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October 15th 2010
Published: October 17th 2010
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The rest of Russia...

So our 2nd Russian city was Irkutsk, not a lot to write home about there, we weren't big fans of the city itself, upon
finding the hostel we swiftly dumped our things and decided take a stroll around the city. Once again we encountered a large number of wedding parties! Just like Moscow they had an eternal flame to which it was customary to visit on the wedding day. Another tradition, we soon found out, was to go to the railings of the Angara river and lock a padlock engraved with the bride andgrooms names and the wedding date to the fence and then throw the key into the rushing water! There were literally hundreds of locks....I wonder how many are still married???

The main reason we'd decided to stop in Irkutsk however was to visit Lake Baikal. It is the worlds deepest lake, is 400 miles long, 20-40 miles wide and holds about 20% of the worlds fresh water supply. If the rest of the worlds drinking water ran out tomorrow Lake Baikal could supply the entire world for the next 40 years!! Anyway enough with the geography lesson......

We visited a small town on the shore called Listvyanka and did a hike up above the town to a view point, and what a view it was!! Absolutely stunning, we could see for miles. On the opposite shore were snow topped mountains, we could easily have been in the Alps. We had a more gentle walk back down to the town and enjoyed a beer on the pebble beach. It was a beautiful day and it was definately the Russian version of going to the beach, people were sunbathing and having picnics everywhere, they all seemed to be eating a very pungent fish called Omul. It is a local delicasy of smoked fish which is then bbq'd before being eaten off the bones!! IT STUNK!!! (It was the same fish they'd been eating on the train!!!) We dipped our toes into the crystal clear water and were reminded by the icey cold that we were in fact in Siberia!!

So after 2 days in Irkutsk we were back on the train, only for 8 hours this time, and headed for our 3rd and final Russian city, Ulan-Ude. Because we were only on the train for eight hours we had decided to get
Lake BaikalLake BaikalLake Baikal

What a view!!
3rd class tickets...upon finding our seats were were soon joined by that ever elusive smelly, hairy Russian man we had so cunningly managed to avoid for the whole time on the last train! He spent the whole journey sleeping...and snoring! Much to our annoyance!

The train followed the shoreline of the lake for about 150 miles giving us great views to enjoy as we went along.
Ulan-Ude's claim to fame - the worlds largest Lenin head!!! And it was HUGE!! We couldn't quite get over just how big
it was!! Easily higher that a two storey house! We spent the day ambling around the city and even found an Irish pub!This is significant in the fact that not only was it 'Irish' but also it was probably the only pub we saw in Siberia!! In Russia you can buy alcohol pretty much on every street corner and so people just walk around with a bottle of beer in their hand, there just aren't any pubs?! So we went in and had a nice pint. The city was much friendlier and had a more Asian feel to it. The streets were cleaner and the people much more polite and smiley. It was nice to have a little rest as we were feeling a little overwhelmed by now and we were glad of the opportunity to just 'chill'.
Again we only stayed for 2 nights and before we knew it we were getting back on the train for another 24 hours, this time we were headed for country number 2 - Mongolia and its capitol Ulan Bator. EEEK!

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