Saturday 13 May
Our first stop over on our transiberian journey was Irkutsk, capital of Siberia but probably better known for being the gateway to Japan in the game, Risk. I think this was our main reason for stopping here. Irkutsk is just another concrete Russian town although there is some nice architecture and traditional wooden Siberian houses. We stepped off the train in to awful howling winds and lashing ice cold rain. The day we arrived it was my Nana's funeral. She'd died whilst we were in Moscow after a long spell of illness, and the bleak Siberian weather only added to me feeling a very long way from home. The funeral was at 11am (7pm our time), and I wanted to light a candle in memory, but of the three churches we tried two were shut and one refused to let us in. We said our goodbyes overlooking the river instead.
I knew the rest of my family would be down the local pub supping pints and tucking in to sausage rolls so we headed for Irkutsk's only British style pub. 'The London Pub' was decked out in furnishings rescued from an old Bradford pub that had burnt down in the 50's, it was pretty authentic. We ordered fish and chips, and a pint and toasted my Nana and The Ashtons. Amusingly, the owners had taken the literal American-English translation for fish and chips, and we were actually served traditional English 'Fish and Crisps,' but it was still very nice and it was comforting to be in more familiar surroundings.
The next morning the weather cleared and we visited Lake Baikal, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and pine forests. The area is how I imagine Canada to be and it's a popular Russian holiday destination. Lake Baikal's claim to fame is that it is the world's deepest lake and holds a third of the earth's fresh water supply (now there's a stat)! We spent a relaxing couple of days in a wooden cabin overlooking the lake, eating smoked fish and watching the ice melt on the lake's surface.