Irkutsk – a walk downtown
Photo by: Honza Soukup, Creative Commons

Irkutsk is one of Siberia’s largest cities. It is the heart of the administration of Irkutsk Oblast, located 3,222 miles by rail from the Russian capital, Moscow. It grew out of Yakov Pokhabov’s established winter quarters for gold trading and fur tax collecting in 1652, and became an official city in 1686. Its population is around 600,000.

Being a Siberian city, Irkutsk has a sub arctic climate. The temperatures between seasons fluctuates to and from extremes; summers can be very warm while winters brutally cold. If the temperatures aren’t as extreme in other parts of Siberia, it’s because of Lake Baikal.

Irkutsk offers many sights to see, such as the Epiphany Cathedral, the crown factories, and the governor’s palace. There’s also the Alexander Kolchak monument, which was designed by Vyacheslav Klykov and unveiled in 2004. If museums are your thing, you can step into the Taltsy Museum, an open-air museum to where a number of old wooden buildings from Angara valley’s villages have been transported and reassembled after the post-construction flooding of the Ust-Ilimsk and Bratsk Dams. Also nice to know, although you may not be able to visit the place, is that Valentin Rasputin, well-known Russian writer, resides in Irkutsk.

As with most, if not all cities, transportation to and around Irkutsk is convenient. The Trans-Siberian Railway and other important roads and rails connect the city to other Russian and Mongolian regions. There are also the Irkutsk International Airport and Irkutsk Northwest Airports to serve your flying needs.

A nation that’s not only big in territory but also in name due to its being a major world power is not a place as romanticized, as say, France or England. You might be lured to Paris, France for its beautiful cafes whose exteriors give you a view of the magnificent Eiffel Tower; or London, England for its foggy nights through which the beautiful city lights pierce; or Venice, Italy for its pizzerias and wonderful cuisine and the exciting boat rides via its canals. But you might never think, “Hey, I’d like to visit Russia one day and sit on a park bench appreciating the view of my surroundings.” Maybe it’s their language; maybe it’s the potentially grueling cross-country journey you might have to take should you be the type that wants to see entirety of a place you’re visiting. Either way, give Russia a chance. And maybe you can start with Irkutsk.

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