Irkutsk is the largest town in the region with the same name, and is also most tourist oriented. Central to the tourist agenda is usually the ‘green line’, a self-guided tour that follows around the city centre, with stops at a variety of old buildings and monuments. Thus, you get to see the Alexander the III statue, walk along to the oldest brick building in the city, see the soviet style government building that stands where there used to be a church, and wander through a street of old, wooden buildings with fancy window frames.
Irkutsk shown from this route is not the most beautiful town in the region, the buildings and monuments clearly chosen for their historical value and recent refurbishment, rather than aesthetic beauty. However, the signs offer extensive information, and the English translations everywhere make one more forgiving. And you do get a sense of historical aura when you walk through ‘Moscow gate’, the gate through which new arrivals passed for centuries, from poets to exiled revolutionaries. Some of our favourite attractions where on the way, but not directly listed on the route. The sculpture garden hidden behind a few restaurants was a great place to have some fun, take pictures, and observe a school group doing the same. The mural on Lenin street, a graffiti rendition of many of the stories told about Lake Baikal and Irkutsk and symbols of the area was very pretty.
The walk is about 5km long, and takes a while if, like us, you stop at the frequent vendors to try some ice cream, or choose to sit in the park and watch the fountain for a while. The route can also be a bit difficult to find- on the way to the monument for Russian-Japanese friendship, or to the ‘Church for the sake of Mikhail Archangel’ the line disappears, worn down from years of use. In general, you can either find a darkened spot on the pavement, or can trust the general direction in which you were going, and you will soon find the line again. Alternatively you could snap a picture of the map that is on every sign, or get a map from your hostel/hotel, they often have the route drawn on them.
This route is also a great introduction to get oneself oriented in order to find restaurants, cafes, stores and supermarkets.