Well we arrived in Irkutsk in the wee hours of yesterday morning and did only a little adventuring yesterday. Mainly the necessities - find money, find food and find our hostel. After doing all three we cooked up a feast and joined our other hostel hermits in watching a DVD (after an elaborate voting and Australian Idol elimination style process). It was just what we needed.
Today, totally refreshed, we took on the ice layered, snow covered streets of Irkutsk.
This place is really quite intriguing. Walking around, the place looks how you would expect a small Russian city to look. Lots of development in the 1950's, but not much since then. But there is a stange mix. In amongst these seemingly modern building (1950's exterior) are these weather board houses that look like they come from a Hollywood Western Movie. Falling apart, some of them sinking into the ground because the foundation is unstable. They are totally unsafe, but still people live in them as though it is the norm. And it is funny because although they are such an eyesore, they add sooooo much character and personality to what would be a very cold and stoic city. One thing that is really beautiful in this city is the Churches. Like any good Russian city, there is a lot of Churches. In fact today we got to see one being put to good use, with a wedding. Two couples got married one after the other in a ceremony and then walked outside where we were to have photos taken with the guards. Bit of a strange choice in wedding snaps but hey, we are in Russia!
As far as the Russian's go. I had it explained to me why they never smile. I thought that the reason cold be that "hey, you're living in Siberia, thats reason to be a bit peaved off", but that wasn't it, so I thought "years of communist power" and that wasn't it either........the real reason as i found out today. It hurts.....it is sooo cold outside that your skin just freezes. It is like a temporary botox injection. A smile would just crack the mask! :)
Anyway, we are off to Lake Baikal tomorrow. So I will let you know how it goes.