Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Irkutsk times!

Today is my second full day in the beautiful city of Irkutsk. I really love it here - the city has a character unmatched by the other places in Russia that I have visited. It is a dynamic city with a diverse population of people from all around the world; small enough to be easily travelled by foot, and with a striking architecture and cultural district that reflects a long and intricate history.

Yesterday I walked along the River Angara (accent the final a), which was a stunning sight to behold - as the only river flowing out of Baikal, you can feel its powerful flow as you walk past. I saw a lot of monuments, including the Lenin bridge, technically the largest momument to Lenin in the world! (I have witnessed a great many since my arrival two weeks ago. I'm glad that perhaps with this crowning jewel of Lenin memorials, this trend is over and I can move on to a new theme in monuments.) I also hung out with the 'chairenas,' which I have liberally translated as 'tea gulls,' as the first three letters in their name spell 'chai,' the Russian word for tea.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the multicultural feel of Irkutsk, and today I walked through the Chinese marketplace not two blocks from the hostel. A man sitting in a hat stand asked his coworker in Chinese whether I was a boy or a girl, assuming that I spoke Russian only - it was a funny moment, since if he had asked in Russian, I probably wouldn't have heard him at all. I've found that despite growing out my hair, painting my toenails, making my own jewelry, and routinely wearing what I would call patriarchy-approved feminine clothing, it's still impossible to know how I'll present. Part A, should have known all along, Part B, not really affecting my trip in the foreseeable future.

Here's some more photos from my adventures in Irkutsk:

Here is the sun setting over the city, again taken from the flat in Penguin Hostel - the whole city seemed purple and blue from here.

This is the resident bunny rabbit, aforementioned, in his beauty.

Today my bank card finally worked, so I treated myself to a nice hot lunch! These are "posies," a traditional Siberian steamed dumpling.

Here is some of the typical architecture for the city - wooden buildings with bright, interesting colors and strong geometric designs in the windows and trim. Truly a beautiful and integrated architecture.

Tomorrow is my first day on the trail. We're headed to Tanhoi, a small village on the other shore of the lake that is surrounded by a temperate rainforest. The workers here have said that it's their favorite part of the Baikal region. Wish me luck!

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