IGU Botanical Garden / Ботанический сад, ИГУ
Ул. Кольцова 93
9:00 — 18:00
Irkutsk is better known for its Siberian taiga than for tropical flora, and in the dead of winter it can feel particularly gray and lifeless. However, it’s a well-kept secret that there’s always one place you can go if you’re pining for warmth, greenery, and humidity. The Botanical Garden of Irkutsk State University (Irkutsk’s other major university – not the same university that SRAS students study at, which is ILGU rather than IGU) is inconveniently located and quite difficult to find, yet is a small (seriously, very small) oasis of tropical greenery in the Siberian winter.
The Botanical Garden is located some distance away from the actual IGU campus, which is on the opposite side of the river from the center. There are several ways to reach it, though neither of them is very convenient or easy to follow. The simplest way is to take a bus (from the dormitory take either the 10T bus or 7 trolley up Baikalskaya away from the center) to the stop “Botanical Gardens”. This bus stop is somewhat deceptively named, as it is in fact separated from the garden by a series of railroad tracks. You’ll have to cross the tracks and then locate the small door in the concrete wall on the other side, which will lead you right into the garden. The second way to get there is to take tram 1 towards the train station and then continue until the stop Lomonosova. From there, walk north and turn left on Kolkhoznaya (the next street up from the tram stop) and then continue until the street ends at Koltsova, at which point you should see a sign for the Botanical Garden (this is a roughly 15 minute walk from the tram stop).
Once you are have reached the garden, you’ll see that it is divided into several parts. Most of the garden is outdoors, and is devoted to fruit trees, agricultural products, and native Siberian plants. During the summer, this can be quite a nice place to hang out as it is much less crowded than most of the city parks, and also doesn’t have as many empty syringes. Parts of the outdoor portion are off limits to visitors, and the whole thing is pretty much closed up in the winter. Apart from the outdoor gardens, there are two small heated greenhouses, which are really the main attraction and are open all year round. The smaller greenhouse is home to their collection of tropical plants, which is quite impressive and has quite an array of palms and other leafy green plants which are mainly from South Asia. Unlike most botanical gardens in the United States, visitors are not restricted to the paths on the edges of the greenhouse but can wander into the center of the small indoor jungle. The larger greenhouse has a range of different plant exhibits, including some desert plants, aquatic plants, and also a small Japanese rock garden. While the smaller greenhouse is always free, larger greenhouse is often occupied by special exhibits though, so you may be required to pay 150 rubles to enter. The exhibition space is actually extremely small, so depending on how interested you are in the subject of the exhibit it may well not be worth the money. When I last visited, the garden was having an exhibition on exotic snakes, which though mildly intriguing (how on earth does one bring an anaconda to Irkutsk?) wasn’t worth parting with my hard-earned rubles.
Overall, the botanical garden is a nice excursion and a great way to take a break from winter without expensive plane travel. Take your books, and spend the afternoon doing working amidst the tropical greenery!
David Garrison Golubock graduated from the University of Chicago in 2011 with degrees in history and Slavic languages and literatures. With a full year of academic study abroad already under his belt, he will be participating in SRAS’s Home and Abroad Program in Irkutsk over the 2012-2013 academic year. He plans to pursue graduate studies in his fields.