Writing from Irkutsk supposedly one of Siberia's most charming cities but I personally think it is quite boring. Lots of museums and churches and not much else.
I arrived in Irkutsk this morning after a night on the train (in 3rd class, the whole carriage was one big dorm room no individual compartments like the others).
I arrived in the mother land on Sunday morning in a long 10 hour border crossing. The crossing was made much more interesting but the Mongolian people on our carriage who were attempting to smuggle stuff into Russia. They tried to get us to take stuff for them, one in out group got offered a pair of shoes because the bloke apparently did not have enough room in his bag for them, but his offer was declined. However they got the carriage attendant involved and paid her to hide stuff under the floorboards! But they all got caught!! Stuff was confiscated, comments were written in passports and fines were given.
I have to say the Russian have got the right idea when it comes to getting clean!! The Banya is amazing! The Banya is a Russian sauna. The idea is you sit in the sauna that has a temperature between 100 and 120 degrees C. While sitting in the sauna a Russian man beats you with dried birch branches. Once you can not take it any more you run out side and jump in a river! A river that with be frozen in 3 weeks time!!! It is said that the combination of heat, steam, freezing water and physical abuse purges your body of impurities, but I just think it was fun!!! I would not recommend it for any one with a heart problem because it really gets the blood moving!!!!
But it really was loads of fun and I have done it twice now!!
I spent Monday night in the town on Turka on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal, the world deepest lake holding over 30% of the worlds fresh water. So yes it is big! It is more like a big in-land fresh water sea than a lake.
I am loving the cheap vodka! Last night I found a 1L bottle for less than AUD$10!!
Tonight I leave on a 3 Day train to Moscow. I have stocked up on the important foods- instant coffee , instant noodles, and vodka so it should be good!!!