| Tsoi Anna, Shipunovo Altai.
The Altai nature reserve, one of the largest in Russia, is situated almost in the centre of the Asian continent in the north-eastern part of the Altai mountain range. And I believe that the Altai Reserve is one of today’s wonders of the modern World.
Lake Teletskoye, the northern gateway of the reserve, is strikingly beautiful. Its name is derived from the Altai nomadic Teles tribe who since ancient times lived around the lake. The lake has another name Altyn Kol (The Golden Lake), arising from an ancient legend of a golden nugget which was once thrown into its waters.
It’s particularly lovely on a calm clear day, when its water reflects the trees, the mountains and the blue sky. But when north or south winds blow, the lake is transformed; waves break up its smooth surface, and heavy clouds sinking into the narrow gorge seem to merge with the darkened water. This is a windy place, especially in spring and autumn. In summer time, thunderstorms are a common thing. On such days the thunder claps are augmented by the clatter of falling rocks undermined by the waves; lit up by searing flashes that surrounding mountains are like roaring monsters from tales of fantasy. The Siberian winter is harsh, but it’s powerless at times to bind Lake Teletskoye with ice, for the lake becomes a veritable stormy sea in winter. Fierce winds dash the water against the rocky shores with tremendous strength, creating fantastic icy conglomerations. The motionless snow-covered trees often resemble fantastic animals or monsters. The waterfalls and streams have stopped as though under a spell. After copious snowfalls the taiga is silent and still.
But pretty soon the forests dwellers will come out from their hiding places and once again the taiga will come alive. Late in February and even early in March, winter still reigns supreme though at midday the sun is quite warm. It’s the beginning of the Siberian “spring of light,” a period of crystal clear sunny but cold days. A week or two later the taiga will begin shedding its winter bonds. The thawed patches spread, and among the remaining snow spring flowers magically begin to bloom. In the Altai, taiga spring doesn’t come with a rush as in the European forests. It’s only after the first rains that the snow retreats before the victorious spring. Summer in the mountain taiga of the Altai lasts from the end of June to the middle of August. The valleys of the taiga rivers, the glades and sub alpine meadows. Many people regard the taiga as dark and gloomy. But a closer look reveals a remarkable world full of fantastic beauty and special harmony. The majestic countryside of the Eastern Altai attracts many visitors. Not so long ago the only way to the lake was along a few wild tracks through the taiga; now a highway has been built. But the reserve itself has no such tracks- it remains the realm of untouched nature.
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