Irkutsk & Lake Baikal – Siberia

It’s not really a good morning, it’s pouring with rain. The train takes us along the shores of Lake Baikal.

Irkutsk is interesting. Aside from the cab driver who asked me for the double of the fare. Apparently scammed but still a fraction of the price compared to taking a 10mn cab ride in Sydney.

Hostel is clean and neat. The lady, like anyone over 30 here, doesn’t speak English, but we manage to communicate. I’m mastering communication beyond words. Tone, smile, gestures. More smiles and spassiba.  Gets me what I need.

Even managed to get a Russian SIM card set up with 1 Russian word: while pointing at my iPhone I just said: Megafon SIM card.

Visiting the 130 district now, all wooden houses done up.


Took the flying bus to Listvyanka. Flying bus because we went airborne a couple of times on our way there. But at least I had seat belts.

Listvyanka was quite a disappointment. Not much to see and apparently too short of time to go to the Olkhon island, a shame, as it looked stunning on the pics. And the hydrofoil only goes back to Itkutsk at 6.20pm today, because it’s Thursday. And everybody knows there’s no boat on Thursdays, judging by the expression of the info centre.

Still managed to sunbathe before the rain on Lake Baikal shores. Was going for a dip but water must have been 15c Seriously.

Anyhow, got cheered up by a perfect latte back at Irtkusk at the White Raven cafe. Food?

“Ya vegetarianka “. She nodded and brought me eggs and veggies.

I wandered through more streets, found myself at the corner of Karl Marx street and Lenin street. Doesn’t happen everyday.

Alternating with brick and stone buildings the city is peppered with spectacular wooden houses, last vestige from the Decembrists. Many of them quite run down. A few dangerously leaning.

In the eve I decided to search for that beer pub mentioned in Lonely Planet.
Now the hostel is just off the centre and I am wandering in ill lit streets with seldom passers by . For the first time since the beginning of this trip I’m feeling a tad nervous.

Well I found the place. Ya Vegetarianka. Grilled vegetables and nuts, and nice big refreshing beer. Should have come earlier there are half giant barrels used as outdoor secluded tables and seats. It’s 10pm. Time to head back.

And then, Ladies and gentlemen, I finally saw the balaclava man.

I was walking the last few meters of this dodgy street, when Balaclava man jumped out of a van in front of me and broke a glass entrance. I wooshed past him. Holding my breath. Hoping by doing so that I’ll suddenly become invisible. He was  too busy clearing the glass. Completely ignored me.

Right. That was….

Rainy day. Might as well sleep in. Bed was quite uncomfortable. The dorm was full.  I booked a single room in another hostel. More central. My close encounter with Balaclava man still vivid in my mind.

More exploring. Shopping for tomorrow’s train ride. Found another hip cafe with adorable staff (Cake & Coffee Union).

Comes the evening and time to check out the famous Library Bar.

Just loved it. Quite a young and well off crowd. Cool music. 2 girls started to chat with me in English. Well in Russian first as they thought I was Russian. As you do.

A lady came to fill a full 2l bottle with a yellow substance. Limoncello!

I ordered some. The barman was particularly nice to me. The girls were impressed. Me too.

Then chatted with 3 Italians from Milan. Because we’re everywhere.


There’s going to be a heatwave here today peaking at 24c, so Listvyanka again it is.

Quite a different experience this time, like being in Benidorm. The pebbles beach filled up to full crowd by 1pm.

It was so hot, I even managed to go for a dip in the lake.

It is said that a dip in Lake Baikal gives you 5 extra years of life. Sure. The next step up is cryogenics.  There is also no way you can get out it gracefully.

The cold water and the unstable and prickly pebbles make people exiting from the water look like a puppet show handled by a drunken puppeteer

Headed back early before everybody else has the same idea..

And now I’m at the station. Waiting for train No 1. Vladivostok-Moskow. Ticket says 1.25 am. It’s 12.25am when I arrive.

The clock says 19.25.

The time is Moskow time. Means Irkustk time +5h. Oh FFS Seriously.

A lot of thinking time these days. I’m feeling very calm, light, comfortable, enjoying traveling solo. It allows me to be flexible with my planning and do what I feel like. I meet and talk to people.

I’m dealing with me. My past and my future. Alternating moments of breathlessness with moment of serenity and full confidence.

I’m in charge. Of a life out of control.

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