October 27, 2008

Irkutsk, Russia

When I arrived at the train station in Irkutsk at a very early 6:00 a.m and walked outside, where I could see my breath exiting my mouth in big white plumes resembling a factory chimney but could not feel any bite to the air around me, I started to think that Russians are just lying about the notoriously cold temperatures found here during the winter. I thought they had me fooled, walking around in their big jackets and fur hats as a guise, but, oddly, as the clock started climbing in hours toward 10:00 a.m, the thermometer started dropping fast until the sky turned a deep shade of grey and started covering this small Siberian city on the banks of the Angara River with a windy snow; now the air was biting right through my clothing and my skin, straight to my bones, and I decided then and there that Russians really were telling the truth when they said it gets cold.
I had come to Irkutsk mainly as a launching city for my trip to Lake Baikal, and so, without the pressing feeling of many sights to see and with consideration for the weather outside, I spent most of my time becoming close friends with the heater in my dorm room at the hostel. I managed a short trip outside to take the token picture of some of the traditional old-style Siberian wooden houses that line the streets close to the river and when that was complete five minutes later, I ran to the glove store and purchased a wooly pair for my nonfunctioning, red hands and then ran back to the hostel with frozen weather tears in my eyes. The most I saw of this city was the next day, on my walk to the bus station for Lake Baikal, where under a few rays of sun, being outside became bearable for this Mediterranean-blooded traveler.

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