An hour before sunrise, when the darkness is cleared away, leaving behind a haze of fog, a bewitching mystery takes place in the Volga Delta — the buds of pink lotuses begin to open. Technologies, of course, have been allowing capturing this miracle in an accelerated mode, but sometimes it’s better to see it with your own eyes, perhaps twist your fantasies a little.
Earlier chilly morning. And if you go to this morning with the pedantry of a sybarite, then you should take a warm blanket and a thermos of coffee. Moor, drop anchor, hug with hands a hot cup and listen to the silence.
Summer’s morning in Volga Delta is a earthly time. Fishermen have headed on the motorboats to the channels of river, hurrying to take their places, animals have gone to watering place — cows, horses, ad small herd of camels. Dream put to sleep and does all things, that you dozed off and did not see this real magical moment, when lotus’s petals have opened and it’s yellow core turns towards the sun.
And the sun rises quickly, as if by magic, illuminates everything around with a warm light. Before you have time to look back, a new day has come into its own. As for me, the best moments on the «peals» as the local channels of river are called, which the Volga splits before becoming as a part of the Caspian Sea, happen at a sunset.
Scientists have found evidences that lotuses were in bloom in the Palaeocene. This is a geological epoch, which replaced the Mesozoic approximately 65 million years ago. Then the Earth was much warmer, the climate was softer. But the current hard frosts, surprisingly, are also well tolerated by lotuses.
How the relic Caspian lotuses got into the Volga Delta is unknown. Perhaps they have been growing here for centuries, perhaps the seeds came with migratory birds or nomads. But the flower has chosen shallow water in the channels, the plantation in the Astrakhan Biosphere Reserve is considered to be the largest in the world. According to the figures, lotuses have grown over an area of more than 50 thousand hectares of water surface!
Pink weeks begin on the Volga from mid-July. By the end of August, the lotus's bloom ends. At this time, there are especially many birds in the Delta. Huge flocks of curly pelicans, swan families, among which there are rare whooper swans, white-tailed eagles, black storks.
The lotus fields don't look pink as it can be thought. This is a huge, green space, with bright pink splashes. If you look from above, then you can’t even distinguish pink inflorescences, you can see a solid green carpet of huge leaves.
And the leaves of the lotus are really large, besides, they are covered with the thinnest hydrophobic fibers, they roll around like balls according to the water content. The leaf may even fall into the water, but it will be completely dry. Botanists call this the "lotus effect». The flowers reach 30 sm in diameter. They exude such a subtle and delicate aroma that it can only be heard by lowering the face under the petals and slightly staining the nose with yellow pollen.
But this is difficult to do for one good reason — lotuses cannot be plucked and cut, the subspecies of the lotus is nut-bearing, and it is it who grows in the Volga Delta is listed in the Red Book. Therefore, you can only pick up a fallen flower or a leaf, accidentally cut off by the motor blades. Or simply find a lotus field and go right into it.
To be geographically accurate, you need to get to the Kamyzyaksky district of the Astrakhan region. Then you will need a boat. Any local fisherman will show you more than one plantation that has grown in channels. But it's better to do it again, like a true sybarite. As well as you remember. Stay at the "Fishfactory" boutique hotel, arrange a private excursion on a comfortable boat, ask the huntsman to go with you for a morning, or better, evening river walk to the lotuses. Caspian flowers love quiet backwaters, where there are no strong currents, you need to look for them in the channels of the Old Volga, on the Gandurinsky Canal, on peals in the Volga Delta.
There is a second option: you can take a walk through the lotus fields, and oddly enough, on foot, along the boardwalks of the ecological trail "Recovered Delta" of the Damchik section of the Astrakhan Biosphere Reserve. You can go on a tour with a guide and a photographer.