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Port Baikal/Russia

Introducing Port Baikal

Seen from Listvyanka across the unbridged mouth of the Angara River, Port Baikal looks like a rusty semi-industrial eyesore. But the view is misleading. A kilometre southwest of Stanitsa (the port area), Baranchiki is a ramshackle 'real' village with lots of unkempt but authentic Siberian cottages and a handy selection of accommodation options. The village rises steeply, making excellent Baikal viewpoints easily accessible. Awkward ferry connections mean that Port Baikal remains largely uncommercialised, lacking Listvyanka's 'attractions' but also its crowds. Thus it's popular with meditative painters and walkers, but its main draw is the Circumbaikal train ride from Slyudyanka.

From 1900 to 1904 the Trans-Siberian Railway tracks led to Port Baikal from Irkutsk. They continued on Lake Baikal's far eastern shore at Mysovaya (Babushkin), and the rail-less gap was plugged by ice-breaking steamships, including the Angara, now restored and on view in Irkutsk. Later, the tracks were extended south and around the lake. This Circumbaikal line required so many impressive tunnels and bridges that it earned the nickname 'The Tsar's Jewelled Buckle'. With the damming of the Angara River in the 1950s, the original Irkutsk to Port Baikal railway section was submerged and replaced with an Irkutsk-Kultuk shortcut (today's trans-Sib). That left poor little Port Baikal to wither away at the dead end of a rarely used branch line.