Irkutsk is a nice enough place. Locals are friendlier, weather is cooler and it has the feel of a more relaxed / tourist town. I bumped into Zak & Josh (who I met in Moscow) while walking around the city and after a bit more sightseeing, which consisted of an eternal flame (bunsen burner), more cathedrals & statues, and some interesting tradition involving padlocks…
We then found a bar that was mentioned to have a great beer garden… It was infact a small beer garden in a car park, then a Beatles themed pub called Liverpool which was half arsed and didn’t seem to actually stock any beer but did make us play twister, and then finally a German place called Bier Haus which was just excellent (more on that later).
Next day we quickly got out of town and headed to Lake Baikal to spend 2 nights at a nice hostel in Listvyanka. The town itself was pleasant, good views over the lake and very touristy… sometimes it felt like a small Welsh coastal town – except for the quirky thing of the locals adding turrets and ramparts to their houses.
There is a 7 day hike from the port that goes along the Circumbaikal Railway which we obviously didn’t have enough time for but it was decided that we would walk for a few hours, have lunch, then turn round and head back.
It was an enjoyable walk with plenty of nice views (photos below) and after a couple hours we reached a small pier and decided that now would probably be the best time to sample the water…
Turns out the water was 4-6C and a very big shock. It wasn’t our best idea.
We also had some fun climbing up and getting back down some of the scree sided hills about the railway:
All in all a good day which ended with a very nice plate of grilled stuffed chicken and a few beers!
The next day was one of those wasted days where there isn’t much to do other than kill time until the train. We ended up back in Bier Haus taking advantage of its cheap Heineken (1ltr for about £5-6), good food and plenty of table space for Uno! We were there for about 5 hours just playing Uno and being stared at by some of the serving girls until one of them came over (I thought she was going to tell us to get out) and said “Guys we have a gift for you” and handed us a small black box… inside were Bier Haus branded Uno cards! WIN!
So my only souvenir from this trip so far is a deck of Uno cards from a German themed, russian bar in east Siberia… Random.
Bring on Mongolia in a couple days (2 nights on a train first)