Irkutsk looks like Berlin! Here we were in the middle of Asia, but I was feeling like walking around in a typical European city build in the 19th century. Wide streets, Jugendstil buildings together with Plattenbauten. So very different than China or Mongolia. Our hostel was actually just an apartment with kitchen/living room and 3 bedrooms run by a couple of young Russians. Very cool, was just like staying in a friend’s apartment. Otherwise, walking around in Irkutsk was quite fun, especially the Volkonsky museum. We also hung out with Wilm again, drinking vodka in a beer garden until later that night.
On the second day, we went to Lake Baikal. Why the nature and views were great, there wasn’t a lot to do and the boardwalk was quite uninteresting. Especially the Baikal Hotel was bad, looking like an Eastern German hotel ca. 1987. What was great was the Omul fish (a species unique to the lake) they sell everywhere. You essentially buy it fried and eat it just like that. Delicious. We spend the evening hanging out with people from the hostel with a lot of vodka.
A big problem was actually getting our train tickets for the next leg. On the first day, we walked up the train station asking around, but everybody pointed us in a different direction and nobody understood English or the Russian phrases we tried. We gave up. Second day, we actually figured out that the train station has three separate buildings that are not connected. After that, getting the tickets wasn’t so hard. A station map would have been nice.