One of the joys of Russian trains is meeting people, which you can still do if you don't speak the language. A lot of younger Russians know English, and on our journey we shared a compartment with a musician also going to Irkutsk. She spoke good English after studying in Munich for a few years. She was entering a fanfare competition as part of a saxophone quartet and as it was free to watch, we got to see her perform a few numbers, but sadly couldn't stay to find out how well she did.
Irkutsk is a city we chose as it is close to Lake Baikal, which will be in the next blog. The city looks like it would be a lovely place to visit in summer, but with icy pavements, thick snow and temperatures down to -11°C we didn't really want to walk around much. So much so, when we did our free walking tour, we requested a break part way through for a hot drink.
One unusual quirk is that the temperatures indoors are much hotter than the UK. The trains are normally set to about 25°C and our youth hostel was even higher, with the manager wearing shorts and t-shirt the whole time. This means that whenever you get inside, you feel terribly over dressed and whenever you get ready to go out, you're sweating.