When Jules Vernes travelled through the southern fringes of the taiga and arrived in Irkutsk he found there a “giant storehouse of goods of all kinds that are traded in China, Central Asia and Europe”. His words are true – in Irkutsk, a city which politically lies within Asia but is culturally much more influenced by Europe, you come to realise what the word “Eurasian” means. As a Russian colonial settlement the city is an outpost of Europe within Asia.
Architecturally this is documented by those picturesque, elaborately decorated wooden houses from the nineteenth century which survived the great fire of 1879. Originally these two-storey buildings were proud urban villas, but today these crumbling dwellings are home mainly to the poor. Here are some impressions of Irkutsk, the “pearl of Siberia”.