Meet the local guide: Marina
Born in nowhere
I was born in Siberia, in the windiest month of the year February. My hometown is lost deep in the forest, stretching along the bank of one of the most famous and longest Siberian rivers The Lena. On most maps this town is unidentified. It is located 1000 km from Irkutsk to the North. My town has 3 different names, which one you enter depends on how you get there. By plane and by bus you enter Ust-Kut, by train – Lena, on the water – Osetrovo. But its toponym is Ust-Kut. You may have noticed that many Russian settlements have ‘ust’ in their names. It means that the settlements were founded on the confluence of two rivers. For example, my town appeared on the confluence of the Lena and the Kuta rivers.
The larger part of the population came here when the great construction of the railway known as The Baikal-Amur Mainline began. So did my grandparents.
I moved to Irkutsk after I had finished school to continue my education.
I had never been there before.
It was the beginning of 2000. And that Irkutsk I arrived in and this Irkutsk I take my tourists around now are almost two different cities. The capital of Eastern Siberia has become much more beautiful than it used to be.
Big city life
Irkutsk is a real giant in comparison with my hometown, with absolutely another way to spend your leisure time. I’m just crazy about going for a walk. And here I have a great opportunity to do it. I can spend up to 3 hours strolling about the city. I like popping to cozy cafes to grab a coffee and keep on walking. And it doesn’t matter the season, because I like watching the way the city changes. It always has something special to tell you under heavy fall rain, rustling colorful fallen leaves; under fluffy snow and when trees give birth to soft light green leaves; and when the city stands still surviving the hot boiling summer being afraid to move because it could make the city even hotter.
I also realized that Irkutsk teenagers are happier because they can go shopping for nice clothes in shopping malls. In my hometown, we used to go to street markets where the clothes were far from fashion. And we had to try really hard to look like our favorite singers from the magazines’ covers. In winter it was a kind of extreme to try on jeans on the street market. But we were ready for everything to look cool.
Everyday routine is quite ordinary in Irkutsk. The citizens get up early not to get stuck in heavy morning traffic. Have lunch in a cafe. Get back home. At the weekend they might go out with their friends or families. The most beloved place among the citizens of Irkutsk is 130 Quarter dotted with lovely cafes. There are several theatres in the city for those who enjoy art.
And of course, you can spend your weekend outside the city escaping to Lake Baikal. Even if you don’t own a car, you can get there by bus running from Irkutsk to Listvyanka – a small settlement right on the shore of the lake.
Places to go
I am fond of walking along the Angara river. There are two beautiful embankments in the city where you could watch people fishing, jogging, eating ice-cream, chatting joyfully, rollerblading and getting married. By the way, there is a belief if you see three brides a day, you will be lucky.
As I prefer spicy food my favorite cafe is “Kimchi”, a Korean restaurant. Many tourists come to Irkutsk and they want to try local food, so I really recommend “Rassolnik”, a Russian cuisine restaurant, and “Ulus” where you can enjoy buryats cuisine.
For coffee and something that comes along, I prefer “Belaya Vorona”, “Bliss” and “Cake Home”. But it’s always a good idea to explore the city yourself looking for some interesting places or enter the first seen cafe on your way.
Pill for tiredness
Once I was asked if I got ever tired of being a guide. We have some fixed tours, they are supposed to be the same. And guides are supposed to tell the same things over and over again. I don’t remember feeling tired, because I always find something interesting to add to my tours and it keeps me in shape. It’s my great pleasure to meet new people from all over the world and show them the unconventional beauty of Irkutsk and the beauty itself – Lake Baikal.
Written by Marina, a local guide