For two years in a row, Russia’s Irkutsk has been the host of the International Youth Water Leaders Summit (IYWLS). In 2018 and 2019, most prominent water specialists from Asia, Africa, America, Europe, the CIS and Russia gathered here, including 48 delegates of the “New Generation” program.
According to the hydrologist from Kazakhstan Altinay Shaimerdenova, this forum is a rather unusual event, compared to traditional scientific conferences. “This summit has its own unique format. Scientific conferences usually are very academic, involving only scientists. But here you can see specialists not only from different countries but also from different fields. Some are focused on scientific problems related to water resource management, others represent the government or international organizations. But the most striking thing is that all of them are young and talented which breaks all barriers in communication,” she points out.
30 delegates of the “New Generation” attended the event in 2018, and 18 more - in 2019. All of them agree that Irkutsk is an ideal place to hold such a forum. Apart from the formal part of the summit, here the guests get a chance to see all the main sights of the region.
Every tourist visiting Irkutsk never leaves without seeing the so-called “Block 130”, one of the most popular promenade places with many historical buildings and wooden architecture dating back to 18-19th centuries. Now the block has 65 houses and almost all of them are real architectural masterpieces.
On the way to Lake Baikal from Irkutsk, the guests can also enjoy the beauty of Angara River, the only river flowing from the lake. On its right bank, tourists can find the Taltsy architectural and ethnographic open-air museum (47 km from Irkutsk). Here, one can learn more about the culture of many peoples who’ve lived in the region over the history, including the Buryats, Evenki, and Tofalars. During a tour around the “Volostnoye Selo” exhibition complex, it’s possible to visit a parish school, a psalmist’s estate, a city Cossack estate of the late 19th century as well as the Spasskaya Passage Tower and the Kazan Church, recreated according to models dating back to 1667-1679.
There is also the Baikal Museum of the Irkutsk Scientific Center in the village of Listvyanka. This is probably the only place on earth where one can meet people who know everything about Lake Baikal. Plus, the museum boasts of its 12 aquariums that recreate Baikal’s underwater world in all its biodiversity.
Another excellent way to see Lake Baikal is from the Circum-Baikal Railway. Historically, it was a 84-km route connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway from the town of Slyudyanka to the Baikal settlement. But in the middle of 20th century this line lost its relevance as a duplicate section of the railway was built. Now it’s a purely tourist route with a retro train running here in summer and autumn. This year, Forbes magazine named a trip along the Circum-Baikal Railway among the most beautiful railway routes on the planet.
And, of course, the sightseeing tour won’t be complete without Lake Baikal itself, the deepest and cleanest water source on the planet which contains 20 percent of global freshwater reserves. According to hydrometeorologist from Abkhazia, Amir Tsushba, watching videos of Baikal online is nothing compared to seeing the lake with one’s own eyes. “Baikal attracts thousands of people from around the world and now I understand why Irkutsk is one of the five most attractive Russian cities for tourists,” he points out.