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Back on a westbound train, this time for a two day trip from Irkutsk to Ekaterinburg. We settled into our berth and watched scenery roll by. Occasionally we pass small settlements of wood cabins, each cabin with its own plot of potatoes for a front lawn. Mostly we see forest, called Siberia's taiga, which is the world's largest forest and accounts for 25% of the planet's wood reserves. Here in eastern Siberia, the larch trees flourish with their shallow root system that provides the best survival chance in the extreme cold and permafrost conditions (the temperature will reach -50 Celsius in winter). The larch is a pine tree with very fine needles. We like best the silver birch trees which have white bark and branches that droop in summertime as if they remember the weight of the winter's snow.
Symbols of the Siberian forest: Silver birch and brown bear.
(Below) The Russian Orthodox church displays architecture influenced by East and West to create something unique in Christianity.