Barnaul and Irkutsk
Barnaul is large industrial city (population 600,000) in Southwest Siberia and it is the center of Altai Region of Russia. It was founded in 1731 as the center of the copper industry. The city═s history is connected with production of copper and silver and the city's symbol is the copper furnace. Ore was delivered to Barnaul from the entire Altai region. The advantage of the city was that the river Ob═ provided an unlimited supply of water and surrounding forests provided wood for fire. At present Barnaul has over one hundred industrial companies.
Due to its central location, Barnaul has become ˝the gateway to the Altai Mountains." Many famous explorers have lived there and it earned the nickname ˝Siberian El dorado." It is also a large cultural center for Western Siberia with several open stage theaters, museums, a big concert hall, and five colleges. There is beautiful architecture on Metropolis Street and Demidov Square. Most travelers on our trips only spend one wonderful day in Barnaul.
Irkutsk began as a tiny fortress in 1661 at the confluence of the Irkut and Angara Rivers. It is the center of exploration for Eastern Siberia and in 1783 the Russian-American Trade company was founded here. This company explored new lands in Alaska, Fort-Ross in California, and islands along America coast.
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Irkutsk became the center of Siberian exile and many that opposed the Csar were exiled to the "Katorga" (the Csar's Gulag). These exiles definitely formed a positive cultural spirit in the city and the famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov referred to Irkutsk as a European City. Irkutsk is also unique due to its ensemble of Siberian wooden architecture and there are only a few places in Siberia with such gorgeous buildings.
Now Irkutsk (population 600,000) is a large center for tourism mostly since it is the gateway to Lake Baikal. It is also a significant cultural center with theaters, scientific institutions, and universities. Irkutsk is central to Siberia so it has connections to all of Russia via air, water ways, and railroad. If you travel to Lake Baikal or the Eastern Sayan Mountains you will visit Irkutsk.