What can I say about Irkutsk. Having travelled for a few days through Siberia, Australia seems not to be so pristine. Siberia is pristine, a bit like New Zealand, though more remote.
Irkutsk was our first taste of Russia and it was a little bit of a shock. Russia was at what was to turn out to be the bottom of it’s economic slump. Things were grim. Some were grim because they were hangovers of the Soviet past, some because of what the place had become since then. If I shopped in a corner store there was very little variety. You could have instant noodles, an instant potato porridge mix, and a few other things. Not much. There were almost no luxuries like Chocolates. So I ate one of the few chocolates available, the Mars bar. Strangely, up to the Urals these came from Ballarat. I remember reading every time, to see if they still came from Ballarat and marvelled that they did. Once over the Urals, they came from Germany.
But in Irkutsk, there were also nice markets with very good quality food. Though I do not know if the produce was cheap or expensive. So things were turning the corner and the food supply system was starting to work again.
We went to dinner in this old building, that was probably some coal bunker or such that had been renovated and made into a very swish restaurant. I was certain that the Russians there were from the Russian Mafia, but I had no proof. They did have great wealth. My hypothesis was than when you privatise the KGB you get the Mafia.
Lake Baikal is simply stunning. Pristine, clean, huge and generally wonderful. You really need several days to wander it by boat. But we only had one day. Luckily the train now goes around the lake. Before there was a boat, which in the winter had to be an ice breaker. One winter, during a war, they built tracks across the ice. Though the first train across sank. After that they used longer sleepers and the trains did not sink.
They gave them advice which was faulty. The Them failed to understand this as they were too stupid to realise the fault and unable to reach their own conclusions. Others could work it out, but no one would ever listen to them. They said that they were right and that the victim was the one who was mentally ill. They still refuse to acknowledge that they were wrong and have no idea. The others are still unable to understand where they went wrong or what to do that is right. A general mess all around.