Again too excited to sleep properly, I was woken by the carriage attendant with an hour before we pulled in and we all duly hopped off in Irkutsk. The second stop in Irkutsk, that is. The hostel was easy to find so I dumped my bags and went for a run. Irkutsk has plenty of waterfront, and the hostel looks over a park, all of which was promising. The park is about 500m by 300m, with some nice woodland paths to start with and what looked like a football team’s training ground at the other end. I ran down to the bridge to town and followed the path which took me down to the waterfront, but having followed that for half a mile or so I realised I was just running along the platform and this side was all station. I got back on the bridge, smogged just a little, and finally hit the promenade. Several other runners were out, including one older gent who was, despite an unusual gait, was making good speed. Game on, and I overtook in the sun, deciding on finally getting in several tempo miles. They were hard work for not enough reward, but at least they’re done. The promenade is a bit run down but a good spot, and there’s a separate island off to one side that I avoided at the first bridge opting then found myself on. It has its own little train-bigger than a model railway, smaller than a full size train-and various rides and attractions. Better, several paths by the water, so long as you can hop over the rails. Were the two inner rails love? I decided not to find out.
That done I had a shower. I, unlike my Dutch and Russian companions, had changed my t shirt and a wet wipe wash left me reasonably clean, but it was still glorious to shower properly. Finally, into town. Irkutsk is notably more run down than Yekaterinburg, though it h gives that impression, too, by virtue of the station being one side of a slightly grim long smoggy bridge, which takes you onto unprepossessing streets. Parts by the stadium and water are more modern, I was to find later, while there is a pedestrianised area leading up to the massive market-more a market district than just a market as we might know it.
It was all very festive, with various displays and lots of leaflet givers, plus music and advertising blared into the street. For the first time since Monday, I realised, I actually knew what day it was, and it being a weekend may make this atypical. The largest crowd was not for the street dancers, not for the animal-themed ‘whatever the hell was going on but it involved flags and green livery’. No, the biggest crowd was for, as friend Guy would put it, the fucking pan pipes (if you haven’t heard the story, it’s worth asking him). They even got a round of applause.
I made it through the market area to the city park and read then slept. Wandering back past Lenin’s monument I was on the ‘green trail’ I had picked up earlier, which gives short explanations of the city’s main buildings. Picking up wifi I thought I’d treat myself to tripadvisor’s number one ranked restaurant, Figaro’s. It is ostensibly an Italian, but I guess it is more of a ‘fusion’ place, with its lasagna involving “two types of salmon flesh and smoked flambé in vodka”. I had Caesar salad, which was large, then pork, which wasn’t (and just as well) with banana chips. They brought a scallop appetiser and afterwards three chocolate sweets. Almost like they knew me. English from the off, too, which feels like cheating but is a nice guilty pleasure when away.
Summary: 1:11:49, 15.46km.