Back to Irkutsk to catch a Train

Irkutsk Travel Blog

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Volkonsky Home and Decemberists Museum in Irkutsk
Morning breakfast prepared by Nikolai and we said our final "spasibo" (thank you) as we packed up our bags to head back to Irkutsk. It was both unfortunate that the train schedule dictated that we head back to Irkutsk, but at the same time there wasn't a whole lot of additional things to do in Listvyanka proper. Anything else would have required getting a bit further afield.

So we arranged a bus and headed back down the Angara River to Irkutsk. Found a hotel that would let us leave our luggage in a storage room for a small fee and then headed out to the Volkonsky House and the Decemberists Museum for a little bit of history of Irkutsk.
A mural in Irkutsk

What's the first thing you think of when you hear Irkutsk? It's the big Siberian Territory in Risk for one. Also the gulag comes to mind as well. But Irkutsk is actually for all intents and purposes a large cosmopolitan city in Russia and on this warm summer day seemed quite pleasant. Part of this reason goes back into the history of this city. After the Napoleonic wars there was an uprising against the tsars in St. Petersburg by many of the Russian military that spent significant time in Western Europe during that time period. Those that weren't killed were sent to work camps in Siberia to serve out their sentences. Many of their families followed them into this self-imposed exile and settled in Irkutsk. After the sentences were served the men were able to return to Irkutsk to live with their families and settle in the region.
Heading for the market (large building on the left) to stock up for a three day train journey
So in essence many of the leading figures in Irkutsk had been westernized by the time they spent in Europe and Irkutsk became a city that was as close to a European city as there was in Russia. During the Soviet Revolution one hundred years later it was the last major city to fall to the Soviets.

One of the Decemberists that was forced into exile was Sergei Volkansky and his wife Maria Volkanskaya. Their house, built in the 1840's still stands in Irkutsk and is today a museum about this history. We had a walking narrated tour through the house where we picked up much of this story in even more detail. A small bit of history often glossed over in American teaching at least.

After the tour we headed back to the city center. There is a pedestrian street where we were able to stop at a pizza parlor for lunch, and I got to attempt a bit more of my halting Russian.
Horses and Camels on the square in Irkutsk
At least I could read the overhead menus if not make out everything it said. After lunch we headed to a large market where we stocked up on some supplies for the long journey ahead. Some of us also managed to use a Russian ATM to get some additional rubles for the train. The city itself seemed alive and vibrant, maybe enjoying the short summer season as opposed to the cold, dark, harsh Siberian winters.

The departure time for the "Baikal" (Train #9) was at about 4:30 in the afternoon from the rail station, so there wasn't much time to waste in they city. Back at the hotel where we had stored our luggage, I paid for some internet time to find out what was going on in the world for the last time for at least three days.

Next: we're off
vances says:
To be honest, Irkutsk begs me to recall the game of "Risk"!
Posted on: Jun 04, 2010
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Volkonsky Home and Decemberists Mu…
Volkonsky Home and Decemberists M…
A mural in Irkutsk
A mural in Irkutsk
Heading for the market (large buil…
Heading for the market (large bui…
Horses and Camels on the square in…
Horses and Camels on the square i…
photo by: nidge76