I walked downtown Khabarovsk to see the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, the biggest Russian Orthodox church in the far east. My guidebook didn’t even mention it. Actually it was only built in 2004 and even though my book is newer than that, I kind of get the feeling it has been some time since the Lonely Planet people have actually been here. The church is supposed to hold 2000 worshipers, which sounded much larger than it actually was. Of course in the Russian Orthodox there are no pews in the churches, so I suppose 2000 people could stand in there, cheek by jowl. The icons were outstanding, I thought, even though probably new.
From there I walked back over to the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin. Then I went back to my fancy coffee shop and had a mocha. I also saw a house that was one of the outstanding 1890’s houses. There are many like this from the 1890s—-very pretty.
On the way back to the hostel, I walked past a theatre, and sure enough, it was playing “Anna Karenina.” That’s the trouble with having to rush through these cities—-if I had more time I could do some things like attend this play. Even though in Russian, I’m sure I could follow the plot!
I had a nice conversation with young Ivan (also had a Chinese name) who is from Beijing. All these young travelers think it’s hilarious when I say I haven’t been to Russia since 1982—-many of them weren’t born then! Even having been in China in 2002 elicits, “Oh, a long time ago. Everything has changed now.”
On to Vladivostok!
In the afternoon I took the tram to the train station and boarded the train for Vladivostok, the end of the line. All the train rides were fine, except this one!! When I got on at 5:30 there was a mother, father, 9-year-old boy and 2-year old girl; then an unrelated young man, and me, in a compartment for four! The little girl screamed, yelled, and objected to everything for 4 hours. It was HOT, HOT, HOT in the compartment and the train lady said the A/C or really air cooling, I think, was off. The windows opened only a crack. Finally it became clear that the father—a great big guy, was not going to sleep in there. After four hours the little girl finally went to sleep and we, five, settled in for the night. It finally cooled off by midnight so it wasn’t bad after that. So, I think I’ve had enough train riding for the present!
We arrived Vladivostok at 6:30 AM—-I was finally there! This is where (ex-husband) Burt’s father was sent as a soldier at the end of World War I in 1918. He was stationed here for two years, until 1920. It had something to do with the Bolshevik Revolution, I think. Yes, that says ‘‘Vladivostok’ on the train station.
I could walk to my hostel! It was a little tricky to find, but I did. It was the first hostel where I didn’t have to take off my shoes, although I offered. It’s also in walking distance from the downtown sights.
in addition to lots of pretty 1890s architecture, there are also some nice looking modern buildings. All of these cities where I have stayed on my way to Vladivostok have been very nice, including Vladivostok.
Eventually I had lunch at a Japanese restaurant. The majority of tourists in this city are from Korea, Japan or China. There are some Russian tourists, too, but I haven’t met any Europeans yet.
As I came out of my hostel the next day, I noticed a statue that I hadn’t noticed before, that looked just like Yul Brenner in “A King and I.” When I checked it out and spelled the words on the statue, SURE ENOUGH I spelled ‘Brynner.’ It turns out he was born in the house next door to my hostel building, and has visited Vladivostok many times for film festivals. What a surprise. His grandfather was a big influence in starting this city in the 1890s and another city near here that is a big mining enterprise.
When I visited the Arsenev Regional Museum, there was a picture of him there, too. This museum was started in the 1890s—-both the building and the museum. It has a wonderful history of this area going back to prehistoric times. The Jin dynasty was active in the 1100s and left some interesting grave sites. The museum also had many stuffed animals including, of course, the Siberian tiger. They certainly are magnificent animals. Let’s hope the Bloomington dentist doesn’t get his hands on one of these!
I did trek to the Assumption Church while looking for a funicular that was supposed to whisk me up a hill for 60 seconds. I couldn’t find hide nor hair of it, but the church was pleasant. On the way back I caught a bus that was going my way. After about a mile, it turned off so I got off at the next stop and doubled back to proceed on my way.
I followed this up with linner, after another long walk. I had a nice salad, and then blood pudding—-not so different from the Norwegian blood sausage that we had as children (and adults, too, thanks to Ingebretson’s Market in Minneapolis.)
Back to the hostel to wash some clothes (every one of the hostels has had a washer for our use) and rest a bit.
I took a photo of the big grey building that contains my hostel, way over on the left. Next door is the light-colored house where Yul Brenner was born, and you can just see his statue in front of the house. I see Wikipedia says he died in 1985—-so long ago!
My desk clerk helped me check in for my flight back to Moscow for Tuesday, and I went over to the train depot and bought a special ticket for a train that goes (a long ways) to the airport.
The next morning I got the train to the airport, and then the flight to Moscow. When I arrived Moscow I got the aeroexpress train into the city to a station that connects with the subway system. This time I managed to take two subways to near my hostel, although I will admit I had to ask for help three times. Those fancy subway stations are amazing.
That evening I had dinner with Elia and Igor, friends of Jim Rice’s. Elia was so kind as to buy all my train tickets for me. They picked me up and we went to a lovely Georgian restaurant, had good food and a good visit. We also walked around some in the downtown Moscow area. Moscow really is a beautiful city, now with many pedestrian streets. We ate outside in perfect weather.
Elia arranged for a man to be my guide the next morning. He took me around to many beautiful places such as a monastery, government buildings, like the mayor’s office, and special churches. We also saw a statue of Rostropovich, the cello player, although they pronounce it Ros-tro’-po-vich, while we say Ros-tro-po’-vich. Russian is hard to pronounce correctly! We also saw a statue of Khachaturian and one of Tchaikowsky—-how nice that they celebrate musicians instead of just war heros.
We ended at Red Square where there was a long line for Lenin’s tomb, so once again, I won’t have seen it.
We did walk through GUM department store. What a change from 1982. These days it is chock full of expensive shops and merchandise—-Bring Money!! He asked me if I would like to use the toilet, which, he warned me would cost the equivalent of $2.50!
Earlier I had commented that Russians really seemed to like Putin. He agreed, and went into a long story about one reason why: in the ’50s Khrushchev had given away the Crimea to the Ukraine. He said it was ridiculous as almost all of the people who lived there were Russian and spoke Russian. Over the years, the Ukrainian government had insisted they speak the Ukrainian dialect. Enter Putin—-whom he said was only responding to the request by the people who lived there that they wanted to be part of Russia. A referendum was conducted that showed 97% were in favor of joining Russia. In the meantime, my guide said, Obama was interfering and spent $5 billion of the American tax payers’ money which only resulted in the Crimea going back to Russia, as was proper. (I think a free press is a good thing!)
Another interesting sidebar: I had noticed a display of flowers and candles on a Moscow downtown street. I asked my guide what that was about. He said that so and so (I couldn’t get the name clearly) was shot and killed on that spot in February. Since this man politically opposed Putin, it was thought at first that Putin had had him shot. But upon more information, it turned out that a man from ISIS was responsible, not Putin. (One wonders why ISIS would be targeting that particular person)
My guide really had shown me lots of wonderful things, had impeccable English, but would not be able to accompany me into the Kremlin. I thanked him and he left me then, and I went to the Kremlin on my own, which was easy to do. I reacquainted myself with the beautiful churches behind the Kremlin walls, as well as the many governmental buildings, along with the Tzar’s Cannon—-the fanciest one I’ve seen.
One more lunch at the Metropol Hotel, and that about did it for my trip.
Now this morning I am getting ready to depart Moscow by two metro rides, a train to the airport and then it’s off to NY-JFK and then another flight to MSP. I’ll be home by tonight!
This trip really was wonderful—-it certainly exceeded my expectations. I was very surprised that all those Siberian cities were so pleasant—-nice museums and churches, beautiful streets, interesting architecture, and nice people! And, of course, Elia and Igor added a special dimension to my time in Moscow.