Published: July 25th 2012July 21st 2012
The transfer back to Irkutsk was a little scary with the driver deciding to wait for the solid white line and the "No overtaking" sign to overtake - in such safe places as blind turns and on the brow of a hill. This would have been bad enough, but just to add another element while of "excitement" the car had it's steering wheel on the right (as in the UK) but they also drive on right. It turns out many people import cheap second hand cards from Japan to Siberia (as there is a ferry from Vladivostock) but do not get them converted to right side driving.
By some miracle we did arrive safely and checked into our hotel, and having WiFi we actually felt connected back to civilisation. We may have spent a couple of hours tied to our screens...
After our short break (just while they registered our visas you understand) we escaped into the city to explore. After the tourist heavy cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the tacky yet idyllic Listvyanka, it was refreshing to be back in a real, working city. There isn't a lot to see sight wise but it's a living
city of 600,000 people and many universities. It doesn't feel that large and we basically wandered through the markets, looked at the old wooden buildings and wandered to the war memorial at the river.
The fence by the river was basically covered in padlocks and we'd seen similar padlocks in Moscow and St Petersburg. This is a Russian tradition called "love locks" where a couple will have a padlock engraved with their names and lock it to the bridge to seal their love. The most famous bridge for this is in Moscow but it's so popular the city council remove the locks on a weekly basis...
It started raining so we ran back to the hotel via a supermarket to pick up supplies for our next train trip. I must admit for dinner we ventured to "The London Pub" as I was tiring of translating Russian menus but we were drinking Russian beer so I think we're forgiven. Also it was full of bagpipes and the staff were wearing tartan so they possibly need to look at London on a map. We both at the chicken, lamb, beef and veal kebabs served with potatoes which again isn't exactly
traditional food but it did come with mustard so I suppose they were half way there.
There are more photos below