Less than an hour from Irkutsk, it’s no wonder many Russian and international visitors love visiting Lystvyanka. The village is in the stunning Lake Baikal region, but Intrepid’s Boris Golodets introduces us to another special local attraction…
“Sveta is a vendor at the local village market in Lystvyanka. She has her stall right at the end of the market and not many people notice her in the back corner. In case you’re there – look out for the lady wearing her yellow hat when it’s cold. Seller Sveta lives in Irkutsk and each morning takes a very early public bus to come to the market and returns home late in the evening.
It is hard job; spending every day almost 4 hours on local transport and working in cold and windy winter temperatures, which is more than a half year here. But she keeps warm in her heart and fire in her spirit.
Usually when you approach a typical seller, no matter from which country they are, they start to say how good their stuff is and how cheap is their price. If you show any interest, they will just name the item and repeat how good it is and how cheap they sell it. It’s a different story with Sveta. You want to buy something from her, no matter if it is cheaper in the neighbour’s stall. You are just so grateful and pleased by her company and interaction that you want to say “thank you” with your actions
Just speaking with Sveta could be a mineralogical lesson. She knows so much about all her goods and tells it so interesting and unobtrusive. These are just some examples of her fascinating explanations:
Ongon – is the amulet from agate. It is made in the form of pendant. We call it “obereg” from the verb “berech” (to save) and it means the pendant will save you from some particular or general troubles.
Different images of local hills from charoite. The name of this stone comes from Russian “Chari” – charms. Hence it is the stone of charming, fascination. She also sells Burhans from charoite. You can learn from her that Burhan is the word from Turkic-Mongol languages. You can translate it as Buddha or as God. This supreme god also exist in the image of the hill.
Skarn is the stone full of energy. It forms from the union of different substances and has a rich, complicated character. Sveta sells figures of bears made from skarn. She also has funny frogs from several kinds of minerals and she emphasises that frog is the ancient symbol of prosperity.
Agate is really one of the favourites, both among the locals and tourists. Sellers usually have different kinds of decorations from agate but not likely they know such much about the mineral itself and about the things made from it as Sveta knows.
Cornelian is another half-precious stone which is widely present in the region. It has bright, happy red or red-yellow color. Sveta jokes that beads from cornelian could make you the belle of the ball and has the potential to cause damage to the necks of men!
Chalkedon takes its name from the Greek city. It contains in the different rocks, in petrified pitch, for instance. Sveta sells cute magnets form chalkedon with the images of Baikal and surrounding forests.
Beside the minerals, seller Sveta has different items made from local jade and various kinds of wooden goods. Siberian pine or cedar is definitely the king among them. I bought a very light and comfortable soup spoon from her. Specially after her story that the spoon is traditional symbol of family and union. In old Russian villages people traditionally shared the spoon. Married couples or young romantic lovers eat from one spoon. And today we still have a lot of Russian phrases about sharing the spoon as sharing your life.
So Sveta has an impressive range of goods for sale, but it’s not so much what she sells, but how she does it. With a welcoming warmth and passion for her local products, you’ll come away all the richer for having spent a few rubles and a few minutes with seller Sveta.”
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* photo by Bill Stanley – Intrepid Photography Competition