Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal
Listvyanka, Russian Federation

Listvyanka, Russian Federation

“There isn’t anything with enough confidence for even an optimist to cling to.”

Pigeons gather on a tiled square
The birds.

Incongruous; that was from the weather centre, 4th day of the ashes test that was rained off, but too lovely not to make a note of, from my podcast listening on the shore of the lake. I’d got there on the bus, deciding I wouldn’t leave it till tomorrow, when I’m on the train near 10pm, and getting there around 2 despite a lie in. The mother of all good sleeps, too – finally I managed not to nap in the day and properly sleep through, and I felt ready to take on anything, which made me realise how illness and poor sleep had knocked me over the last week or so.

Lake Baikal. The shore is pebbled. A couple of large boats wait a few hundred metres away
The Lake.

The lake is, as any map will show you, massive. If you’re not engaged on some activity on it then it is just a body of water, but a very restive one, and i would have regretted being this close – 60odd km – and not going even if water is water. I’d been warned in the hostel that Listvyanka was a “pisshole little town” and, seen through that perspective, it wasn’t too bad. One extended shop front for souvenir and fish sellers, with locals hanging out in their boats waiting for custom, and more tourists than the city. The journey was quick, and might have felt too quick from the front seat of the minibus. I caught the 524 bus, but you can just wander to the minibuses (mashrutkyas, private) over the road from the bus station, say “Listvyanka” and hop on. Everyone else had tickets, but he let me on when I waved cash at him and only took the standard 100 rub at the end. We had one stop for a young lad to be sick, which at least stopped the Star Wars sound effects from his iPad, and then flew along the roads past more relentless birch forest.

Military vehicles parked outside a building
Turn a corner and there’s something interesting.

As I sat in the square off Sverdlova street, killing time till due to meet Ciaran at 8 (‘Liverpool pub’, as you do), the lady on the bench next to me berated two beggars as they went through the bin next to me. It seemed an equal back and forth to start with, but the lady beggar wasn’t having a bar of it. She stayed and berated right back, roundly ignored. They moved 5m to the next bin, she turned and went off. They moved 10m, then I heard her again. Even at the far end of the square I could just hear her voice-not shouting, just ‘raised’. Someone should have had the sign ‘you wouldn’t let it lie’ ready to hold over her head.

I ended up glad I went to the lake, having a good chilled-out day, ending with a German, a Norwegian, two Brits and two Australians entering a restaurant. They eat. Not every day has a punchline.

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