Irkutsk is called the blue heart of Siberia, since it is situated on the Angara river, 65 km west of Lake Baikal, the deepest in the world. Founded in 1651 as a Cossack encampment, Irkutsk was a town by 1686.Attheendofthe 17th century it becomes an important stage on the trade routes to China and Mongolia and the place of exile, so it played host to many unwilling guests, including participants in the Decembrists' Revolt against the Tsar of 1825.
Now Irkutsk is one of the most important cities of Siberia with developed industry and rich cultural life. Tourists will see original old buildings and modern city blocks. A beautiful collection of pictures is exhibited in the Irkutsk picture gallery.
You will also visit the Lake Baikal and Wooden Architecture Museum in Listvianka village, make the acquaintance of everyday life of Siberian villages nowadays.
Baikal is famous not only for its dimensions but also for a unique diversity of plant and animal life, for its very pure drink water. One-sixth of all the earth's fresh water is in Baikal. The lake is surrounded by a chain of taiga-covered mountain ridges.
"A precious Buckle in the Steel Belt" is called the Round-Baikal Railway. One hundred years ago inspired genius and human hands were able to create such a unique monument without any usage of equipment.
Even an ordinary visitor can estimate the hole extent of titanic work and difficulties that builders of this stone miracle had to face: 38 tunnels with total length 9063 m, 18 stone and terro-concrete galleries, 248 bridges and viaducts, 268 breastwalls, hundreds of chutes and wavebreaking barriers, dozens of embankment kilometres and a great numberof deep cuttings.
The beauty of the road attires many tourists admiring the preservation of the way of life in small station settlements where the people still catch fish and supply hay, hunters go into mountains and Russian stoves are stoked.