Thursday, August 16, 2007
We are in Irkutsk, having just returned from the tiny village of Huzir on the Island of Olkhon on Lake Baikal. My friend here tells me the Island was previously Buryati land, increasingly inhabited by Russian settlers. It now seems to be a popular (eco)tourism destination. We stayed in the guest house, made an excursion to the northern tip of the island, ate local food and took a banya (sauna).
Although I thought we had left the 'West', the border condition is very topical here, with Irkutsk district to the west of Lake Baikal and the Buryati republic to the east. This friend Irina is studying languages at the specialist institute of the University here in Irkutsk, where there is apparently a strong interest in reviving Buryati language and culture, and better resources than in the Buryati capital city of Ulan Ude.
When we pass through the city of Ulan Ude tomorrow (Friday) on the train, we will be still closer to the Buryati country which is the land of the descendants of Genghis Khan. We expect to tarry at the Mongolian border for several hours before continuing to our final destination on Saturday.