Posts Tagged ‘Lake Baikal’

By Irkutsk Station, I’ll Sit Down and Grin

November 6, 2009

My friend once took the train from Moscow to Beijing. She passed the southern tip of Lake Baikal. She said it went on forever. That’s because Lake Baikal is really big; really, really big; a third bigger than Wales, in fact. I’m going to take the train there myself, in spring next year.

Maybe there will be the final patches of last year’s snow, like hanging shelves of ice in a badly defrosted freezer, crystallised and crumbling. I’ll take binoculars and scan the impossible expanse of sky-grey glass looking for the only species of fresh-water seal in the world. I’ll be momentarily captivated by the steam and smoke from the paper mills, spewing out toxic sludge for endless paperbacks and government documents, so the too-clear water encapsulates curling mists of chemical smoke which move with the moon and the wind across that chilly blue. I’ll drink so much vodka I’ll go blind, but I’ll have no hangover the next morning. Mark my words for it.

What else will I find those lonesome depths, three miles deep, close enough to run in twenty minutes, too far to ever be seen again? Perhaps I’ll find a monster, a giant sturgeon, and slit it open, giant caviar gleaming like pearly-black snooker ball treasure. Or perhaps some giant pinniped, a monstrous seal that sometimes roams the land on its fin-feet, barking, gnashing, gobbling up cattle and raping women to create who knows what monstrous kelpies that roam the depths.

Here is some chick buying some fish from Lake Baikal. I can only presume she's so uncool that she's made a 270 degree turn and accidentally become cool again. Or has fashion got over the Urals now? LOLZ

I suspect though, my visit will be more prosaic. In some seedy bar I’ll play chess with some old man and he’ll tell me about the old days, through the mediation of my friend, speaking broken Russia and sipping on a rough local beer. I’ll find wonders of my own though: the wonder of looking out over a fifth of the world’s fresh water, of some folk dress in a provincial museum, of geese in flight in the Siberian sky, of vodka that wakes you up fresh and clear headed in the morning.