Irkutsk’s Unexpected Character

Irkutsk Coat of Arms: A Siberian Tiger with a Sable in the mouth

The train arrived early in Irkutsk at 7:28am. When I woke, I was overcome by the need to get off the train, to get some fresh air, strech my legs and get out of the tiny cabin. At the station the platforms were packed with people bustling to get off and get on trains. Walking out the station it was clear that Irkutsk is the most popular stop for people doing the Trans-Siberian journey. We saw the back-packers, the odd German and English speaker, the Chinese groups and the typical swarm of taxi drivers trying to make the most of tired train commuters who just woke up in a foreign place. We opted for 30 Rubles tram that took us straight from the station to our hotel.

Irkutsk is a city known for its wooden houses which are constructed with an impressive amount of detail. Despite these houses giving the city its character and showing its real personaility, the majority of these wooden houses are poorly maintained and are very dilapidated. Its clear that the city has invested a lot in tourism, with multiple language sign posts and historical information points but it almost seems the city would be content in letting the wooden houses fall apart and disapear. Walking around the city many of the wooden houses are actually burnt down. Perhaps this is what the people of the city want as well, I can’t imagine the wooden houses holding enough heat when the temperatures are dropping to -30degC in winter.

It has to be said that Irkutsk is just not what I expected. I expected an Industrial town, run down and cold, frowning people. But it’s something completely different with it’s fancy cafes, low to high end restaurants and big tourism setup. The people are very approachable, friendly and even can be seen smiling (unlike Moscow).

After a few days in Irkutsk, we head North towards Lake Baikal to spend several nights on Olkhon Island.

Remember to checkout Nadine’s blog as well!