Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arriving in Irkutsk--Day 5--6/2

When I awoke, I knew that this would shortly be the end of the first leg of my Trans-Siberian train ride from Moscow to Beijing. Before you leave the train, you need to fold up your sheets, pillow case and towel and return them to the carriage attendant. Everybody that was getting off in Irkutsk was busily doing that as well as getting their last round of tea, coffee, or instant noodles before we arrived at the station at about 9 AM. The train arrived about on time at this busy station.

From the train station it was just a 1/2 mile walk across the river bridge to the Baikler Hostel. When I rang the bell and introduced myself it turned out that Florin---the German guy I explored Moscow with--heard my announcement and greeted me at the door. He had arrived the day before. After I got settled in and took a long awaited shower for the first time in 5 days, I was ready to explore Irkutsk with him.
Florin introduced me to Klara who he had met in Petersburg so the three of us began touring. It turned out that Klara, from the Czech Republic, was fluent in Russian so we were able to find the local spots. For lunch we found a hole in the wall cafeteria that served some very well overcooked vegetables with potatos and meat---maybe chicken--- along with a big draft beer for just 190 roubles. Here is the entrance to the place where Flo and Klara are posing with the hired help.
Klara needed to get a Mongolian Visa so we stopped there before checking out the other tourist locations. After that, we visited the walking street with many high end stores and few customers.
Churches are always a favorite place to visit, and Irkutsk has an ample amount of Russian Orthodox churches. Here are some of the ones we saw with the gilded icons. Both Flow and Kara lit a candle in memory of loved ones at one of the churches.
After that we checked out the local market where you could buy flowers, plants, meat, nuts, vegetables, etc.
They were even selling some fiddlehead ferns which I thought about buying along with some eggs to make a fantastic omlet back at the hostel, but then I do not like to cook when I am traveling. It was tempting though.
We headed down to the river because Flo and Klara said that it was really busy the day before when it was Children's day, but today it was very quiet as we sipped our beers from the balcony. On our return to the hostel we checked out Section 130 which is an area of preserved old wooden houses mingled with upscale stores and restaurants.
Not to be forgotten, we stopped and had our picture taken with a statue of Lenin about 2 blocks from the hostel.

In the evening we did a bit of pub crawling using the Lonely Planet as our guide, but the Liverpool Pub was closed and some dog walkers directed us to a local Russian neighborhood bar. While we were there a fairly drunk fellow came up to us and started talking in a mix of German and English. He was mostly speaking German so Flo was mainly talking to him. I then saw that he rolled up his pants legs to show us some tattoos on his knees. Aparently he was a member of a Russian Mafia and these tattoos meant that they would never have their knees with these tattooed inscriptions touch the ground for the police. Instead they would fight it out before giving in to the police. I suggested to Flo that we finish up our drinks and head out of there. I wish I would have taken pictures of his tattoos to see if his claim was true.



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