Irkutsk is the ‘capital’ city of Eastern Siberia. It has both ancient and modern architecture, a rich history and some elegant squares and parks. The people are very friendly and welcoming. The food market is very impressive with row upon rows of fruit and veg stalls in the open area and inside, seemingly endless fish and meat vendors. The fish, caught locally in Lake Baikal and the nearby rivers, are all familiar but endemic freshwater species: pike, perch, carp, roach, rudd, bream. The most notable and most highly valued is the Omul, unique to the Baikal. This fish is preserved in salt and served cold with an onion relish.
Our lunch was at a very smart venue. On arrival a member of staff was standing in the entrance with a large round loaf of bread. Everyone was invited to break a piece off and sprinkle it with salt to nibble on the way to the table.