Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vladivostok–An introduction to Russia’s Far East


Thursday 23rd August

Vladivostok is so far east of Moscow that it is only one hour behind New Zealand time zone-wise.  This meant that our 5hr flight leaving Hong Kong at 4pm actually got us into Russia just before midnight.  For some bizarre reason everyone clapped when the plane landed in Vladivostok – not quite sure if this is normal or if there was something going on we didn’t know about, because we couldn’t understand the Russian announcements…

The terminal in Vladivostok was tiny and crowded and the baggage reclaim was disorganised chaos - I have a feeling we arrived into the old terminal not the new one built for the APEC summit next month.  We got through immigration without a problem, although the officer had a bit of a chuckle over Rich’s full name. I think he has more names than most Russians, and that is saying something!  Our hotel arranged transfer from the airport, which was great as it is further away from town than Dunedin’s airport is, and no public transport runs at midnight.  The hotel itself is in the middle of an upgrade, the foyer looks very grand but we were not in a refurbished room.  It was clean enough though, and we had no problems with our stay, our room was half the price of the refurbished ones.

The next day we set out to explore Vladivostok.  The city seems to be in a building frenzy, there are renovations and building works everywhere. The city hosts the APEC summit next month and is working around the clock to prepare. It’s a shame they haven’t focused a bit more on the pavements, I can imagine the hospital is full of broken ankles from falling in the numerous potholes…


The train station became our landmark.

Across from the train station is Lenin square, unsurprisingly featuring a statue of Lenin.  I’m sure this will be the first of many Lenin statues we find across Russia…


He makes a good perch for that seagull…

We walked around the bay until we found Korabelnya embankment, where a S-56 submarine sits in front of a WW2 memorial.


Hard to miss this submarine!


The WW2 memorial – an eternal flame flickers on the steps in front.


Thousands of names – I’m guessing the names of all those from the area who lost their lives in the war.  There are more names on the smaller brick wall too.

We headed inside the submarine, trying to avoid several Korean tour groups that were being shepherded through.  Unfortunately none of the captions were in English, but it was still interesting to look at the array of artefacts and the innards of a submarine.


The submarine museum.


Heading through the bulkhead!


Looking through the periscope.


Arming the missiles!


This monument sits in front of the submarine and is to commemorate the founding of Vladivostok in 1860.

After a bit of hunting we found where to buy tickets for the ferry to Russky Island out in Golden Horn Bay.  The information in all the guidebooks is incorrect, the terminal must have moved recently.  The weather still looked a little grey but we thought a trip out to the island might be a nice way to get a few good views and I wanted to walk to one of the 4 forts on the island.  The ferry was one of those roll-on roll-off types but was a rusty old bucket and only used for foot passengers now. Despite this there weren’t any seats on the deck. 

It seems that in Vladivostok the weather starts off grey but the sun seems to come out in the afternoon and we actually had some lovely sparkling views of the bay.  I also got very sunburnt…


The ferry heading back to Vladivostok, leaving us on the island.

We were supposed to get on a bus at the quay but we couldn’t work out which one to take – both buses had the same sign even though they went in different directions, and the bus driver said something along the lines of ‘don’t go there’ or ‘the bus doesn’t go there’ or perhaps just ‘get off the bus’… it was hard to understand.  In the end we just spent a couple of hours walking around the quay.  We headed uphill and found a strange village consisting of Soviet style apartment blocks.  I think this island was closed to foreigners until fairly recently as it has strategic military importance.


Me on the ‘beach’ on Russky island.


Little wooden houses – dacha or summer cottages.


Walking along another beach.


I had to take to the shade of our umbrella; having a wee nap whilst waiting for the ferry to come back.


View of the bridge over Vladivostok.


There are a lot of ships around the harbour, some commercial and others naval.


The Zolotoy Rog Bridge spanning the bay between the peninsulas.  This bridge has only just been finished.


The other newly built bridge - joining the peninsula to Russky Island - is currently the largest cable-stayed bridge in the world with a 1104m central span.  The other bridge ranks number nine.

After I applied some much needed aloe vera to my burn skin, we headed to the main street of Vladivostok in search of food.  We ended up eating some tasty pizza at Cafe Tema. When the waitress realised we were deciphering the menu with my Russian dictionary she helpfully produced an English menu, although she didn’t speak any English herself – good thing the dishes are numbered!

Close by the cafe was the central square – and another set of statues, this time a Memorial to the Fighters for Soviet Power in the Far East.



These statues commemorate the people who brought the area under Bolshevik control.

It had been a long day, so we soon headed back to the hotel.  We had another exciting day lined up in Vladivostok before heading off on the train to Irkutsk, but that is a whole other post…

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