the lake, the Omon, the Grayling and the Sig in the salmon family, there are abundant pike and also the Bull-head which serves as food for the other fish. There are also over 200 species of crustaceans (more than in the sea) and they eat…Everything !..including debris, bodies, skeletons ! Locals point out Baikal is the ideal crime site, as there is absolutely no evidence left.
Traditionally, the Trans Siberian is considered as the Iron Belt of Russia in which the Baikal railway, that circumnavigates the 630 kms long lake, is seen as (especially cost-wise) its Golden Buckle complete with 33 tunnels and some 200 bridges.
Even now, in late August, the lake is relatively cold but, several determined individuals including our Prof.Dan and Doctor Judy, took a swim anyway.They emerged to be revived by our train life-savers with a stiff shot of Vodka.
We then continue to Port Baikal and the local Lake Museum to better appreciate its geology, wildlife and complicated railroad construction.We see the famous fresh-water seals swimming smoothly from tank to tank in the aquarium, then it is a boat ride across the lake and up, by a steep hike and chairlift, for the spectacular panorama from the Chersky Mount.
Eventually we are back to Port Baikal and the train leaves to make a delightful stop at Serebriansky Kliuch (Silver Springs) for a lakeshore dinner, the culmination of a perfect day in the heart of Siberia.