Irkutsk, Where’s the Green Line?
Where is that Green Line? It keeps disappearing. This City Walking Tour in Irkutsk was a mix of fascination and dilapidation, and I am not just talking about us!
Day 704 was a very chillax day, so not much to report. One thing I did do was discover that Irkutsk has the Green Line city walk, similar to Perm. That sorts out tomorrow. I wonder what we will see?
Day 705 -This morning we woke to snow and freezing temperatures. Never mind, we wrapped up well and caught a bus into the city to follow the green route. Ah! It suddenly dawned on us. How are we going to see the Green Line with snow covering it? Doh!
We hopped off the bus near Kirova Square, and luckily, a kind person had cleared the snow, and we found our first stop – No. 14, Tim’s favourite number. An obelisk was in front of us; however, the information was about a rather nondescript Administrative building which we read had subsidence issues and cracks appearing soon after it was built. Oh dear, shoddy workmanship.
We followed the Green Line for a short while and then, as we predicted, it disappeared under a thick layer of snow. I had taken a photo of the map, so we got our bearings and found No. 16, Spaakaya Church. Where was No. 15? This white church was built in 1706 and the first stone building of Eastern Siberia. Do you really want to know this? Probably not.
It was a nice respite; we managed to get the blood running into our cold hands before departing this pretty small church to find a Memorial to the Fallen of Irkutsk during WWII with quite a powerful eternal-flame.
I won’t list all the places we visited, as some were just rather dilapidated buildings that were way past their prime, so here are a few highlights:
Tim’s hands were getting cold, so we ventured into Epiphany Cathedral, I confess I did take a couple of forbidden photos of this beautiful building, the décor was stunning. The Cathedral was built in the 18th century, but closed in 1934, due to communism, and the building was then used as a bakery and dormitory. The Cathedral was returned to the diocese in 1994 and a fine job they have done restoring it. I do think the outside looks like a gingerbread house.
Some places do trigger us to have meaningful conversations, and Epiphany Cathedral gave us our own epiphanies. Tim and I had an in-depth discussion afterwards about the benefits of churches and temples. We had listened to a fascinating Ted Talk by Johann Hari about insights he discovered while talking with experts worldwide as to the causes of depression and anxiety. As well as a minority of people having chemical imbalances, other reasons are about having unmet needs, being lonely, not part of a tribe, not being listened to or valued, and having no sense of purpose. Churches and Temples do give people a sense of belonging. Wouldn’t it be great to have secular places that have that same community feel? We recommend listening to this Ted Talk.
Another place we popped into was a small Art Museum, the “House of Rogal”. By a decree of the Municipal Property Management Committee of the Irkutsk Administration, an artist workshop was assigned here for the popular, local artist Vitaly Sergeyevich Rogal for a lifetime free rent.
As we entered, we were instructed to put covers over our boots, a good idea as we’d already made a puddle on the floor. We paid our small fee, and I asked if I could take photos. Another fee was incurred for this. I am not surprised, nine people worked in this small museum, and we were the only visitors, so unless they were working voluntarily, they certainly needed our rubles.
There was some lovely artwork, we both especially liked the large pastel paintings of scenery. I thought they were litho prints from a distance.
There was also a small exhibition of VS Rogal’s life; he seemed quite a character. One large painting measuring 2m by 4m was called “Pantheon of Siberia”. In this unfinished work, Rogal painted portraits of 108 local people from the Irkutsk region who died during the political repressions of the 1930s. Many were secretly shot or killed in the harsh Siberian gulag camps, and this was the artist’s way to express his sorrow for his fellow citizens.
As we left the building, some students were trundling in the snow carrying some strange looking musical instruments. We managed to call one of them over and take a snapshot. Does anyone know what this instrument is?
When looking for a place to eat yesterday (yes we did venture out for a meal and a supermarket spree), Tim came across on google maps the New Zealand Pie Café. We had to visit!
There was a range of photos and captions which told the story of how this café was created. A young lady Oksana travelled to New Zealand, spending nearly a year there. She loved the magnificent nature and, of course, its delicious pies. When she returned to Irkutsk, she met Dima, also a food lover. In spring 2015, they heard about a food festival here, so set up a stall and cooked over 50 New Zealand pies, they sold these in less than 20 minutes! Just six months later, they opened up this café, and the rest is history. How inspiring. We often say that cafes that have a small menu focusing on something unique that they do well often are very successful.
After our late lunch, we traipsed through the slosh, continuing on our Green Line City Tour, mainly seeing statues and more “passed their sell-by date” buildings. Time to get back in the warmth of our little cosy Airbnb.