Irkutsk

Irkutsk (Russia), 04.10.2013

Five days I had spent driving the over 4000km from Vladivostok to Irkutsk, it was time for a day’s rest and to prepare the trip through Mongolia. The morning started off quite bad. The hotel’s bathroom welcomed me with a strong smell as I opened the door (I’ve had this often in hotels in Russia and Central Asia strangely). There was no shower in the bathroom, just a giant Jacuzzi. With all the “luxury” in here they forgot the very basics.

And then I went for the breakfast in the Chinese restaurant of the hotel. There was no coffee (“our barman comes only at 10:00” and nobody was able to use the coffee machine at the bar), fatty food galore, strange looking ham and cheese, just a little piece of bread left. In the end a ham and cheese sandwich with warm apple juice was all I had. In a hotel of this level, it was a shame. I packed my stuff and left in the freezing cold and thick fog, driving to Land Rover. Here the car got new winter tires with spikes and a check up, particularly on suspensions (the most intensely used parts on this journey) and brakes. While waiting, I studied the Mongolia LP guide and maps and booked another hotel for the night. The sun came out, and the day seemed to take a turn for the better.

DSC_0001 DSC_0019During my research session I had looked for restaurants in town and one place caught my attention, the Figaro. Now some of you might laugh or scratch their heads, but I went there and had a fantastic light Italian late lunch. Thousands of km away from home, there was a tastefully designed, well curated, very decently serviced gastronomic island of culinary delight from the bel paese, with waiters speaking perfect English taking care of their guests. Happy, I left and drove through town, fighting the crazy traffic instructions to finally reach the new hotel. It could have been a five minute straight drive from the Figaro, but the way the one way streets are laid out in Irkutsk… Anyway, I checked in, dropped off my bags, grabbed the camera and went for a walk through town. The light was perfect for taking pictures, and I found several old churches, some parks and tsarist buildings, many of wooden chalets, and obviously plenty of Soviet grandeur. I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised to find Irkutsk a beautiful city. To me it had been just a place on the far right of the Risk game board previously. The lack of major wars in the past centuries has saved plenty of heritage to our times.

DSC_0009 DSC_0021 DSC_0032After picking up my laundry (everything worked fine, no surprises), I walked back to the hotel and started to pack my bags and the car. Although I now have an additional tyre inside, it is emptier then when I came here. I filled up fuel and food, and went to dinner in the hotel. Tomorrow I want to hit the road early.

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No trip data for today.

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