Anyone that knows me, knows that I love traveling to other countries. I absolutely love it. I never visit a new country carrying any ‘baggage’ in the form of preconceptions or expectations. If I believed everything I was fed through the media I’d be filled with so much anxiety and ignorance that I’d be scared to leave the house.
On the contrary, the world is a wondrous, magical place filled with unimaginable beauty not only in its landscapes, but in the people and the cultures that exist on this big blue marble of ours. Sure, there are pockets of ‘exceptions’ found in likely all nations to some degree, and that’s usually what is packaged and force fed to us through our media outlets, however when you visit somewhere with an open mind and open heart, experience life amongst the locals, break bread with them, chat with them, observe their daily lives, hear their beliefs, appreciate their passions, opinions, outlooks, differences; you can learn more than you could imagine.
The world is filled with good people from all walks of life. Don’t ever let the media colour your world. Get outside...beyond the borders...and experience it for yourself.
With this philosophy in mind, Russia was one of those places that I absolutely had to travel to. In the Western world, we are told very little about Russia and it's people and of course, it's landscapes. Most of what we know depicts Russia in an unfavourable light in movies and the news. I didn't believe it. I had remembered as a child being told that the worst possible punishment you could receive was to be banished to an outpost in Siberia in the dead of winter. Well, I didn't believe that either. Now it was time to give it the litmus test. I bought my plane tickets and made the 32 hour journey over 3 flights to Irkutsk, Siberia. My goal was to experience the people, the culture, and to photograph the ice on the world's largest (by volume) freshwater lake: Lake Baikal.
Baikal is nothing short of jaw droppingly massive, plunging a depth of over 1640 metres (over 5000 feet)!! In winter, it freezes over and can produce some of the clearest ice on the planet; Its numerous islands pocked with grottoes that freeze over into spectacular caves of ice. That doesn't sound too bad for being a place to be 'banished to'.
Needless to say, although the weather provided challenging conditions this year with snow covering most of the lake ice, I did manage to capture some spectacular sights of this little known gem. The hospitality that was extended to me by the Russian people was exceptional and the whole trip was a delight. For those of you that follow me on Facebook, I posted regularly throughout my journey to give you some insight into this mysterious place. I invite you to visit my Russia gallery and see for yourself - I will be adding new images to it regularly over the coming weeks.