Sunday, September 20, 2015

Woods, city, train

Carrie won’t let me fold the tickets. We’re waiting for our fast train from Irkutsk to Kazan’, and this is the first time she’s seen Russian train tickets. (The same as we use in Belarus.) They really are beautiful, hard to counterfeit; much like banknotes. It’s fun traveling with her, as our similarities far outweigh our differences. We’re family, after all.

This morning we debated our options, to take a boat ride or take a hike. The day started out cold enough that the hike sounded like a good idea. Besides, it was easy because we chose our hotel specifically because it’s near a trailhead to the Great Baikal Trail. By the time we got back down, we felt confident that we’d made a good choice. We didn’t get any lake views at all until we reached our intended turnaround time, but the forest there is gorgeous so we didn’t lack for things to look at and exclaim over.

The forest included a mix primarily of birch and pine trees, with ferns and an unknown big-leafed plant dominating the undergrowth. The birch trees displayed their fall colors and the pines, of course, remained green. Below, the ferns had browned and the big-leafed plants mostly retained their green, with occasional red leaves for variety.

Carrie struggled with the humidity, even on this autumnal day. Our hike mostly ran up a steep hill, and she tried not to sweat. Her glasses fogged up first, and ultimately she gave up, took off her glasses, and accepted some sweat in the interests of fast progress. When we reached the top of the hill, we got views of the lake, but we couldn’t quite make out where the lake ended and the horizon began. Still, we felt like we’d reached a good turnaround place and we needed to get back anyway.

By the time we returned to our inn, the day had turned fine. And to Carrie’s delight, the innkeeper let her take a shower even though the maid had already finished straightening out all the empty rooms. I gave the innkeeper an unneeded fleece jacket, which she accepted enthusiastically. I thought she might offer it to a guest in need later on, but it’s clear that she likes it too much to give away. It has a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it, so it’s unique here.

It’s been a great day. After our hike, we had lunch at a super-friendly little restaurant and made friends with another taxi driver on our way back to Irkutsk. He gave me a couple of historic coins, and I promised to send him a $2 bill I set aside in Minsk to give away one day to the right person. This guy has been dreaming of seeing a $2 bill since he heard of them from a client years ago.

Here in Irkutsk, we walked around for a while and visited a regional museum. Now we’re just waiting. I paid a dollar to the station manager to charge my phone for an hour. That’s not long enough, but I’m not willing to pay for more. I’ll be offline for a couple of days unless there’s an outlet on our train. See you then!

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