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.
During 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.
After 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.
No trip data for today.