Off the beaten path in Vladivostok, Russia
It’s 3AM in the morning, I’m in the middle of a vibrant street punctuated with Russian song singing with amazing folks I didn’t know a day before. There has, of course, been Vodka, Barman’s Tea, Borsch and a rock band singing the Russian version of Pink Floyd preceding this. So, as I stare at my snow-engulfed shoes after belting out the chorus, my smile says it all – Vladivostok and Russia truly are awesome!
In the past, I had been made to believe that Russians are extremely standoffish, but Svetа, Елена, Irina, Varvara, Artur, Alexander, Natali and others I randomly met during my trip, blew that myth to pieces. They were wonderful and warm, and despite me not knowing any of them before the trip, each took me in as one of their own. Needless to say, I came back with some great friendships and amazing memories.
About Valdivostok, Russia
A story that I had read way back in class 6 about a small boy from Vladivostok making it in the world had been at the back of my mind for ages. So when I got an opportunity to steal a few days from Shanghai, I couldn’t help but book flights.
Vladivostok (also nicknamed Vladik) is a city located on the Far-East part of Russia, not far from Russia’s borders with China and North Korea. Vladivostok is the largest Russian Port on the Pacific Ocean.
March was a really good time to be there – not warm as you don’t want the Singaporean summer experience in Russia, and not too cold either as I’d have probably frozen to death in January with Vladivostok’s -35C. The Far Eastern Russian countryside is brilliant, just as I had imagined it would be with the snow cover.
Vladivostok: The Vibe of the City & its Attractions
The city, among the biggest in Russia, is an understated mix of ancient Tzar architecture, soviet-era buildings and the new emerging downtown. The views of the Lighthouse Egersheld and the bridges – Golden Bridge & Bridge to Russsky Island – are spectacular. Sitting on the frozen sea, looking at the sunset, is a memory now etched in my mind forever.
The Central Square in Vladivostok is a must on any itinerary. The 30-metre high scupture standing in the Central Square, with fighters on either side is one of Vladivostok’s most famous and most recognizable symbols. Another popular and must-visit attraction is Nikolai’s Triumphal Arch. The Arch was built in 1891 to commemorate the visit of the crown price Nikolas – the heir to the Tzar’s throne – to Vladivostok. Nicholas Alexandrovich later became Russian Emperor Nicholas II.
Wandering the city, looking at the churches and the monuments is a walkers’ dream come true. I suggest setting aside a day for just walking around the city and taking in its many unique and interesting sights. Cathedral of the Intercession is among the biggest and most majestic of the Russian Orthodox churches. The cathedral is also quite photogenic, the five colourful domes make for some nice pictures.
Vladivostok was a military city locked away from the world until the 90s, and being a pacific fleet headquarter it has some good wartime infrastructure. Voroshilovskaya Batareya Museum is a missile firing station that looks innocuous until you go down three of its five storeys and see how it could fire gigantic missiles 35km into the ocean, every 40 seconds.
Vladivostok: The Food Diary
As wonderful as the people and place is the food. Tried some amazing bites at some of the best restaurants in Vladivostok – Loshki Polshki with its Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings), Supra with its Khachapuri (a traditional dish of cheese-filled bread), and Zuma with its Seafood – all of them were quite exceptional. And then there is the aforementioned Borscht – the popular Eastern European beetroot soup – that you absolutely have to have while there. Combined with the Vodka, Russian food will not let you down. The Pan-asian cuisine in Vladivostok, given its proximity to Korea, Japan and China, is pretty incredible too.
Getting to Vladivostok, Russia
Getting to Vladivostok is not all that tough. Although there are no direct flights from Singapore, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and Aeroflot all fly to Vladivostok with one stop in between.
Siberian S7 airlines, Aurora Airlines, and a few other Asian airlines also have daily flights to Vladivostok, from other parts of Asia. So if you happen to be in Seoul, Tokyo or Shanghai, I strongly recommend booking a flight and spending a few days here. It’s only a few hours and you are in an all new world altogether. The only thing you absolutely must remember to take along is your vodka belly which you might need more frequently than you assume.