It's been a bit of a surprise compared to the sparse desolate countryside we've travelled through from the Russian border.
We haven't been able find any Trabants. Have seen the occasional old Lauda. But of more consequence, two Porche Cayennes, two Hummers and plenty of large BMWs.
We started the day with a trip to a supermarket and cooked ourselves a pretty swish lunch. Cabbage with caviar in sour cream, mashed potatoes and breaded chicken. We're travelling with Lee, after all - who even hunted down some paprika for the mashed potatoes.
In the afternoon, we walked through the town to a Russian Orthodox cathedral and church.
We happened upon a war memorial with an eternal flame and guards changing over every 15-30 minutes. Chuckled at the goose stepping.
The river is the only one that flows out from the massive Lake Baikal (300 inlets, only 1 outlet!) and was flowing really fast, deep and clear. The only unfrozen river we've seen since Beijing. Alongside the river there were many locks tied to the handrails, with inscriptions of the names of newly weds.
Do they then throw the key away? Or maybe the idea is that you store the key? Then you unlock it and throw the whole thing in the river when the marriage falls apart? There were many 'super strong' padlocks, and other more flimsy varieties...
On the stroll back to the hostel we pulled into a restaurant for a welcome-to-Russia-vodka. And milkshake for kids. Lee was valiant in her effort to drink in the Russian style (straight down). Very funny.
We don't know whether it was the vodka, but Lee absolutely loved continuing our stroll home through a heavy fall of snow laughing to the point of tears.
(O'Briens who are reading this: Lee said "don't publish the photo of me covered in snow, Matt will send in Care Australia!)
Shane, Helen, Rosie, Tom and Lee