From Suzdal we took the bus back to Vladimir to board our first long distance (36hr) train to Omsk, where we stayed for one afternoon and evening. Our hostel was literally next door to the train station which was extremely handy for us as we were only stopping in Omsk to sleep! When booking our Trans-Siberian trip, we didn’t really know what to expect, so we booked the stop at Omsk (which is halfway between Vladimir and Irkutsk) so we could catch up with some sleep should we need it. Turns out we both slept fine, so we didn’t really need the stop and would probably just go all the way through to Irkutsk next time!
Irkutsk, the fifth biggest city in Siberia, is a popular stop in Russia (especially for those taking the Trans-Siberian train), as it is the closest big city to Lake Baikal and Olkhon Island. We only had one day in the city before heading to Olkhon Island and spent most of our time wandering around the ‘130th district’ which is almost like a mini village within Irkutsk. Opened in 2011, this newly reconstructed wooden historical quarter is filled solely with bars, restaurants, hotels and a shopping centre.
We spent a few hours walking around, including inside the shopping centre, where we made a mental note to come back to buy warmer clothes before we leave for chilly Mongolia! We made a lucky find in the shopping centre when we discovered a large deli bar with loads of vegetarian options. After four days of train food, which consisted mostly of instant noodles, tea and cereal bars, we were both very pleased to see a selection of vegetables!! For a measly £2.50 we both left armed with big pots of steamed and fried veggies, salads and I even found some veggie sushi. We also stocked up for our upcoming trip to Olkhon Island, as we’d heard that there aren’t any supermarkets on the Island!
The following morning, about 15 of us (and our bags) were bundled into a small minibus headed for Olkhon Island. With bags on laps, balanced on chairs, and piled in the walkway, it was a longggg and extremely bumpy journey!!
After our four day stay on Olkhon Island, we returned to Irkutsk for one night before leaving again early the next morning, this time to check out Listyvanka, a small town on Lake Baikal’s shores.
After our stay at Listvyanka, we took the 4.30pm bus back to Irkutsk to catch a train to Ulan Ude. On arriving back in Irkutsk, we dumped our bags in storage at the station, then went to the shopping centre to stock up on warmer clothes for Mongolia. We spent our last few hours in a brewery/ restaurant in the 130th district, trying to stay as long as possible as our train wasn’t until 1am!
Ulan Ude was another stop we only really included to break up our journey, so I spent most of my time eating veggie Mongolian dumplings and catching up with my blog in a popular chain restaurant called Modern Nomads which was conveniently next door to our hotel…