Saturday, December 30, 2017

Transmongolian Rails Part IV - Irkutsk and Across Siberia

Crossing the border from Mongolia to Russia had been a perfectly fine experience, but required a lot of patience. We were stuck in a town so small it was more or less the middle of nowhere, only one train car of people and most of them did not speak English. We made the best of it, and then went on our way. When we got to Irkutsk the next day it was miserably rainy. We had a tough time locating our hostel, and our planned excursion was seriously underwhelming because of the weather. It was it was time to turn the page on this part of the trip. On our second day, we didn't have anything planned so we did what we like to do most in a new place; we wandered around on foot. The day before, I had seen a statue near the center of town and I really wanted a closer look...

This statue represents the town symbol. It is apparently the Irkutsk babr, with the head of the Siberian tiger, and the paws and the tail of a beaver. It holds a sable in its mouth. I loved this thing.

Behind it is a nice little tourist square. There weren't a lot of people milling around at the time which was kind of nice. 

We did have some tasty donuts from the shop below. People were pretty friendly and they were easy to communicate with if they didn't speak English. 

The town of Irkutsk was very pleasant. I can imagine it's lovely when the weather is a bit better, and apparently, they normally have much sunnier conditions. It was still a quaint place to stroll around and snap photos. There is some nice architecture and while the riverfront is not gorgeous, it was nicer here than I was expecting. As we had been rolling through some cities leading to Irkutsk, like Ulan-Ude, I was pleasantly surprised.

Their colorful streetcar system can be seen above, and below, an example of one of the cool Soviet signs you might see around town - though I have absolutely no clue what it says.

We kept walking around town, and the weather was deteriorating but there were still some things to see. For one thing, there is no shortage of cool looking churches in this area of the world.

The town is pretty tourist friendly in many areas, but as you can see from the photo below, not everything is postcard-worthy.

It was time to head back to the station. We arrived early and had no problem figuring out where we needed to be; it was not a large building and there were only a few tracks outside. Before too long, the train pulled in and we loaded into it. We had spent an extra day in Irkutsk so we could get a better class of train, and I was so thrilled we made that decision. The trip entered a new phase of relaxation at this point. Things had fallen into place and we got where we needed to be. All I had to do was sit back, and in a few days, we would be in Moscow.

Our room. It was really comfortable. We immediately began to settle in.
The world rolled by.

We had one free meal on this leg of the trip, I figured why not indulge immediately. You can see the spread below. Potatoes and sauce, salad, bread, and drinks. It was good. A bit salty though. In the end, I did not have another meal from the dining car.

While there were some open landscapes like what is shown above, there were also a lot of birch tree forests like what is seen below. The windows could have been cleaner too. My husband ended up wiping ours down at one of the stops.

Some of the little towns in Russia have lovely little houses, and they have a similar style.

We still had a ways to go, but it was nice to kick back. I caught up on reading, watched the scenery, and saw a few movies on my laptop. I had a great time.

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