I'm on my way to Ukraine now, and took the Aeroflot flight from Ulaanbaatar to Moscow. I was with a Dutch friend of mine, Francine, who happened to be on the same flight.
I have flown over Russia many times before. But this time, we flew past Lake Baikal, the largest body of fresh water in the world, and a natural wonder. Massive, blue, nestled among mountains, and unspoiled. An amazing sight.
The lake is in Russia not far from the Mongolian border, but historically, the area is Mongolian. Baikal is the Mongolian word for nature. This part of Russia is inhabited by Buryats, who are a type of Mongolian. They look identical and their language is very similar. Like the Mongolians in China, the Buryats have lost much of their cultural identity. I have met Buryats in Ulaanbaatar. They were extremely russified, so much so that they were happy to be able to speak to me in Russian.
Regardless of geo-history, the lake is spectacular. It is one of the only places in Russia I want to visit. But if I don't, at least I was able to see it from the air.