Irkutsk turned out to be a brief but hectic stop and an excellent way to finish our travels across Russia.
We were met at Irkutsk train station by our host Elena, a language student studying English and French who we had contacted through hospitality club. We dropped our bags at her flat and then headed straight out to witness a very intense English lesson in which the topic of modern art was discussed. After this highly confusing lesson and a tasty lunch in a local dining venue we headed for Lake Baikal the world's deepest lake and one of the natural beauties of Siberia. The lake was spectacular, with its frozen surface stretching to the horizon. We walked on the ice stopping intermittently to gaze down through the transparent ice an slide across its surface. We caught a minibus back to Irkutsk not before sampling some of the local smoked fish which was tasty stuff indeed.
We warmed to Irkutsk as a city very quickly, we felt it had more of a European feel compared to the other Russian cities we have visited and it seemed to be a lot more tolerant to foreigners.
Elena's 21st birthday
In the afternoon we returned to the university to view and marginally take part in a French singing competition. Elena's friend was taking part and Oscar boldly offered to act out a fleeting romance on stage with Ed and I playing the part of his friends taking him away from his love. We ended up winning the competition, as Elena's friend was an amazing singer(I say we as our acting was on another level) and headed back to Elena's flat armed with a lot of plum wine and pizza for her party. The previous night we had made undoubtedly the most original if not the best twister board in the world and after wine and cake much twist was played to the great amusement of everyone. Returning to the flat after an interesting night strowl through Irkutsk with Elena I found Ed and Oscar in a state that can only be described as a mess! Our plan was to stay up all night as our train was at 5.45am and after just about managing to stay awake myself I awoke Ed and eventually Oscar who was still mashed and with copious amounts of luck and help from Elena and her friend we just managed to catch our train.
*Ed learnt the hard way that crashing out at a Russian party is not advisable when he woke up to find SEXY had been writing in permanent green pen across his back.
the remainder of novosibirsk will be updated tomorrow...