In the midst of a thinly populated wildness there is the foremost natural wonder – Lake Baikal. It is the oldest lake in the world – its age is about 25-30 million years. Scientists estimated that more than 1500 life forms live in and around this lake. They can be found nowhere else on Earth. It occupies the territory of 12000 m2 and 400 km long. About 30 uninhabited isles are scattered throughout the lake. It’s the largest reservoir of drinking water. It contains 1/6 of fresh water found on the planet and in spite of the vast pollution by the nearby industry the most of it still remains clean and clear.
Most of the coastline lies in an environmentally protected area. The most numerous of the indigenous people are Buryats. They have been living here for many centuries. A feeling of tranquility settles over the coastal villages during long summer afternoons. A vehicle driving along the village’s streets is a rare sight. A motorcycle with a sidecar is the most popular civil transport; and a passenger car still remains an object of curiosity for children.
The area’s largest city is Ulan-Ude which was first established by the Russians as an outpost for tsar’s tax collectors during Russia’s Eastward expansion in the XVI and XVII centuries. It lies in the border area between the Siberian forests and the grassy steppes. It’s an average Siberian town without much distinction, except for a strange fancy relict in the main square. The world’s biggest head of Vladimir Lenin has more than 25 feet tall and it is ironically said by rumor that it was inspired by the head of Buddha that was located in Ulan-Ude before the Soviet takeover. Now most of Soviet monuments have been dismantled.