Russia Day 13 – Back in Irkutsk

I got up at 04:00 in the morning as the sun was rising over Lake Baikal. We weren’t entirely sure what time we’d be arriving in Irkutsk as we’d had many conflicting times provided by different sources. We were up early enough though to have a few bits to eat for breakfast and then get ready for leaving the Trans-Siberian Express behind us for the last time.

We pulled into the station at 07:15 and by 07:25 we were at the Courtyard Marriott and checked in. It was a relief to be able to check-in early and shower, and whilst there we also ordered a packed breakfast for the next morning.

Heading out just before 09:00, since it had been almost 4 hours since breakfast, we thought we’d try to find something in terms of either a second breakfast or brunch. We couldn’t at first though – it seemed everywhere was closed and in most cases would not open until 10:00 or later. Eventually, a place called Coffee Company was open where I had a large cup of Earl Grey (yet the smallest they did!) with a croissant coated in chocolate sauce and nuts.

We then started what they call the “Green Line” in Irkutsk which is a trail of 30 sights which you can find by following a green line painted onto the paving stones. The route is supposed to be about 5km so in theory shouldn’t take too long to do. Though when you factor in trying to find where the green line goes when it frequently disappears due to it being worn, the time for taking photographs on the route, and crossing the roads – it all adds up.

By 13:30 we’d done about two thirds of them, and decided it’d be time for lunch. This is when we came across a place called DonOtello which has a menu in English available. I went for the chicken burger with fries, though my friend’s meal didn’t arrive until 15 minutes after I’d already finished eating mine. It’s been a common occurrence for one of us to get our food served first all over Russia, yet every other country we’ve been to it’s always been served at the same time.

We eventually finished going around the sights at 15:40, so even with lunch amongst the sights, a complete route of 14.6km took us around 4 hours. If I’d been running the route I’d have expected it to take little over an hour – but you can’t really compare this to a run.

After dropping off our cameras back at the hotel we browsed the internet and found a place for an evening meal called Asador Pectopah (“pectopah” being the Russian for restaurant) that did steak. It was quite easy to get to using Google Maps, but I think if we’d been looking out for it on the street we’d have missed it. I think to be honest only the locals would realise a restaurant was there at the time as the entire front of the building was hidden behind scaffolding.

I had a 300g fillet mignon steak with fries and barbecue sauce, followed by an apple strudel. It was quite a good steak and in some ways reminded me of the one I had eaten in Argentina a few years previous due to it’s thickness. This did however mean that although the steak was mostly cooked “medium”, it was a little bloodier than normal in the middle. Including the tip, the meal cost 2800 roubles per head, so the equivalent of about £28 in the UK – easily our most expensive meal of the trip, and a stark contrast to the other meals in Irkutsk, but after days of questionable meals on trains it was worth it.

For the next day we’d be heading back to Moscow for a couple of days to finish the sightseeing that was interrupted by this trans-Siberian excursion.

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