Irkutsk, Russia: land of engineering, the trans-siberian railroad, an oil pipline to China, raw materials, and a whole lot of water. After 36 hours from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk I arrived tired of the cramped train cabin but well fed after two elderly Russian ladies felt it was their job to keep me fed and call me to the table every 4-5 hours.
The trans-siberian train is much less the tourist vehicle than I imagined, with April being the off-season, I found myself the lone non-Russian for several rail cars. As a result it seemed the notoriously cold train conductors memorized my name and would come over to explain little things about the train to me, where things are located and how to work knobs and buttons. My cabin mates seemed fascinated that I came to Russia and actually wanted to go such a long distance on THIS train. They also seemed fascinated by how skinny I am.
While this famous train might be a dream for alot of travellers from around the world, in Russia the train is still very much a way of life. Love it or hate it, they know exactly how to approach it, what to bring, what to wear, and ways to both take care of themselves and pass the time. Watching grandmothers and grandchildren, it became clear that this is a time-honored tradition being passed on generation to generation regardless of what kind of government is in place or how the world economy is doing.
Me, I’m on my way to Ulan Batar, but first I’d like to see this lake Baikal. So a brief pause with limited internet to test the waters, and then its on to the vast nation known as Mongolia!