“For Buryats Lake Baikal is a sacred and holy place. Historically, Baikal has given people food, fish, water, and there are many legends about Baikal,” says Masha Bambuyeva, a Buryat native of the north Baikal town of Severobaikalsk in Siberia, Russia.
While travelling in Siberia and reporting on the area surrounding the world’s deepest, oldest, and most voluminous fresh water lake in the world, I have heard as many tales of Baikal myths as I have witnessed breathtaking landscapes.
“There’s an erergy to that island. It’s magic. You have to go to Olkhon.”
That’s all I kept hearing from Siberians when I arrived in Irkutsk. This ain’t hockey so why fight these pesky Russians?
Actually, one thing I learned from being in Siberia and the Baltic states, Ukraine – places that continue to have Russian influence, at least in language – is that a Russian is very much like an African: an over simplified term that can refer to hundreds of different ethnic and cultural groups.
Originally Published for Dispatches International
“Lake Baikal is not such a good place for a restful vacation or a place at the beach because it snows [every] four hours, it’s cold enough in the morning, and mosquitoes [are] everywhere,” says Vladimir Hidekel, a professor of ecology at Irkutsk State University. “[But] it’s good for people who understand the beauty of wild nature.”
Sunset at Ayaya Bay
In addition to his work as an ecologist, Hidekel is an outdoorsman. He works as a project leader for the Great Baikal Trail (GBT), an ambitious project that aims to develop the first environmental trail system in Russia. “People need access to the wild nature and beautiful places,” Hidekel says about the trail network.