Meeting another group of foreign tourists in the airport of Irkutsk, for me, as the guide of the "Grand Baikal" company, every time, in anticipation of 20 local sanei, it is necessary to translate dialogues of local taxi drivers who stand close to us. Good for me it is not a problem, because I know three European languages in addition to Russian.
"Today it's even warmer, only minus 40C (-104F), but yesterday was bad, while riding a bear to get new strings for balalaika vodka got frozen, had to drink pure alcohol. Well at least got home fast and warmed up at a nuclear reactor.
- I wish I had your problems, Ivan. Yesterday, my bear fell under the tank "T-34" of some rich guy and the bear got hurt, had to drag it home on me. Thank God Mikhailich's house was on the way, stopped by with the bear and drank some warm vodka from samovar that he had just warmed up with a boot.
However, when after 2 minutes comfortable bus arrives, the tourists stare at me with the wonder. And after they find out that they are going to stay in a four-stars hotel with all conveniences and without seeing a single drunk person, they start to ask questions. Then I explain them that it was just a joke. Nobody in Irkutsk rides bears, we do not have domestic nuclear reactors, and only those who play in the ensemble of Russian folk instruments can play balalaika. Most of the people saw the tank only in the form of a monument in honor of the victory of 1945, which stands at one of the streets of Irkutsk, and do not drink vodka from a samovar. We boil water in an ordinary electric kettle made by some well-known European company.
Myths about Russia are quite common among foreigners. But more often they don't correspond the reality. All who visited the capital of Eastern Siberia will tell you that it is a modern city with comfortable blocks of flats. We do have huts – in the Museum of Wooden Architecture under the open sky "Taltsy" and "130-th Kvartal", which is a small shopping area, created a few years ago as a sector of authentic buildings of XIX century. We drive modern European and Japanese cars, they are also used for the tourists trips to the Baikal – the pearl of Siberia – the largest freshwater lake in the world. Summers here are as hot as in Europe +25-+35 degrees Celsius (77-95F). Winters are really cold up to -35C (-95F), but in the conditions of dry climate and warm clothes it is not a problem.
Nevertheless, the "Grand Baikal" company values its guests and is always ready to satisfy all their desires. That is why, in addition to the excellent stay at the great lake, trips to Baikalian region in comfortable conditions, exciting tours and excursions, if you request, we will try to arrange a balalaika concert for you with tea from a samovar, and, of course, a traditional Russian dinner with Russian vodka. The only problem might be to get the bears. We would have to go to one of the local mini-zoos, or in the Center of hunting and fishing "Talovskoe", which is located on the shore of the lake Baikal. Have you ever seen glassy fish or fish without scales? Want to see? No problem! If you come here, you will see many endemic species that are not found in any other part of the world. Such as this glassy fish without scales, the Golomyanka, and the freshwater seal "Nerpa" – one of three freshwater seals in the world. Huge black eyes of this kind and charming creature do not leave indifferent even the local residents, who regularly come to admire them. And, of course, unique Siberian cuisine! You can try various dishes of meat of wild animals, thousand recipes with main fish of lake Baikal – Omul, the delicious dishes of Siberian mushrooms and berries, as well as extremely healthy and tasty pine nuts, and much, much more.