Vero’s mother sent us some photos and some video on WhatsApp of the lake ice near where they live. The featured image for this post is one of the lake ice photos. They are beautiful! Siberia is so cold during the winter that the ice on the lakes can become metres thick. In this part of the world, the water in the lakes is super clear, so clear that the visibility underwater can be 100m or more. This is due to the lack of pollution in the air, the minimal amount of farming going on and the sheer purity of this incredible pristine environment.
Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are where you normally see these sorts of images, not sent to you by your mother-in-law. Lake ice that is metres thick and looking almost like an icy Jackson Pollack painting!
It inspired us to set out from where we have been in Italy the last month trying to figure out what to do next and to strike out across Russia toward the enigmatic Siberia.
There is a certain irony for me in my marriage to my wonderful Vero. She was born in Siberia before the end of the Soviet era. In my wildest dreams, I never thought that the love of my life would hail from this part of the world. My dear mother was a Lithuanian immigrant who fled from Europe after the Second World War. This gave me a distorted view of that part of the world. She went to Austalia after years as a refuge in Germany.
When the Iron Curtain came down, Lithuania became part of the newly formed USSR. It caught the remainder of the family behind it. Those early years were atrocious for the Lithuanians. The authorities gathered up many intellectuals and people opposed to the forceful joining of Lithuania the new union and sent them away to Siberia. The Soviets killed or banished a third of the nation’s population (3m) to that frozen wasteland.
Siberia became a place of dark and scary legends for me, being raised as the son of a migrant in Australia, It was a place where some of our family were dragged away to, never to return. A scary cold and lonely place in my head.
Yet here I am married to the most wonderful woman I have ever known and yet she comes from the very place that scared me so much, as a child. A place my mother shared only dark and bleak stories about. My mother blamed the Russian for the atrocities of that time, what I later came to learn from my wife was that the Russians suffered under the Soviet regime as much as the Lithuanians, for it was the Soviet regime that was the perpetrator of the evil of those times, not the Russian people themselves.
Now my mother-in-law sends us images of this same place that are so beautiful I can’t believe they are real! I want to walk on this lake ice, look through it to the clear depths below. Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world, with an average depth of 744.4 m (2,442 ft) and a maximum depth of 1,642 m (5,387 ft).
It is also the oldest lake in the world at an estimated age of 25 million years old. There are freshwater seals living there the only ones in the world and many other unique species that. It is one of the clearest and purest bodies of water in the world.
I am now, I want to see this and more, I want to see this part of the world that everyone knows about, but hardly anyone actually knows. I want to experience this vast wilderness to see for myself what it is really like. Who the people that live there are, what they think of the world and what they love about their world.