After getting married in September 2010 we decided to do the opposite of settling down; so we packed up our life, stuffed it in our parent's attic and hit the road for what is essentially an extended honeymoon! We started our trip on 29th December 2010 spending 4 months travelling overland through Europe, Russia and Mongolia to China. After many a train and bus journey we caved-in and flew from Western China to Malaysia, and worked our way north to Thailand and Cambodia. The time came for us to replenish our bank accounts, so we headed to Western Australia for work in July 2011 and lived in Fremantle until February 2012. After a couple of months back home seeing our families and friends, we headed back down-under. This time we headed for New Zealand and we are currently living in Wellington. Our blog started as part of an elaborate wedding present from two of our very good friends. The idea was that on our trip we should blog from every country we visit, detailing the sights, sounds and smells and most importantly, the beer. We have certainly had fun writing it - but moreso, living it!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Irkutsk, Russia (1st - 4th & 8th - 10th March)

Bootleg Pilsner Urquell with weird smoked cheese shavings.

We didn't think there was too much point banging on about our few days in Irkutsk, so here are the edited highlights and lowlights!

1. Used to be known as the Paris of Siberia.
2. There are some pretty churches and female monastery, complete which chanting nuns when we went inside.
3. There was a friendly French dude at the hostel who had done some amazing travelling but was quite hilariously negative about pretty much everywhere he'd been.
4. Irkutsk feels like an old school Russian city, with lots of old dilapidated wooden buildings which surely won't be lasting much longer. The numerous old wooden buildings hint at a former glory, but the only one we saw in good condition was the offices of the tourist information centre.
5. It has a rock bar called 'Liverpool' (loosely Beatles themed) with lots of quirky old objects hanging on the walls.
6. There are some funky tanks at the top of Karl Marx St.
7. There is a microbrewery making it's own fairly decent lager, which it then inexplicably tries to pass off as Pilsner Urquell, and incorporating the famous brewery arches into it's logo. It also serves strange smoke dried cheese shavings as a snack (a bit like eating rubbery, cheesy wood shavings).
8. The owner of our hostel (International Friendship Hostel), Dimitry, was a legend and helped us plan our trip to Olkhon Island and the Circumbaikal Railway. He also helped us out with our onward journey to Ulan-Ude and Ulaanbaatar.
9. Irkutsk has a pretty decent art gallery where we checked out some cool wildlife photography.
10. We had some of the best pancakes of our time in Russia at the down earth Cafe Blinnaya. Also the best 'salad'; a mixture of gherkins, beetroot, salami, cheese and mayonnaise.

1. Not sure it would be called the Paris of Siberia anymore, half the town is a bit of a dump.
2. Drinking too much Russian champange at 'Liverpool' gives you a revolting hangover.
3. The main streets are pretty boring to walk up and down, and fashion shops blast out 80's pop to try and entice you in.
4. We didn't have quite enough to do to occupy our time in Irkutsk.
5. Food here in restaurants here is expensive for fairly miniscule portions.
6. The cafe we went to (recommended by the hostel) served the most disgusting pancakes and pizza slices we've ever had.
7. Traffic is omnipresent, often with no pedestrian crossings.

Irkutsk, Russia

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