Even the Russians we spoke to about spending the night in Slyudyanka were confused about why we’d want to get off in a tiny town a few hours from Irkutsk. What they didn’t know was that the Circum Baikal Train leaves from Slyudyanka a few times a week, travelling the original route around the edge of Lake Baikal – but more on that train journey on a separate post.
Our train arrived at 10:30PM. I thought we’d be able to walk out of the station and fight our way through taxi drivers waiting to drive us to our destination. We were the only ones who got off the train, and outside the station there was only darkness and cold air. I couldn’t even find a public phone to call our hostel to arrange a taxi, so we were fortunate that one of the guards working in the station took pity on us and called one for us – and then waited with us until it came, and passed along the directions. We normally try and avoid catching taxis, but it was a few kms, and it was late – and it only cost 150r ($3).
Even though we’d essentially spent the last two-and-a-half days sleeping on the train from Khabarovsk, we were exhausted, so after we’d arrived at the hostel, made our beds and brushed our teeth, we passed out. I even had to set an alarm for an 8AM rise…
The day started with an awesome homemade breakfast from our host, Anna, whose apartment Slyudyankahostel, we were staying in. Even her nine year-old son helped making bliny for us. Talking with Anna, she showed us a collection of photographs from hikes in the area, and they looked amazing – if only we had the time to do justice and fully explore everywhere we visit.
As always, we didn’t have much time to spend in Slyudyanka, and with our baggage, we didn’t want to go too far. Instead we went for a wonder around the apartment on the south side of town. It’s not glamorous, and it’s not the sort of things you’d find in travel guides, but it was really enjoyable to just look at the rural scenes, much more so than larger cities with their mostly soul less concrete apartment blocks.
We’re particularly fond of the colourful window frames on the otherwise plain wooden log houses. Even on some houses that look to have structural issues, the window frames are still a vivid colour, and still look amazing in contrast to the dark raw timber. I’m sure the town has a completely different vibe on dark sub-zero winter months, but today in the sunshine, it was a pleasure wandering around.
Driving through town during daylight showed a town with quite a few things happening, and a few markets and shops busy with people, but we had to be satisfied with fleeting glimpses from the window of the taxi as the next train wasn’t for a few days, and it wouldn’t wait for us.