Finally, lake Baikal
The whole process of getting to lake Baikal was quite an interesting one. The ferry terminal for boats leaving for Baikal is quite a bit out of town, so the first step was to take a (very slow) bus service to the edge of the city. Arriving just in time for the first boat leaving, it turned out that, because of heavy fog, all services where cancelled until further notice.
The number of people waiting was steadily growing and after I learned that tickets where only sold on the ferries themselves, I started to hang around in the vicinity of the pier, trying to already secure a place on the first ferry leaving Irkutsk, by being among the first group being able to get on a boat (whenever that would turn out to be).
Some 90 minutes after its scheduled take off, the first boat was allowed to leave. The bad news was that it wasn't going to Listvyanka, the little town just on the shores of Baikal, close to Irkutsk, where I had planned to go. Some questioning made it clear that that town actually was a stopover and the good news was that in stead of a slow, regular, ferry, the trip would be done by a much faster ship, saving time to get there. During the trip, regularly big banks of fog enshrouded the boat. Pretty scary, considering the river was littered with small boats with fishermen, trying to make a living.
Then, since so many ferries where cancelled, and so many people had been waiting, the ferry I was on was filled to the max and more. You either had a seat or you didn't and not having a seat meant not being able to move because of so many people having to stand. Being among the early ones to enter the boat, I was able to secure a place on deck, having one of the best places to watch the scenery go by. It didn't seem to be possible, though, to buy a ticket anywhere, so I happily obliged to that. That is, until I noticed a very petite and lovely girl crawling through the crowd, checking for tickets and telling the ones that didn't have one, where on the boat to buy one. I had to wrestle to get below deck and got myself a ticket.
Listvyanka was a really nice place to visit. Very quiet but in a way also very touristy. Although solely focused on Russian tourists, in stead of international ones. By chance I joined a marriage service in the town's small church, but spent most of the day doing 'nothing'. In the evening, totally relaxed, after enjoying a HUGE smoked salmon for less then a buck, I took the boat back to Irkutsk.
Back at the hotel I bumped into Kiril and Dima, two friends of Roma, and they asked me if I could try to get Roma to invite us all to his Dacha for the evening. I called Roma some minutes later and indeed tried. However, Roma had a better idea. We visited two girlfriends of his (Olya and Julia with two more cats thrown in for good measure) who had made all sorts of snacks (including Pelmeni) and we had quite a good time…