Paris of the East

Trip Start Aug 28, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2005

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Friday, September 2, 2005

After another 36 hours on a train, I finally arrived in Irkutsk and it's quite disorienting...all signs in Cyrillic and no English - it sucks to see all these English looking words and not be able to make them out straight away! It's also a bit difficult to make your way around as there seem to be no street signs, though later I find out that they're on the sides of the buildings at the intersections. I stop at the internet cafe because I forgot to book a hostel (whoops) and see that New Orleans is in chaos!! It's crazy over there and I also think "why do I have absolutely no emails from people regarding this?". Anyway I find a place, check in, and have a nice hot shower and then take off to look around the self-proclaimed 'Paris of Siberia'. I stop at an Italian restaurant (there seem to be more Italian restaurants here than Russian) and order a chicken and cheese salad...and thats exactly what I get, a small bowl with a bit of diced chicken covered with shredded cheese - no lettuce, no veggies or anything! So after my meager meal I walk around the old downtown area and it has several cathedrals, many government buildings, and a great little park with a fountain. I started by walking alongside Angoro river until I came to the 350 year old Church of Our Savior, a cathedral and bell tower with old frescoes and also houses the museum of local studies. Before going into the museum, I head across the street to the Cathedral of Epiphany, a recently rebuilt cathedral which has magnificent paintings, and coloring, and a structure with several golden domes. Back to the first church and its museum, it houses ancient Siberian hunting artifacts and church relics and religious icons from long ago. On the fourth level is the bell tower and observation-like area with 360 degree views of the entire area. The best view is of the Cathegral of Epiphany nestled up to the river with levels of mountains filling out the background. There I met an elderly Russian woman from far east Russia, Vladivostok, and we had a few laughs taking pictures and getting in trouble for ringing the bells, which didn't make the museum folks too happy! later I walked to the turquoise domed Znamensky Monastery, in the northeast of town and saw the impressive frescoes and casket of an old Siberian missionary. To finish the day I just went to Kirov Square and chilled out in the gardens of the small park, read a few chapters, watched the locals throw back brews, and laid back in the fresh grass - nice day!
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