architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

With the first snow 2 days ago and the general turn to a rather winter-like weather, I’m gradually fallen into a sort of seasonal snooze. Before I get all sleepy and lazy, here’s a snapshot of what St Petersburg is like these days, these golden autumn and post-golden autumn days of September and October.

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

I will not bombard you with those lusciously coloured trees in the parks of the city (you can easily google that) but rather try to render that delicate (sophisticated? aristocratic? cold – for sure!) look and feel that St Petersburg adopts somewhere in late September.

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

(by the way, see above the Palace bridge from which I took my recent photos of the Neva river view)

St Petersburg’s been pretty generous on various sunsets and sky views this autumn:

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

(pictured is the golden dome of the St Isaac’s Cathedral from where you can get a very fine view of the city)

The sun makes such a difference – even when it just lights up the spire of the Peter and Paul’s Cathedral against the ominously dark cloud (the contrast was much more impressive than what you get on this photo – and the colour of Neva waters was almost identical to that of the clouds):

Steel-coloured sky of St Petersburg (Moika river next to the Palace Square)

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

My first alma mater and ex-building of 12 ministries of Peter the Great with a long-long corridor:

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

Find 10 differences in the light between this photo (taken at 9.55 am)…

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

and 9.56 am:

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

A general view of the place I pass by almost every morning (on Vasilyevsky island):

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

In the park near the Admiralty (the very center of the city), a (three) boys’ picture:

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

And a girl’s picture:

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

Will try to deal with the heavy backlog of all the posts I’ve been meaning to share with you since July or so.

This post goes to that very very prolific St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

From Vasilyevsky to Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin Islands

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

I’m St Petersburg native, it’s my umpteenth year in St Petersburg and yet there are places in the city that I have never ever walked in my life. Among these was one of the many islands that the city stands upon – the Petrovsky island. An idea to ‘go see what’s up there’ ended up in making about 12 km, crossing 6 bridges linking Vasilyevsky, Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin islands (not counting the island I came from crossing the Palace Bridge) in a bit over 2 hours. That’s what I call walking.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Crossing Tuchkov bridge from Vasilyevsky island you first see this engineering marvel, Petrovsky stadium aka Lenina Stadium (whose else?), first audaciously built in 1924 then reconstructed in 1955-1961 and 1980. I have never been inside (not a football fan) but would like to see the city from within (if that’s possible).

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

After crossing yet another bridge that leads to Petrovsky island, I found myself first in a park and then on a heavily non-pedestrian street that rather resembled an interminable construction site – Petrovsky prospekt. Someone didn’t make it to the other side:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Petrovsky island may really disgust you once you leave the park – I did continue walking just because I came all the way there and was determined to get to the other end of it. However, reading about it now I realize it’s not only about construction sites and dying factories and research institutes. But – they are too hard to distinguish most of the times. It’s only later when I got back home that I found out I took a photo of an Art Nouveau building – in the midst of the garages and what not – and that once belonging to a factory which built the first garages in St Petersburg in the beginning of the 20th century:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

The only wide street of the island, Petrovsky prospekt, comes to Petrovskaya square and then continues up to the other end of the island as Petrovskaya kosa (before Lenin they called everything by Peter’s name here :), which is an even less welcoming road with hardly any space for pedestrians. My aim was the yacht club and the haven from where you can see the newly finished highspeed road called ZSD (Zapadny skorostnoy diameter or Western Rapid Diameter). On my way there:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Doesn’t this thingy remind you of a certain character from a certain cartoon?

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

And then I saw this:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Or this, with less geometry:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

The yacht club is there since the 1930s:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

After some bathing in the warm sun and trying to avoid being run over by expensive cars (you have to pay to drive on the territory of the club), I went back to the square and turned left to the Bolshoy Petrovsky bridge (they say Rasputin’s corpse was hidden under the ice somewhere over there). There was yet another view towards the sun and the highspeed road – with a sort of a grass island in the middle.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

I found myself on Krestovsky island, the place to go for fun (there’s a huge amusement park) and sports (arena, stadiums, nice tracks for skating, a rowing club etc). It’s also the most expensive real estate location in St Petersburg.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

The sun was already pretty low when I got to the fountain in the middle of Krestovsky:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

It was such a wonderful evening, a real Indian summer one (we call it Babye leto, Summer of Women). St Petersburg knows how to be good to us, and not just women 🙂 This is a view from a bridge leading towards the green(er) and calm(er) Yelagin island, with this where-do-you-put-that Lahta center being constructed in the background. This controversial skyscraper now gets in the view from about everywhere in the city. No, not a fan either! Gosh, people, you won’t get to the stars and scrape the sky with that 🙂

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Let’s add a kayak, a bird and a grate here:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Take them away and put a fisherman instead:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

By the time I got to the end of Yelagin island, the crimson sun already sank. There was a bunch of people listening to an excursion and some others taking selfies with the lion. Then I walked a bit more along the island and got to the Vyborgskaya side to take the metro back home.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

And here’s my 12km route across the city – well, approximately, the flags appear there rather frequently for no particular reason (just because I was not sure the service I was using would build a correct route). That highspeed road is on the left.

route for Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin
This post goes to the St Petersburg series.
G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

7 Days, 7 Views from Palace Bridge in St Petersburg

From Dvortsovy

I cross Dvortsovy aka Palace Bridge each day at least once to get to my new job. It’s like coming 12 years back in time, when I was studying at the State University. In fact, the university where I work now is just some meters away from the main building of my first alma mater. I didn’t take these photos 7 days in a row but each day I was crossing the bridge from the Bezymyanny, Unnamed, and I-have-never-thought-of-it-as-an-island island to Vasilyevsky island, I could enjoy a very different view – as well as different weather conditions. Just wanted to share with you this daily experience. What’s your favourite?

Wednesday September 13, 9.54 am

From Dvortsovy

Thursday September 14, 12.34 pm

From Dvortsovy

Friday September 15, 10.07 am

From Dvortsovy

Tuesday September 19, 5.15 pm

From Dvortsovy

Wednesday September 20, 10.04 am

From Dvortsovy

Thursday, September 21, 17.03 pm

From Dvortsovy

Friday, September 22, 1.10 pm

From Dvortsovy

Starring: Kunstkamera, arguably Russian first museum, the Neva river, arguably one of the most important factors in the foundation of the city, the Academy of Science,  arguably the first of its kind in Russia, and – sometimes – the St Petersburg sun, arguably the most rarely seen star in the sky 🙂

This short post goes to the interminable St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Yet Another Getaway in Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod was good. It is already for the second time that this trip happens exactly at the moment when I most need this getaway. And when the weather is great too – windy and sunny – you unleash your carelessness and relax.

Veliky Novgorod

Last year our first day in Veliky Novgorod was pretty nasty in terms of the weather but this time I made quite a bit of sunny pictures.

Veliky Novgorod

These are the gates of the most venerable cathedrals in the region – Saint Sophia Cathedral of Veliky Novgorod. Never actually paid any attention to the details, always just looking at these gates as a whole while passing by. Gosh, did they have tons of time and skill in the old days!

Veliky Novgorod

Inside the cathedral it was warmer than outside so we lingered for quite a bit in there. It sometimes helps when you don’t have to pay attention to the sights as a whole (because you have seen them several times already) and so start enjoying the details:

Veliky Novgorod

Just outside of St Sophia there is this building with a funny balcony. I think it’s now a local center for kids where they teach them arts and crafts. We heard some music playing there. Right next to the school is the kremlin wall (no, Kremlin doesn’t exclusively refer to that red fortress in the center of Moscow, it can be found in other cities of Russia).

Veliky Novgorod

If you cross the bridge leading from the kremlin to the other side of the Volkhov river, you get to the Trade Side of Veliky Novgorod, where they have so many churches (and these are just a fraction of what was there before) that you can barely remember all their names.

Veliky Novgorod

I love how they grow from the earth (this church is almost 650 years old!). Sometimes they have to undig them out of all the culture layers that have accumulated throughout the years. And most of the times the years are pretty visible on these old walls:

Veliky Novgorod

Inside the walls of the late 17th century church:

Veliky Novgorod

Love those lines which are breaking all the rules of your school geometry lessons!

Veliky Novgorod

OK, here’s some geometry for you:

Veliky Novgorod

Our hostel was located in a very good spot, wasn’t it?

Veliky Novgorod

Next morning we went to Perynsky Skit on the Lake Ilmen where the monks would settle to get away from the busy monasteries. The tiny pieces of ice were rocking on the waves coming ashore the lake, creating some delicate music – or were they telling legends of the old times?

Veliky Novgorod

We made a wonderful sunny walk in the forest nearby and then visited the Yuriev Monastery, a must of all the coach trips to Novgorod:

Veliky Novgorod

Just a couple of meters away is the open-air museum of traditional Russian wooden architecture called Vitoslavlitsy.

Veliky Novgorod

It’s a bit of a tourist trap (especially if you just close half of the territory for reconstruction) but I still love it.

Veliky Novgorod

You can enter most of the buildings and see how the old Russians used to live:

Veliky Novgorod

There are houses of rich peasants and merchants as well as churches, a windmill and other buildings. A bit like they did it in Suzdal but I like the quality of their interior work much more.

Veliky Novgorod

Pity those vatrushkas were not real! 🙂

Veliky Novgorod

And there under the towel I suppose is a Novgorod carrot pie since we are in Novgorod!

Veliky Novgorod

And there to the right are blini while in the foreground is the traditional karavay bread served with a pinch of salt to the bride and groom at the weddings:

Veliky Novgorod

Can you spot some berries in between the window panes?

Veliky Novgorod

A babushka coming back to her duties after the lunch break:

Veliky Novgorod

Russian stove in a wealthy merchant’s house:

Veliky Novgorod

The icon corner is called krasny ugol (red or also beautiful corner) in Russia. The white and red towel has its meaning:

Veliky Novgorod

And here’s a workshop of a wool-maker:

Veliky Novgorod

View over the Yuriev Monastery from the open-air museum:

Veliky Novgorod

Can imagine how delicately green the city is now but back then in early April it was still rustic and brown, so very early spring-like. A wonderful start to the season!

Read my last year’s post for more details on Veliky Novgorod.

Adding this to my Travel collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Back in June I walked to and along one of the most ‘official’ streets of St Petersburg – Bolshaya Morskaya which literally means Big Naval or Big Maritime. It runs all the way from the Palace Square for more than a kilometer and it used to be so posh and oh so rich back in the old days.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

We’ll start from the Neva embankment, at the strangest place in the city with the authentic stone pavement from leftover from the 18th century. The Neva embankment here is considered to be the face of St Petersburg, at least its official facade – or else front-door, paradny Petersburg.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

The best viewpoint to admire the front-door St Petersburg is from the water. Or you can enjoy the view across the Neva river: stone embankments, famous skyline and boats. In summer the river gets pretty busy which adds to the overall brouhaha of the city.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

And yet, you can take your time, stop for a while and observe.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

The stone embankments of St Petersburg deserve a separate post, they are a real masterpiece. Although my fellow citizens (me included) prefer to avoid them on especially hot days. Reason? Well, other fellow citizens persistently use them as public WCs…

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Same as the courtyards, unfortunately. But if you quickly make your photo and dash outside, there’s no harm. We’ve moved away from the river now, joining the Bolshaya Morskaya Street. My eyes immediately set upon these two Art Nouveau buildings standing side-by-side:

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

The story of this very spot (Bolshaya Morskaya 22) seems to go back to the very early days of the city when – allegedly – a Greek captain would settle here and thus establish a seaman community. They say he was even one of the first inhabitants of St Petersburg in general! This place later changed hands, styles and purpose. After serving as a house of St Petersburg head policemen, the central telephone station got its new facade in 1905:

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

It is still occupied by the main telecommunications company. Next to it is yet another well-known building (Bolshaya Morskaya 24) which also retains its original purpose throughout the years:

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

This is the Faberge house built in 1899-1900. Previously this place belonged to a bell master, then to a goldsmith and later to a jeweler but also to a bookseller who would have Alexander Pushkin among his clients.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

However, its most celebrated owner was Karl Faberge who purchased this building and got it revamped in Art Nouveau for his shop, workshops and apartments. The different surface styles of the same red granite from Gangut make it stand out of the crowd: it’s massive, it’s polished, it’s expensive! And then you sneak into the courtyard…

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

As is usually the case with the Art Nouveau buildings, their backyards are sometimes even more architecturally curious than the front face. The staircase windows follow the movement of the steps while the entrance to the courtyard is adorned with tiles:

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

And once more – here’s the facade of Bolshaya Morskaya 35, which used to belong to the ‘Russia’ Insurance Company. Look at the elaborate majolica created after Nikolai Roerich’s drawings. The original frieze didn’t survive but was restored in 2009. You can hardly see it, it’s so high up but it’s wonderfully fairy-tale-ish!

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

And here’s what you’ll find behind its face:

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Super-rusty style

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Moving further along Bolshaya Morskaya, past St Isaac Cathedral, you get to the Nabokov fanily’s house (Bolshaya Morskaya 47):

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

His family lived here and Vladimir spent his childhood behind all these lavish decorations. Still have to visit his museum there – not that I’m any fan of his, but rather to see the interior.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Moving off Bolshaya Morskaya to the Moyka River Embankment (leaving one of my ex-work places looking like Hermitage behind), you’ll come across the New Holland island, one of the city’s artificial islands, which is under reconstruction now. Not sure what will eventually become of it but they say it will be some artsy space plus hotels and shops. This is what you do with an unused 18th century naval port 🙂

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

A ship-like building along the Moyka Embankment grabs your attention by these, well, dangerous balconies and the rhythmic waves of bay windows.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

And it’s actually known in the city as the House with Bay Windows. It was built by one of the masters of the ‘brick-style‘ quite popular at the end of the 19th century, with the Gothic elements which make it into some sort of a brick castle.

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

Right next to it is the architect’s own mansion, again in the brick style which preceded the Art Nouveau in St Petersburg. It was actually constructed earlier than the previous building and still carries the emblem devised by the same architect who set up the St Petersburg architectural society (look under the balcony).

Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

And here I had to stop and walk back: we were to listen to some choral music in the St Isaac Cathedral later that day. More Art Nouveau stories coming for sure sometime soon.

This post goes to the St Petersburg series.

G.
architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

This summer was rich not only on Russian cities along the Trans-Siberian railroad. We also visited several places around St Petersburg. One day we went to the North-West of the city, visiting Kronstadt, Koporye Fortress and the Fort – all in one day.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Kronstadt (Krone meaning crown in German) is the main port of St Petersburg which used to be a closed military city during the Soviet times. As so many parts of the city it is located on an island called Kotlin – but in this case you do feel that you’re on an island from where you can see both sides of the Gulf of Finland. It is there to defend St Petersburg from the Baltic sea – the role which it played particularly successfully during the Siege of Leningrad.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

With all its fortifications, military ships (it is the base of the Baltic Fleet) and monuments dedicated to various episodes of the Russian naval history, Kronstadt remains a little bit too military for me. There’s this atmosphere in the city as if ordinary people are not the main characters there and notwithstanding all the tourists it seems as if the daily life of the island still retains that something of a closed city.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

And since it was a closed military town up until 1996, Kronstadt is now immersed in quite a decadent state. Those Stalinist era buildings which would normally look pretty ok somewhere on the ‘mainland’ St Petersburg, are preserved here worse than what was built much earlier. And here’s some local constructivism in a very poor state:

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

The Naval cathedral of Saint Nicholas is one of the main sights of the fortified city on the island. It has been recently renovated and looks impressively grand. It was built 100 years ago and since then served not only as a church but also as a cinema, a concert hall and a museum. All of which are not the worst functions that the Soviets could confer to an ex-cathedral.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

The fence around the cathedral:

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

I remember visiting Kronstadt about 15 years ago and how miserably it all looked. I only recall that my attitude towards this city was ‘for boys only’ as I am not interested in all those military ships and constructions. The Cathedral back then looked awful.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

But now it shines, attracts so many tourists and yet there’s a certain feeling of being in a church there.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress
Although the presence of security guards all over the place instead of the usual babushkas makes you keep in mind the cost of the renovation.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

The pseudo-Byzantine and at the same time pseudo-Russian style makes you think of all those surviving churches built in the early 20th century in an attempt to conjure up the spirit of the good ol’ Russia. Looking at the mosaics you also recall the Saviour on the Spilled Blood church in the center of St Petersburg.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

This cast-iron pavement has its history. It was created in the 1860s to repeat the success of the New York and Boston pavements which impressed the Kronstadt steamboat factory manager so much. The current pavement is not original as it had to be recast as mines during the Second World War.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Leaving the city we went to one of the Forts of Kronstadt that you can reach without having to swim to it. There are many fishermen around and those who come to roast some shashlyk or even sunbathe. What a pacifist destiny for the fort!

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

The rough landscape of the fort reminds you of the long military history of these places:

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Inside the fort looks suspiciously clean which might be due to it serving as a set for some movie or a game, probably:

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Outside it looks like… late Soviet architecture, although these thingies were built much earlier!

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

We had our lunch in the field, observing the clouds moving across the sky with such a speed we thought it would rain any minute – but never did. As many fields around St Petersburg, these places are gradually turning back into their wild state as the collective agricultural production lost its sense with the fall of the Soviet empire.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

When we came to the Koporye Fortress, a Medieval marvel of the St Petersburg region. Thanks to very few attempts at renovating it since its foundation in the 13th century (!) we can almost travel back in time. However, the same fact led to its quite ruinous state and although they take money to enter it, there seems to be very little renovation going on yet.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Inside the fortress:

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

The entrance is – as it should be – via a stone bridge with a lifting mechanism. Reminded me of the fortresses I visited a year ago in Provence.

Kronstadt, its Fort and Koporye Fortress

Being surrounded by all those mostly 19th and 20th century buildings in St Petersburg, to see this Medieval stronghold which witnessed sacks and attacks by Swedes, White Army and Nazis, is to say the least quite surprising. I mean, you always think of St Petersburg as something much younger than that! The Leningrad region keeps it secrets well – but also eagerly reveal them to you if you dare travel a bit further off the center 🙂

This post goes to the St Petersburg and Travel series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Trans-Siberian Trip Part 9: Vladivostok and Russky Island

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Hello Vladivostok! My friend met me with a flower, such a treat! After a flight which felt like being on a bus as it made several stops on its way from Irkutsk to Vladivostok, Ulan-Ude being its first one. We flew over China twice: before its second stop in Blagoveshchensk and after. It felt so weird to be travelling alone and not to have any more trains to take. Travelling by plane and covering over a thousand kilometers in a couple of hours seemed almost unnatural!

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Walking along the embankment or should I say the shore of the Japanese Sea later that day and listening to a street musician playing a bagpipe I was wondering whether I was in China after all? Or in Thailand? Never seen either of them but it felt like I was truly in Asia.

Vladivostok and Russky Island

My eager eye spotted the decadence and rejoiced at seeing these authentic courtyards which used to be quite a dangerous area and now is mostly occupied by various hippy-artsy places:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Since its foundation as a outpost in 1860 Vladivostok (‘own the East’ in Russian) has been a melting pot of nations and interests. This district in particular – still called Millionka (either from the ironical ‘Millionaires’ or Million People) – was the local China town with gangsters and smugglers and spies and whatnot. It became a real city within a city but then the Soviets came and cleared the place out in the 1930s.

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Evening view over the city from one of its numerous sopka (volcano, hills). The new districts seem to climb to the top of the hills, the view from there should be amazing, I suppose. Next morning we set off on our way to the Russky Island – across the Zolotoy Bridge – and thus spotted more breathtaking views over the Golden Horn Bay (Zolotoy Rog):

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Then we crossed another impressive bridge called Russky bridge and got to the Russky Island which is located … “9,334 kilometres east of Moscow” according to Wikipedia. That was amazing. I thank my friends who took me there regardless of the distance. I guess those Far Eastern girls just don’t mind those kilometers of walking at all.

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Apart from being quite a challenge in trying to reach one of its capes, Tobizin Cape, through mud and over the cliffs, this island offered to me an insight into the unbelievably different nature of the Far East. It IS different there on the island, no birch trees by the way, which seemed to accompany us all throughout the trip.

Vladivostok and Russky Island

My mind was trying to find a reference, something to compare the sight in front of me with. But it failed! The closest at times was the Mediterranean but the rest, especially with those long capes and gulfs and volcanic rocks and the horizon. I was swept off my feet! The eye would just fail to encompass it all.

Vladivostok and Russky Island
Nature is generous on dimensions there. The Japanese Sea and the Ocean:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

and then… there was all of a sudden this mist, at first just drawing a curtain over the sun:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

People were seemingly unabashed by that change in the weather. They kept jumping off the cliff (I preferred not to look at them but still I could hear them) and swimming. It’s a pity I didn’t as I thought we would find a less rocky beach since there were quite a few of them around… Meanwhile the mist was stubbornly making its way to the city, enveloping everything in its white blanket:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

It wasn’t cold at first so we just walked back to catch the bus (which we missed), stopping here and there to admire the Nature:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

White poppies and thyme of the Far East:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

And that was when people started gradually getting out of the island which inevitably created traffic jams on the only road leading to the only bridge connecting the island with the mainland Vladivostok. We hitchhiked a part of our way on some weird mini-bus full of quasi-military guys (we thought they were either soldiers or some military-style game addicts?) who ate the rest of the very tasty home-made cake 🙂 We thus got to the vast-vast campus of the DVFU or FEFU (Far Eastern Federal University) which looks more like a city and contributes to the population growth on the island:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

They built all the monster buildings there on the ex-military school territory for the 2012 APEC Summit (as well as those two impressive bridges) and later they got revamped into the campus for the recently united three local universities. It’s enormous, there’s a bus circulating on its territory which we took for a quick excursion… and in that mist which was chasing us out of the island the campus in the middle of nowhere looked even less credible. One of the university alumni is Russian singer Ilya Lagutenko and he was scheduled to perform later that day in a concert on the main square. We got there on time but the mist was so thick and cold and damp by then that we failed to wait any longer and went home to warm up our bones. And sample some cooked bracken!

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Next day I went around Vladivostok on my own. I started my journey from walking to the Tokarevskaya Koshka lighthouse, one of the oldest in the country. It’s located on this narrow man-made patch (called koshka) which is washed by the waves from both sides and which disappears with the tide. It felt very… special being there all alone in the early morning, breathing in the ocean and observing the boats passing by. They say that this is the spot to meet the beginning of the day – it seems like the day on this planet starts somewhere over there!

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Then I got on the bus (and here I should say that Vladivostok buses are the most outrageously kitsch-decorated buses I’ve ever seen – inside, not outside) and first visited the Vladivostok railway station. I already felt nostalgia when I looked at all the trains and people going places. The building is in neo-Russian style and has these beautiful ceramic tiles:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Walking in the city I – as always – mostly paid attention to the remnants of the bygone era. Loved this tiny Pharmacy on the corner:

Vladivostok and Russky Island
This is Vladivostok:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Quite a mixture, isn’t it? The city is also quite rich in various types of street art, particularly paintings on the walls. Well, birds are abundantly present too 🙂

Vladivostok and Russky Island
The only museum I visited in the city was the Arsenyev Museum called after Vladimir Arsenyev who spent his life in relentless expeditions all across the Far East and wrote books about the region.

Vladivostok and Russky Island

I liked the museum (and the building!) – it was small enough not to get tired and some halls in particular impressed me with their curious ideas of how to display the exhibits. For instance, they had a huge shelve stand with a specific object representing this or that merchant / trade in the city’s history. And this is what you do when you have far too many books:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

They do not need any extra filters there with this mirror:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

I walked along the most central of the streets of Vladivostok, Svetlanskaya. As you can imagine, I was quite happy to see the street  lined with Art-Nouveau buildings as well as decadent Soviet creations. Loved this mirror and the staircase in the local GUM (central department store):

Vladivostok and Russky Island
Walking away from the center and then turning right to the embankment, I saw this submarine turned into museum. Remembering that sheer fright I felt inside the submarine in Kaliningrad, I avoided going inside 🙂

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Zolotoy (Golden) Bridge looking pretty… silver:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

I entered the port area and thoroughly enjoyed those red-brick workshops with layers upon layers of time periods on them:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

My friend suggested going up to see the Gothic-style Catholic church which I did – though I spent quite some time trying to get round all those courtyards and winding parking lots (roads?) leading towards the church. The church itself didn’t impress me as much as the view from up there, revealing even more layers of time:

Vladivostok and Russky Island
Vertical layers too:

Vladivostok and Russky Island

Later that day I thought how weird it was that people living in the easternmost part of my country would go to sleep at the same time as their friends at the other end of it would be at work. And then when you wake up – your friends are still awake on that other side… SEVEN hours, seven time zones!

Vladivostok and Russky Island
My last day in Vladivostok was a lazy day with even more mist, stifling dampness and drizzling rain. First I went out of the city to visit the Botanical Gardens. There I walked in the woods and admired more of that nature (see red fish in the bottom left corner of the picture above?) so strikingly different and yet so near. Then I bought some LPs for my Mother at a store called Kontrabanda (Vladivostok was always famous for it being too close to the capitalist world where they have jeans, Beatles, short skirts and long hair) and as a parting gift enjoyed a tea ceremony at home 🙂 Early next morning it was time to say goodbye – both to the city and the journey.

Vladivostok highlights:

walking along the embankment and people / sunset / sunrise watching

Tokarevskaya Koshka lighthouse (preferable before the tide:)

Millionka district, the local (ex-)China town

Arsenyev Primorye Museum

send old-school postcards with Millionka to your friends on the other side of the world

MISTS (June-July is the season)

Russky Island and other wonderful natural places away from the city

the Ocean, the port and the bridges

Vladivostok in a few words: Hills, ocean and layers of time that are recent enough to be visible and yet old enough to spark an interest. In some ways Vladivostok is pretty close to St Petersburg actually! Equally an ‘artificial’ city built to both defend from and be a window to the world. But just on the other side of the country 🙂 And although the city failed to keep my enthusiasm going for 4 days, I would like to come back.

This post goes to my On Russia and Travel series.

G.