Circum Baikal travel report

Train Matanya – the soul of the Circum Baikal Railway              

Matanya is translated mistress and the train rides as elektritschka along Lake Baikal: The "Mistress of Father Baikal" is the soul of the Baikal Railway.

The train Matanya is certainly one of the most special trains in Russia, not
because of a particularly high level of comfort, no, rather because of the spectacular railway line and the unique relation to the domestic population, which has only this train. The Matanya runs as a regular train from Slyudyanka 1 to Port Baikal and back, 4 times in the week on day, 4 times at night.

Somewhat unimpressive at the station Sljudyanka on track 1 three wagons stay alone: two wagons platzkartny and one freight car. Tourists maybe wonder why there are some passengers waiting with big bags. It is 13:00 pm in Sljudyanka, the cash to buy tickets has opened since 10 minutes.

A few backpackers stand before me in the short queue at the cash point, they all buy tickets to Port Baikal, or just to kilometer 110 or 102, you must already know, where to go. You buy a ticket for the "Matanya", the only regular line along the old Baikal railway.
As I also have bought my ticket and I return to the platform in front of the beautiful marble station building, just the diesel locomotive is coupled to "my" train.
There is still some time to buy the food for a good 6 hour train ride along the Baikal lake, smoked omul fish, bread, water and a few beers, this should be enough.

Against 13:20 clock the two train attendants Katya and Olga open the car doors, check the tickets and you look for your seat, while there is an unwritten law, locals drive on the 1st wagon, tourists in the second, at least from Slyudyanka, later mixes everything.

At exactly 13:30 pm is departure, even if the train is listed as an elektrichka in the Russian railway, you go by passenger cars of the third class. I look for a place on the right side as viewed in the direction of travel, so I always have a view of Lake Baikal.

After a good 20 minutes ride we reach Kultuk, the first true railway station on the Baikal Krugobaikalka. Some other passengers get on here. They came by the elektrischka from Irkutsk about the Trans-Siberian station Partizanskaya. They still got out before Slyudyanka, then walk 500 meters a path down to Kultuk station, so they saved travel time.
About 20 times the Matanja stops on the 89 km route to Port Baikal, exactly, we know always at the end of this train journey. Sometimes a babushka keeps her arm out, she wants to buy bread and the train stops.

With the Matanya life goes and new life comes. So this train is the soul, the last transport for locals who died in hospital Slyudyanka back to their settlement, then keeps "the soul of the Baikal railway" even come close to the cemetery, because a coffin is carried in the freight car.
But the Matanya is also for many new arrivals also responsible for the first ride of life. Olga from the settlement Polovinnaja km110 did just last week her daughter in the hospital Slyudyanka to the world and went three days later with her son home with her Matanja.

The Matanja supplies for decades the locals at the Baikal railway in the summer with fresh bread, because there are no shops in almost any settlement more. The rest you have to live you find in the garden.

Today there is nice weather, it is July and hot. Even though the temperatures directly at the holy Baikal sea - are 3-5 degrees cooler than in Irkutsk, in windy site it can also be 25 degrees and more. After leaving the station Kultuk we pass the first tents on the railway line, it is popular in Russia to hike and camp along the Baikal Railway.

The train rides 20-25 km / h, faster is not possible because of the old track. Often a signal is heard from the locomotive to warn walkers on the track. I am a smoker and go to the back of my wagon, I stand there together with two other passengers. They opened the door, so it is not so stuffy. A fresh breeze moves through during the trip, which is not allowed, of course not, but the Matanya is "our" train, so Svetlana explained.

Shortly before 15:00 pm we reach Sharyzhalgay, a holiday resort for the Russian railway earners. The holiday resort is equipped with everything from tennis to swimming pool.

I' take my products, which I bought in Slyudyanka and make a real Siberian snack.

Settlement Maritui we reach about 16:15 pm, I ask the train driver, if it is allowed to ride on the front of the locomotive up to the next station km 110 Polovinnaja. He nods, is expecting a mite of 100 rubles, and I have booked a dream train trip front of the locomotive for over two €.2.-

At 16:30 pm we reach my arrival station, in the front of the locomotive of course I have a fantastic view.

At km 112 we traverse the shortest railway tunnel of the Baikal railway, and reach my current destination, the Bay of Polovinnaja,

17:00 pm it has become and I sit upon arrival on a stone and watch yet, like Olga conducts two men, unload goods for her small kiosk in Polovinnaja, it is usually beer only, that is drawn on carts to the little settlement.

My overnight stay is booked in a holiday village, 300 meters from the railway station.
In the front of the locomotive I already saw the holiday complex when we have gone over the river Polovinnaja.

Vladimir works in the complex and picks me up, he is very friendly and will also carry my backpack, which I do not accept at first.
We walk about 100 meters along the railway line across the bridge, a broken staircase down to a small parked tractor, my "luggage transport" for the last 200 meters, this is Siberian service.

Raisa directs the resort, immediately greeted me and showed me my cosy room. Dinner is home cooking, because almost all products are available from the home garden.

The next day I spend in this uniquely beautiful idyllic nature, most time at the Baikal beach. Shortly I visited Olga in their little kiosk to buy some water, the kiosk is open from 08:00 - 23:00 every day, only if you press the inconspicuous little bell over the shop window.

During the night train Matanya already drove back from Port Baikal to Slyudyanka, this afternoon he comes back, and I will continue my train journey. This 2-day tour is possible on Sunday / Monday and Thursday / Friday only, if you want to travel during the day.

At 16:30 pm I reached the little station Polovinnaja again, from far, I hear "my" train coming, it's nearly five. Raisa has given me a packed lunch and a few drinks I've bought at the kiosk.

Today I see again the locals at the small platform, which yesterday were already there. We say good-bye, if you drive Matanja, you're one of them, maybe that's what's special about this trip, it reminds me of hiking in the Alps, because we all greeted always.

About 2.5 hours drive to Port Baikal I have today. Guitar music in front, Modern Talking I hear from behind, this group is so so popular here and I think: why not? If you go by Matanja along the Baikal railway, then such questions are less important, actually, they disappear entirely.

Port Baikal I recognize from far because of many old ships in the harbor.
Matanja arrives at 19:40 pm, still plenty of time, to visit the small museum about the Baikal railway in Port Baikal station, admission is free. From 01.07. to 31.08. the ferry Baikalsky Vody departs at 20:15 pm from Port Baikal to Listvyanka over the Angara, At 20:30 pm I reach the opposite shore and will stay in the settlement Listvyanka, other passengers go by bus to Irkutsk at 21:00 pm.

I look again over the Angara River and see the "soul of the Baikal Railway" at the station Port Baikal, and tonight he goes back.

Thomas, July 2011
Overnight Polovinnaja km 110 booked directly at: www.holidayvillage-baikal.com