Thursday, April 8, 2010
Note to Self: Bathing in Siberian Lakes
High on my short list of places to revisit is Olkhon Island, Russia. Olkhon Island sits on Lake Baikal, the deepest fresh water lake in the world and also one of the oldest--at least 25 million years old. From Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, it is over a day's journey via train and then another six hours via bus to the island. To the Buryat people and to shamans, the island is one of the most sacred places on earth, a place of pilgrimage, the source of folklore and legend. According to one legend, a dip in Lake Baikal will add 25 years to your life.
Summers on the island, I've been told, are crowded and busy. When I visited, however, it was the cusp of Siberian winter, so my memories are of a place that appeared untouched, pristine and quiet, the stillness blighted only by the shrieking wind.
We set out in the morning to explore the island by foot, agreeing to return to our guesthouse by dark. I will tell you that exploring that island made me feel like a child, gripped by simple awe, open-eyed and open-mouthed, with constant murmurs of, "Krasiva, krasiva" (beautiful, beautiful).
My two days there were not enough. And, yes, in warmer weather, I will take another dip in the lake. Someday.