Irkutsk (Иркутск) home to Lake Baikal
The largest country on earth is neighbor to more countries than anywhere else and it touches twenty-two bodies of water as well as holding twelve seas within its borders. Inside Russia’s borders are the oldest mountains in the world, the Urals, and the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal (Байка́л).
Lake Baikal is worthy of a book, but for now we’ll mention some of the highlights.
If you put all the North American Great Lakes together and Lake Baikal would dwarf them. Scientists say that Baikal holds over 20% of all the freshwater on the planet. Lake Baikal is among the clearest waters in the world.
Baikal is not only the deepest lake on earth at 1,642 metres (5,387 ft), but is also the oldest of all lakes on the planet. At current growth rates Baikal will become a “sea” instead of a lake.
Lake Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of those are found only in Baikal’ Siberian region.
The Nerpa is the world’s only freshwater Seal.
The Baikal Omul fish (байкальский омуль), is a whitefish species of the Salmon family. You can find smoked & salted Omul all around the lake and it is a favourite of travelers on the Trans-Siberian. A popular Siberian salad called stroganina consists of uncooked frozen omul cut finely and served with pepper, salt and onion. Held apart by wood skewers during smoking, often the fish are stuffed with vegetable stuffing before eating.
Baikal holds some of Russia’s most important national parks, nature and game reserves along the lake’s shores. In 1996 the Lake Baikal Coastal Protection Zone was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When the Trans-Siberian Railway was built around the southwestern end, it took 200 bridges and 33 mountain tunnels to navigate around that end of the lake. Completely surrounded by mountains, 330 rivers flow into Lake Baikal.
Baikal is home to Buryat tribes who reside on the eastern side of the lake.
Murmansk is a very unique place, the largest city in the world above the arctic circle. Murmansk serves as a Russian naval base and commercial port and during World War II (the Great Patriotic War), Murmansk was a port for the arctic convoys. Eventually Murmansk would become the Soviet Union’s most important submarine base.