Vladivostok - far eastern heart of Russia
In April 2019, while living in a hostel in the center of Moscow, I met a girl from Vladivostok with whom I began a strong friendship. So strong it was that I then promised I would visit her one day. The idea actually almost disappeared from my mind but with the arrival of COVID and as I was stuck in Russia without the right to leave the country for a vacation trip, I committed myself to travel inside the country. Within such a goal, I finally found a serious reason to want to see Vladivostok.
Upon the goal of exploring Russian territory, in July 2020, I visited three towns in the east side of Russia, one of which was Vladivostok. I embarked on a train in Irkutsk and after nearly four days, I finally entered the far eastern big city of Russia. Vladivostok indeed means far east, and it represents the last phase of expansion within Russian history.
The first impression I had right after exiting the railway station was the sloping topography of the city and the strong sea breeze. Not far from there I found a hostel where to stay, right in the center of the town. It was named Luna Hostel, which I like very much to remember thanks to the amazing people I met there, including the staff. The spot was just across the street from a square that led to a famous pier. There were several restaurants here, a little amusement park, a small garden, many food stands and quite a crowd for most part of the day. Going past all this, if one wished, one could still walk about a mile of coast line and see different buildings along the way or watch the ships far off to the sea.
The area of the city is split and scattered with part of it located inland and the rest in the island in front called Русский (Russky - Russian). In order to connect its parts, two giant bridges were built. Even though I am used to seeing incredibly huge monuments and buildings in Moscow, those bridges made me feel as if I were in an alien world. They were absolutely immense and they could easily make someone unsettled at the thought of how someone could build anything like that.
Because of its proximity to China and Korea, it is a matter of no time till you see traces of Asian culture. The food stands in most part offer dishes such as lapsha and ramen. The big majority of the vehicles on the street are right handed - that is, the steering wheel is on the right side. Many products also, in the shops, are imported from China, Korea or Japan. If not for the pandemic, the city would be full of asian tourists.
Following the standard of all other cities in Russia, Vladivostok has several points dedicated to reminding people of Russia’s military glory. Examples are the submarine that was placed just by the street for exhibition, the fortresses in remote areas used for resistance against the Japanese back in the war time or the many military ships, from different ages, anchored in the ports of the city.
I spent most of my time in Vladivostok visiting places inside the urban area of the city, which was full of interesting things to see. But the truth is, the thing I was really craving for was to go see the sea and swim. After arriving at the hostel I mentioned before and dropping bags in my room, I went out to look for a good place where I could eat or at least find a market. By doing so, I learned that the beach was just a few minutes away by foot. In the days that followed, I visited that area every day and on some of them I would even lie on a beach chair, put my earphones on and just relax for hours. Though it was good to me, that beach wasn't clean enough for a swim. Many people ventured in those waters but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to do the same.
To my fortune, Vladivostok has a vast coast. If you don’t like to swim near downtown, then you can take a bus and reach other beaches. And that was what I did.
In the early morning, I hopped on a bus headed to Russky Island. It took about forty minutes till I reached a stop by the university campus where I met my friend and another girl. As I said, you can take a bus. But to save time, we ordered a taxi. As we drove past the campus, we began seeing uninhabited areas, with thick vegetation and signs indicating ways to beaches. At last, we pulled on one of them. We hopped off the car and took the trail. The trail led us through the messy jungle, all the way to a bay. Henceforth, we walked on sand and later on a pretty rough rocky path that gradually became worse the further we went.
A characteristic which might be worth adding is how the vegetation here differs in comparison with the rest of Russia. As it may be known to many, the forests in Russia are usually composed of pine trees and other tree species of the like. I would say, it is like a more neat kind of forest. In Russia, these forests are called Тайга (taiga). Vladivostok, however, has, in its surroundings, a more messy kind of jungle, without pine trees. This detail gave me a certain impression, as if I were home, because tropical forests look much more like what I saw there than like taiga.