Q. Unfortunately I do not know at all, if you are the right person to ask but since you are the only person I "know" (I saw your address in WWW) in Irkutsk, I will just try it....
A. It is all right to request any type of information related to the site or to the Irkutsk area from the WWW Irkutsk Webmaster. We will try to find the answer to your question or ask right person and answer you.
Q. I am thinking of (very vagely at the moment) going to Russia (preferably Siberia) for about 4 weeks or so for a period of practical training. What I am wondering about is, if this is possible at all (it should be) and what kind of facilities (universities, institutes, companies) are available in this part of the world ??!
A. There are several possibilities for your stay here. In Irkutsk you will
The University consists of theoretical depts, like physics and math. [...] The only good factory I know here is a big military plant, producing military planes, but I doubt that you will be accepted there :-) [...] There are a Geological Institute, a Geographical Institute, an Instute for Biochemistry, a big Siberian Energy Institute, and some others. (See Irkutsk Research Centre on the WWW Irkutsk site.) I would suggest trying the last one. I know there were already some Germans who have done a practicum there. I am not sure if they are engaged in research that exactly matched your topic, but they have high quality studies and certainly will have a lot of fields to apply your efforts. Of course they will provide you with all necessary letters of reference. The area of research is very broad, ranging from control of global electrical nets to technical problems of transformers, logistic problems of power plants, amd mathematical and physical aspects of electrical current transfer. I want to warn you that if you really want to show some scientific results, you must be ready to work on your own and take a great deal of initiative. The specific topic of your research isn't important as long as it concerns the topics listed above in some way.
Unfortunately I can not supply you with detailed information, as we are just beginning to build the home page of the Siberian Energy Instute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SEI SB RAS) - the official name of the Insitute. If you decide to apply, you can send me your resume and a short "area of interests" description, and I will pass it to the professor I know. He will forward it to the appropriate chair. Don't send it via snail mail - it is very slow and not reliable. [...]
On the other hand Irkutsk is a lovely city and Baikal Lake is nearby; I am sure you will enjoy it. :-)
Q. What about accomodations in the Irkutsk and Baikal area?
A. Accomodations can be a little bit of a problem, especially for students. A hotel would be too expensive, and there are no youth hostels. I recommend you to stay in a private home. We can find some. [...]
Q. From the pictures in books, on the WWW, and so on, it looks quite interesting and beautiful in Siberia. What about tourists in your region? I hope that it is not crowded like in other parts of the world, since I do not like these tourist areas very much.
A. There are not too many tourists, especially in winter. But of course if you walk in the city, you risk meeting some of them. :-)
Q. What about pollution in your area? You can hear bad things about that sometimes. :-(
A. There is not much pollution in this area. We have a huge industrial area nearby, but luckily it is downwind...
Q. What about the price for the flight, insurance-questions and so on?
The best way is to fly to Moscow or St. Petersburg ($400-500 from Berlin or Frankfurt) and then to Irkutsk by Aeroflot (about $200 one way). You can also take Trans-Siberian Railway. It is pretty interesting, but the trip is long (3-4 days). You can find some information about cheap flights from the USA and Canada on our WWWeb site. (see INTERNET, Interesting sites...) You can be cared for without insurance in case of minor injury, but for long-term care and hospital stays you should purchase travel insurance.
Q. What about the weather in Siberia during winter. You wrote something about -21 degr. C brrrrbrrr...
A. It is nice in winter as well as in other seasons. You can ski on the Baikal ice and in the Taiga. Of course, everything is covered by snow, you know...
Q. Could you describe the landscape around Irkutsk a bit ? I have only seen pictures on the WWW so far, since you can't get any travel guides or things like that over here. Are there many hills or even mountains, or is it mostly flat ? Are there many lakes or just the big one (Baikal)?
A. You can see the overall landscape on satellite-photo (see Irkutsk WWW ... Baikal). There is only the one big lake. On the south edge are the Sayany mountains (about 1,5 km high). Also in the south there are lower hills covered with taiga.