When I was planning my trip to Baikal Lake in Russia’s Siberia, I decided immediately that I would use Irkutsk as my base. It meant that I wanted to see as many places around the city as I could. After checking I saw a place called Taltsy Museum, about 50 kilometers away from Irkutsk on the Angara River. I researched a bit and found out that Siberia is famous for its wooden architecture, and this museum was the right place to explore it. So, seeing wooden buildings in pictures was enough to convince myself that it was worth a visit. And I was not disappointed! So, here is everything I know about Taltsy Museum, information on how to get there and what to see.
Before we go further, some info about me: I am a native Russian speaker, but I am not a citizen of Russia but of Moldova, a former Soviet Republic. I travelled to Baikal solo from mid-June till the beginning of July. Luckily, we do not need visas to enter Russia.
What is Taltsy Museum?
A bit of history of the place. In the 1960-ies there was a plan to build a hydroelectric power station in Ust-Ilimsk on the Angara River. It meant that two historically important wooden buildings – a church and a tower – that made part of Ilimsky Ostrog, a settlement founded in 1630, would be deluged. At those times Ilimsky Ostrog was a very important administrative unit and a fur trade center in the region, something like a capital and had many wooden buildings for various purposes. Unfortunately, not all of them survived. So, the Soviet administration was keen to conserve these architectural masterpieces, and they decided to set up an open-air museum.
An architect from Moscow chose Taltsy area for that purpose. It is important to know that Taltsy had the same fate as Ust-Ilimsk: because of the construction of Irkutsk hydroelectric power station on the Angara River, a part of its territory went under water as well. The remaining dry land now houses Taltsy Museum. The church and tower of Ilimsky Ostrog were moved to Taltsy, and then other wooden buildings of Irkutsk Oblast, mainly houses were peasant farmers lived. They literally moved the buildings from their original locations to Taltsy!
Now Taltsy Museum is a place to see how people lived before. The houses contain original objects like crockery, clothes, instruments, machinery. Walking from one house to another it is easy to understand how life was organized at those times, how people lived in these dark rooms, entering through low doors, lying on Russian stoves. It is an incredible experience!
How to get to Taltsy Museum
Getting to Taltsy Museum is very easy: it is located between Irkutsk and Listvyanka, a popular village on the shores of lake Baikal. Buses leave for Listvyanka often, about 10 times a day, and stop at Taltsy if there are passengers going there.
When I came to Irkutsk, I went to the bus station the next day and bought the tickets to and from Taltsy. It cost me 133 RUB (1,8 EUR) each way. I have to add here that before my trip I had read some stories from travelers who claimed that it was not necessary to buy tickets back from Taltsy to Irkutsk as anyone could hail a bus coming from Listvyanka. I am glad that I had not listened to this advice and bought the ticket as all buses were full and museum visitors had to hitchhike.
Something to consider: it would be nice if you tell the driver before getting in that you have a ticket to Taltsy, so that he does not forget about you 😊 I am not telling he will, but just to be sure 😊
As there are many buses it is not necessary to buy tickets in advance, you can buy them the day you want to go to Taltsy. But, being a control freak, I prefer to have everything settled.
Buses for Listvyanka and Taltsy leave not only from the bus station, but from the central market as well. This info might come handy if it is more convenient for you to go the market instead of the bus station.
If you do not feel comfortable buying tickets at the bus station, they have an official website for online tickets, and it has an English version. But on the website the number of routes to Taltsy is limited to 4 a day (I honestly do not understand why it is so), but from Taltsy back to Irkutsk there are 11 routes a day.
In case you decide to buy tickets back to Irkutsk as well, you need to know how much time you will spend at Taltsy. The area is not small, but I found that 4,5 hours were enough, at least, for me. And add to this 2 hours needed to get to Taltsy and back: it makes a nice day trip from Irkutsk 😊
What to take with you to Taltsy Museum
The most important thing that you have to always keep in mind is that May and summer are the months when ticks are active around Baikal Lake. Locals say that May is the worst when it comes to ticks, so make sure you have spray against them. Ticks are carriers of dangerous diseases, like encephalitis and Lyme disease. If you can, better get vaccinated before going to Baikal.
Residential areas and open-air museums, including Taltsy, are disinfested, but no one can promise you won’t meet one of these little monsters. I have to add here that during my two weeks in the region I have not seen one, but I sprayed myself everywhere outside Irkutsk.
If it is sunny outside, make sure you have sunscreen and a hat with you: the area of Taltsy Museum is forested, but between the buildings everything is open to the sun.
As the visit will most likely take the whole day, make sure you have water with you and some snacks for a quick picnic. If you do not want to carry food and water with you, you can go to the tavern at the museum (more about it below).
What to do at Taltsy Museum
The area of the museum is large, but there are five distinctive parts. Just look at the plan of the museum:
So, right after buying your ticket you will go to the official entrance that is a wooden house with a boom barrier next to it. There will be ticket controllers waiting for you. After that you will proceed to the Tofalar national zone. Tofalars are hunters and reindeer breeders who live in Eastern Siberia. They are very few in numbers, nowadays there are less than 1,000 people. This zone of Taltsy Museum features their summer and winter camping grounds.
After this section you will go a bit further and see the Evenk national zone. Evenks are another people aboriginal to Siberia. Like Tofalars, Evenks are hunters and reindeer breeders. Historically they were known as Tungus people, and were called Evenks starting with the 1930-ies. Yes, this is where the name Tunguska event comes from. There are about 35,000 Evenks in Russia now. In Taltsy Museum you can see their typical camping grounds and dwellings, rawhide tents.
You will see a cascade of mills on your route to Ilimsky Ostrog I mention above. As I have already said, only two original buildings were preserved, so you will see people constructing wooden houses to add to the exhibition. The aim is to have the exact replica of Ilimsky Ostrog in Taltsy. The majority of existing buildings are open for visits, so go in!
After Ilimsky Ostrog it is time to explore the farmsteads, some of which date back to the 18th century. The majority are from the 19th-beginning of the 20th centuries and have dozens of original objects inside. In addition, in this part of Taltsy Museum there are a couple of exhibition halls, which include one with the Soviet relics, a weaving workshop, birchbark workshop (it is private, so you can buy birchbark boxes there), and a hall with clothes and accessories. And don’t miss the tavern! They sell the best pies I have ever had in Russia!
Closer to the river you will see the Buryat national zone. It consists of a couple of yurts, in some of them people sell souvenirs. Buryats, who come from Mongolian group of people, are indigenous to this part of Siberia. They are mostly Buddhists or Shamanists.
And, finally, after seeing all man-made dwellings you will see a natural wonder. One of the most beautiful sights in Taltsy Museum will open in front of your eyes: the Angara River! The Angara is the only river flowing out of Baikal, and it is almost 1,780 kilometers long. Opposite Taltsy there are hilly forests, and their contrast with the blue waters of the Angara creates a spectacular picture.
I paid 250 RUB for the ticket, and additional 50 RUB for the permit to take pictures inside the buildings.
My impressions and thoughts on Taltsy Museum
This place is incredible! This was my first thought when I saw rows of birch and pine trees aligned along the road. So, instead of entering the museum through the boom barrier as I was supposed to, I took the road down. For me the most important thing at that moment was to see the Angara River. Frankly, I did not even bother looking at the museum plan, I just decided I would deal with it later 😊 The road I am talking about is marked with blue arrows on the map. If you look at it, you will see that I missed the Tofalar and Evenk national zones by taking it, so I had to do it on my way back. So, my sincere advice for you is to take the path marked with red arrows: I described the route above. This way you will start with the Tofalar national zone and move towards the Buryat national zone at the river. And you can take the blue arrow road on your way back to the bus stop.
The museum itself is fantastic! Wooden buildings have a special charm about them, and this place in addition is full of history. Before visiting Taltsy Museum I had seen houses like these in old Soviet movies only, so it was nice to see them in person. I enjoyed every minute at the museum. It was not very crowded, apparently, not many people venture there, but, maybe, the reason is that it was not exactly the tourist season: people come to the region more actively in July, and I was there in the middle of June. There are a couple of sturdy swings there, so you can sit and enjoy the scenery. Taltsy is a forested area, so there are trees around cooling the area. That was a nice change after Irkutsk, where temperatures were close to 30 degrees above zero.
A highlight of my visit was having a quick meal at the tavern I mention above. Inside it looks like a typical Soviet canteen, but their pies are divine! And they are cheap: one meat pie costs 0,55 EUR, a potato one is even less, 0,40 EUR. Get yourself a couple of pies and a cranberry fruit drink: you won’t regret it!
So, my budget for the day included:
– Bus tickets: 266 RUB
– Entrance ticket and photo permit: 300 RUB
– A visit to the tavern: 130 RUB
There are many souvenirs here, and they might be quite expensive: for example, I bought a small sculpture of Burkhan (the god of Baikal) carved from antlers for 400 RUB.
A guided tour or by yourself?
This one is actually a tough question. I am always for saving money and doing everything by yourself, but I am not sure about it in this case.
Before I went to the museum, I had had a vague idea on what it is. I had just read that there are authentic wooden houses of peasant farmers and that was enough to catch my attention. I decided that I would go there and deal with it on site.
In the end, after exploring the area I got a better idea of the museum. Reading informational notes at every exhibit definitely helped, but still I felt that I was missing something. Frankly, I wish I had a guide to tell about the houses I visited and objects I saw inside them. Those informational notes were not enough, at least, not for me. If you can find a guide, that’s nice. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend anyone as I went there by myself.
FYI: part of the informational notes is translated into English, so even if you go there by yourself you will still be able to get an idea about the place.
In short, I loved the place, and I did not regret going there. It does not matter whether you go there on a tour or by yourself, just don’t miss it 😊
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