We decided to take the local Matreshka (small mini van) into Irkutsk for a look around, after all we had the time so we thought we might as well see a bit of it while we were in the area. We had a plan even.
First up was a Chocolate shop who supposedly had on offer over 50 types of handmade chocolate. That sounded like us.
Now we managed to catch the bus by the simple expedient of standing on the side of the road and waving one down when it came hurtling down the road. An hour and 120 Rubles each and we made it back to Irkutsk.
What can I say that was one of the few things that worked all day.
We went walking towards where the chocolate shop should be. Combed all three floors of the shopping mall to no avail. No chocolate shop. So we decided on a coffee since we did manage to find a coffee shop complete with coffee machine so it was going to be instant.
Thankfully a cappuccino is a cappuccino even in Russian so I guess one could say that is one aspect of the day that worked as well. So guide and map in hand we ‘asked’ the person who we think was e manager of the coffee shop where we could find the elusive chocolate shop.
We walked out with a new set of directions that really didn’t prove any more effective than the first set. We did however find the the Tourist Information. He gave us yet another set of directions to the Chocolate shop. Still there were two museums, the Museum of City Life and the Tea Museum in the same complex of buildings so we checked those out as well. We figured we might as well since we were there anyway. They were small but didn’t really cost that much. One had displays of old notes and coins, clothes, dolls China etc. the other as the name suggests had a display of the early tea trade along the Silk Road.
After that we once more headed off to what we hoped would be the chocolate shop. We found the mall that Tourist Information told us it would be in. We search all 4 floors. No chocolate shop. We decided at that point to give up on the mythical chocolate shop.
We did fine a food hall up on the top floor of the mall though so we stopped for a late lunch. The great thing about that was like a great many food halls around the world this one came equipped with pictures of at least some of the food. After some exploration and a bit of pointing, nodding and saying ‘da’ we all managed to obtain some food.
Given most of the day had managed to get away from us and all we’d managed to see was a couple of museums, some old houses and the inside of two shopping malls we decided to take a trolley bus and see if we could find the market.
Now we did manage to get on the trolley bus. Well two actually but we didn’t make it to the market. We did however find where our mini bus was to take us back to Listvyanka. We decided to give up on the day and climbed on the mini van.
The journey was somewhat hair raising since the driver really did like the accelerator to the point I found myself scoping out the emergency exits in case we went hurtling off one of the bridges crashing into the lake like some bad Hollywood movie.
As it turns out said driver did find the brake a few times and managed to keep us on the road!
So that was our day in Irkutsk. A day despite all the planning, that really didn’t happen!