The Paris of Siberia.
Irkutsk is the most beautiful town on the Trans-Siberian route. I really love this place. It is joyful and full of life and its size is still “human” with a population of about half a million people. It was known as the Paris of Siberia. Of course nothing to do with the French Capital but surely a huge difference from most of the other towns along the TransSib way often lacking of such a warm soul. To me are also lovely the small trams connecting the railway station to the centre that is located on the opposite side of the river Angara. I reached Irkutsk early morning, 6:00 AM local time, after the longest train ride so far: almost 20 hours from Krasnoyarsk. However, in the end the trip was not bad. I was in the Kupè that now you should know what is if you read already the first part of my report on Trans-Siberian. I had as compartment mates two Americans, father and son. Fourth berth was left empty. Arriving in Irkutsk so early is not an issue because I had arranged in advance a super early check-in with my Guest-House that is located right in the Irkutsk’s Arbat. Yes they also have here “Arbat”, not Champs-Élysées in spite of its nick-name. I’ve spent in Irkutsk more or less two days: one before, the other one after my trip to Olkhon Island but I prefer to tell you everything in one single post to make it more effective. Please then find my personal list of things to see in this beautiful town. Some more personal remark is at the end of the post.
A long visit to Irkutsk.
Uritskogo Street & Central Market.
The short Uritskogo street has been for long time the pedestrian area of Irkutsk. It is not comparable to similar street in Moscow or Kazan but nevertheless is pleasant to stroll here among buskers and some nice shop. At the end of it there is the central market. Is not very interesting from a tourist point of view being not particularly colourful so my suggestion is to go through it quickly unless you really need to buy something. Once out of the market turn right toward next sight.
Raising of the cross church.
A nice 18th century church, one of the best example of Siberian Baroque style, surrounded by trees. The interior of the church didn’t impress me too much but maybe this is because of the many churches seen so far during my trip. What I like, instead, is the church’s courtyard with gardens and a nice wooden house. Talking about wooden houses, it should be clear now that I like them a lot and I like especially their window. Well for who have same passion, Irkutsk is a true paradise since the entire town is filled by timber buildings.
If Uritskogo street was the old pedestrian area, the new one is this brand new shopping district of triangular shape, called simply “Quartier 130” and made of only wooden houses (again), some restored and moved here from original location, other ones just built here in old style. Houses host restaurants, cafes, some museum, one hotel, several handicraft shops and also some administrative office. Most of the shops are instead located in the only modern building of the area: a four-floors western style mall. Entrance to the district is marked by a statue of “Babr”, the mythological Siberian Tiger (Babur in Persian means tiger) symbol of the town. The statue has a sable in the mouth and to be honest I don’t know meaning of this metaphor, if there is any. This post continues to next page