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Travel Alert for Russian Cities: May 25 - July 25, 2018

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Irkutsk Culture Lab
Learn Russian, Live Irkutsk!

SRAS cultural programs are designed to give you a wide introduction to your city and to Russia as a whole. These structured experiences are laid-back, educational, and an opportunity for students to get to know each other.

SRAS students at
Lake Baikal.
The Decembrist Museum,
with working horse stables.

In our experience, however, most students prefer to save on the costs of organized activities and to have mostly free time – to study, to peruse independent interests, and to spend time with the friends they make from around the world while in Russia.

To strike a balance between these needs and wants, we offer several core activities, attendance to which is required and the cost of which is included in most programs (see the individual program pages for details). We also offer several optional experiences which are available at additional cost.

1. Included Events

Irkutsk Walking Tour and Regional Museum
During the walking tour of the Irkutsk city center you will see the main sites of the city, including Kirov Square, a Gothic-style Polish Cathedral, the Cathedral of Apparition of Our Lord, the Church of Our Savior, the Monument of Friendship between Russia and Japan, the Regional Administration Building, and the Eternal Flame Memorial. You will stroll along the embankment of the Angara River and through the parks of Irkutsk, where there will be plenty of fantastic photo opportunities. During warm months the embankment is a promenade with stalls for snacks and drinks, where you can try locally brewed kvas. You'll stop by the Regional Museum, located on one of Irkutsk’s main drags, Karl Marx Street, and get an introduction to the history and cultures of the local peoples that make up the Irkutsk Region. Led by a young, friendly, English-speaking local – a graduate of the Linguistic University – who will be happy to answer any questions you have about the city. Wear good walking shoes! 

Decembrists’ Museum
Irkutsk has been named the Decembrists center of Russia. The Decembrist uprising took place in the Senate Square in St. Petersburg in December 1825, when a group of conspirators (led mostly by military officers who had come into contact with Western European liberal-revolutionary ideas during the Napoleonic Wars), made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow autocracy and abolish serfdom. The 5 main conspirators were hung, and 121 others were deprived of all rights and sentenced to hard labor and exile in Siberia (or to military duty in Caucasia). The Decembrists were not allowed to socialize with the local people or attend public events, so you will see the parlor room where the Decembrists held private concerts, plays, and literary readings. The museum houses genuine items which belonged to the Decembrists and replicas of those things which were lost, such as pieces of furniture, tableware, stoves, musical instruments, ancient chandeliers, embroidery, books, sheet music, pictures, and photographs. You will also learn more about the hard lives of the wives who followed their husbands into exile. On some days, the candles are lit, music is played and poetry and stories are recited - just like when the hosts were alive.

Cultural Performance
Each semester, students are treated to one cultural performance. In this past, this has generally been a folk concert, a Russian philharmonic concert, or a play.

Cultural Event
The cultural event is usually a festival or holiday, such as a honey festival, Maslenitsa, or City Day – in which students are escorted to the event to participate in the festivities, try the local food, and celebrate Russian-style!

Day Trip to Baikal
You will take a day trip to Listvyanka, a village in Irkutsk Oblast right on the shore of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake. There locals sell omul from baskets. Omul is a fish found only in this lake. Locals have a certain way of removing the head that opens the steamed fishes’ body perfectly – if you can get it right, it’s easy to eat the freshly smoked flesh right from the bone – delicious! It’s a once in a lifetime experience, so you better take it! While in Listvyanka you will to spend time in the Baikalskiy museum the Taltsy open air museum of wooden architecture.

  baikal_rail The Circum-Baikal
Railroad in fall.

2. Optional Events

If you like to get out of the city, there a number of opportunities for experiencing the serenity of nearby Lake Baikal. Here are some recommended hikes and camping trips, listed from least-to-most intense (note: if you are not an experienced hiker/outdoorsman, we highly recommend that you ask a local to join you or hire a guide):

Olkhon Island
Take a marshrutka to Olkhon island, about a 6 hour ride. There you can stay in cabins at Nikita's Place, a tourist camp where sight-seeing tours are arranged to the northern part of the island, which is rocky. The tour is by vehicle with frequent stops for getting out for a bit of sightseeing – the ride is extremely bumpy, so be prepared! Room and full board are provided at Nikita’s Place, and portions are generous and delicious, served by shy locals. While there take a 1 hour hike from the village Khuzhir to Shamanka rock, a very beautiful place!

Old Circum-Baikal Railroad
Hike part of the Old Baikal Circum Railroad (6 km) + about 6 km through forest. It will take the whole day as it's almost 3 hours by electrichka each way. You could spend the next day in Listvyanka, to spend time in the Baikalskiy museum, eat omul fish, and stop by the Taltsy open air museum of wooden architecture!

Listvyanka Hiking
Hike from Listvyanka to Bolshiye Koty, which is about 20 km. Bolshiye Koty is a small village. Stay the night in a tent (if summer), and maybe even have a banya. Note you will need to hike back to Listvyanka the same way you came, because there are no roads connecting the two villages. Start in Bolschoye Goloustnoye, and hike all the way to Listvyanka, which is about 50 km away. Stay two nights in tents (if summer). Take a bus from Listvyanka back to Irkutsk.

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