Burton Holmes on the Trans-Siberian Railroad

Chapter 9: To Lake Baikal

Two days exhaust the sights of this new city, which at the same time is quite old, for Irkutsk dates from 1654, and was a place of great importance long before the Trans-Siberian was dreamed of. Its future will be shaped by the railway; its place at one of the great cross-roads of the eastern hemisphere is already defined.

Significant indeed was the presence there in 1901 of two Englishmen who came to the station to see us off, for

The Museum
THE MUSEUM

Department
DEPARTMENT STORES

A Metropolitan Establishment
A METROPOLITAN ESTABLISHMENT

Imported Modes
IMPORTED MODES

A Tarantass
A TARANTASS

one was the prospective agent of Cook & Sons and the other was a pioneer tourist, conscientiously visiting the various cities, courageously investigating the hotels and incessantly on the lookout for things worthy of stars and double stars; in a word, he was compiling the Siberian Baedeker. These two men are the advance guard of the tourist army that is soon to invade Asiatic Russia. They wave farewell to us as

The Hotel Metropole
THE HOTEL METROPOLE

our train starts eastward from the busy, crowded station of Irkutsk. Along the picturesque shore of the Angara, we now proceed, toward the great lake where this swift cold river has its birth, Lake Baikal, forty miles away. The locomotive barely creeps. As we lean out from our places (we are sitting on the platform-steps), we see the smoking monster slowly rounding the successive headlands, like a discreet and almost timid tiger treading an unknown path, putting forward

The Theater
THE THEATER

A Rich Man's Residence
A RICH MAN'S RESIDENCE

A Typical Gateway
A TYPICAL GATEWAY

Log Structures
LOG STRUCTURES

one foot, gently, then the other, as if fearful of the consequence of every step. Why this unseemly caution? The rails appear well laid, the roadbed seems firm. Why not go faster? And as we ask the question, another turn reveals. the reason and the cause of caution, a wrecked locomotive, partially submerged. Content, therefore, to ride over this new, almost untried, line at a rate of less than seven miles an hour up this valley which with every mile becomes more

Lumber in the Angara
LUMBER IN THE ANGARA

Mountains of Logs
MOUNTAINS OF LOGS

Sawing
SAWING

Log-Men
LOG-MEN

The Irkitsk Station
THE IRKUTSK STATION

The Only Buggy
THE ONLY BUGGY

Representatives of Cook and Baedeker
REPRESENTATIVES OF COOK AND BAEDEKER

picturesque, we amuse ourselves by alighting from the train, picking wild flowers, and regaining our places on the platform

The Fire-Station
THE FIRE-STATION
A Little Mujik
A LITLE MUJIK

without undue haste or difficulty. Colder and colder grows the wind that sweeps down with the waters, until at last a final turn reveals the "Holy Inland Sea of Baikal," an ocean of fresh icy water, one thousand feet above sea-level, about four hundred miles in length, and averaging about fifty miles in breadth. At the pier is the huge ice-breaker, built in England and brought hither piecemeal, especially designed for its arduous duty of keeping open a pathway across the frozen Baikal throughout the fearful winters.

The railway around the mountainous south shore of the lake will not be finished before 1905, because of the alpine nature of the country; therefore we must now quit the train and hasten to embark on the ice-breaking ferry-boat.

Mongolian Travelers
MONGOLIAN TRAVELERS


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