Monday, June 18, 2011
I woke at about 2:30 AM and could make out the shore of Lake Baikal in the darkness.
By about 7:30 we were disembarking the train in Irkutsk. We were met there by a woman with our train tickets for the next segment. She was kind enough to tell us about how much our taxi fare to the hotel would be – 200 rubles. The exchange rate is currently about 32 to one USD. After some confusion with a few potential drivers we loaded our bags into a van and soon arrived at our high-end reprieve from a few days without a shower – the Mariott Courtyard. The uniformed women at the reception desk were amused by the backpackers invading their lobby. Within two hours of our arrival at the city we were clean and digging into the best western breakfast we have had in months.
We set out on foot to explore the sights of Irkutsk. We saw Saviour’s Church and Bogoyavlensky Cathedral before a decidedly pedestrian unfriendly walk to Znamensky Monastery to see the tomb of Grigory Sheleknov who claimed Alaska for Russia. We ate at a place described as “great” in our guidebook. The fare was alright but the place was packed with locals so it felt like we were mingling. It was heating up outside so we wandered into a German beer hall and cooled off in their subterranean rooms. We wrapped up our tour of sights by hitting the Regional Museum.
We retreated to our hotel room, napped, and ordered a pizza.