Top 9 Unique Facts Of Vladivostok That Will Surprise You-My Russian Affair Part 2

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Port of Vladivostok, Gem of Siberian Far East

Vladivostostok Port along Golden Horn Bay, Sea Of Japan

Russia’s most southeastern seaport and situated along the shores of the Golden Horn Bay (Zolotoy Rog) off the Sea of Japan. The Port of Vladivostok is about 470 nautical miles north-northwest of Japan’s Port of Sakai and about 510 nautical miles north-northeast of the Port of Busan, South Korea. It is ice free all year round (thanks to ice breakers) and home to large sea vessels. Aside from shipping, fishing, oil refineries and petroleum products, the Port of Vladivostok is also the home of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. In the days of the Soviet regime, this port was closed to foreign shipping. After the fall of Communism in 1992, the Port of Vladivostok emerged as a commercial port. It opened links to other parts of the Far East. Through this port, Russia received huge amounts of goods from Japan, China, and South Korea. On the other hand, it exports its products of oil, coal and grains via the Port of Vladivostok.

The name Vladivostok is a combination of 2 words “own” and “East” (Vladikavkaz, Ruler of the Far East). It was founded as a military post in 1861. It is the capital of the Primorsky Krai region of Siberia. The city was isolated for 40 years when in 1992, then President Boris Yeltsin opened it to foreigners. Foreign investors poured into the city then and its economy boomed. It became the leader in fish processing, ship building and repair area for sea vessels. Sometimes described as the “San Francisco of Russia” Vladivostok is closer to the US West Coast than Moscow. It is surrounded by sea and mountains. Or sometimes it is called the “Europe of Asia” due to its proximity to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. The Asian influence is strong especially the culinary side. But at the same time, the architecture is undoubtedly a Russian city and the culture is very much European.

Aboard the crude oil carrier M/T Adafera (co-owned by the Khadaffy family of Libya) we arrived sometime on a very cold October day in 2012. Berthing along its harbor amidst a panorama of peaks and a charming, old town shrouded in fog, I had no idea what to see in Vladivostok. It turned that every corner is as magical as any European city could get. It’s a worthy destination and here are the top 9 unique facts of Vladivostok that will surprise you.

It Is Russia’s Gateway To Asia

One of the top 9 unique facts of Vladivostok that will surprise you is that it is Russia’s gateway to Asia. While Moscow thinks that Vladivostok might be Asian, Asians from the Far East region actually think of it as Europe. And it is the closest place to be in Europe if you are from the Far East. Vladivostok is a mere two hours flight away from Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul while it takes 7 days non-stop journey to Moscow. (local time is seven hours ahead of Moscow). Residents from these Asian cities can acquire an 8-day visa upon arrival to Vladivostok to visit “Europe”.

Vladivostok’s border with China

The Vladivostok Train Station- Both Known as Starting Point & Finish Line of the Trans-Sberian Railway

The Vladivostok Train Station

Home to two of the most important stations (start/finish) of the Trans-Siberian Railway is the Vladivostok Train Station. A unique fact of Vladivostok that will surprise you, this is one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the city. Constructed in 1861, the same year that the railway was founded. Then Tsarevich Nicholas (later Tsar Nicholas II) visited the city and personally laid the foundation. It has been restored to its original grandeur with the ancient steam wagon displayed in front of the station. Make sure to check out the post on the platform with the mark of 9,288 km. This symbolizes the final (or first) station of the Trans-Siberian Railway. It stretches from Moscow to Vladivostok. Entire train ride is 7 days non-stop through 7 time zones, 87 towns and cities and crosses 16 major rivers. It is the longest railway in the world.

The Trans-Siberian train as it passes along the frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia.

All Roads in Vladivostok End at Tokarevsky Lighthouse

Another of Vladivostok’s main attractions is the lighthouse that stands at Tokarevsky Spit. ( in marine transport, a spit is a strip of land that starts at the shore and appears only during low tide) Indeed a unique fact of Vladivostok that will surprise you, this “end of the road” point shows where the land ends and the Pacific Ocean begins. Tokarevsky Lighthouse stands on a man-made island with a narrow dam connecting it to the shore. Built in 1876, this lighthouse is one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the Russian Far East. During low tide, you can walk on the dam without getting your feet wet. At high tide, however, you can still reach the lighthouse along a 3-cm ankle deep water. To an observer from the shore, it will appear that you are walking on the water. And for you walking in the water, it appears that you are balancing yourself over the deep sea.

The Tokarevsky Lighthouse is to mark the dangerous current for the ships that enter the peninsula. It has been a symbol of Vladivostok since the time it was built. By tradition, tourists come here as a culmination of their trip. It’s a symbolic area where “all the roads end” in Vladivostok.

There is a Practice of Traditional Steam Bath Called “Banya”

A “Banya” steam bath house with twigs of “venik”

So what is a “banya” and the unique fact of it in Vladivostok that will surprise you? Well, it’s like a sauna but better. Banya is a quaint wood cabin with very hot steam. It is a place to perform body cleansing and a cure for all ailments. By historical and social tradition banya plays an important role in Vladivostok society. It is a kind of ritual where you will not only wash your body with steam but also to purify your soul.

The banya cabin has a dressing room (or waiting room) where you can relax with a cup of tea. Then you can join other people in the steam room with benches where you can sit and be warmed up. Such banyas are heated with firewood at 90 degrees C. After completing your banya experience, get ready to be whipped with the venik. Venik is a bundle of birch leaves in which it is whipped on your body to remove dry skin and stimulates blood circulation.

The Funicular Will Take You to Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint

The funicular in Vladivostok

In 1959, then Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev was returning from his US trip via Vladivostok, has started his vision of a “Russian San Francisco”. Immediately after his announcement, the Vladivostok project to re-create it like San Francisco (in US) has started. This changed the appearance and pulse of Vladivostok. In May 1962, the funicular was opened. It’s another unique fact of Vladivostok that will surprise you. The funicular is like the cable car in San Francisco. But is is made up of only 2 cars that goes up and down of the steep hill of Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint. Due to its singularity, the funicular in Vladivostok has become a popular tourist attraction despite of the short 1.5 minute ride it offers. (short but memorable)

Vladivostok, being a city on the hills, the best natural lookout to get a breathtaking view of the city is to climb the hills. Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint is the most popular. It offers a stunning view over the city and Zolotoy Rog (Golden Horn Bay). To get to the Eagle’s nest, you have to take the funicular. At the top you will discover a monument of Cyril and Methodius, creators of the Russian (or Slavic) alphabet. There is also a friendship arch, the “Arch of Desires” with the sister city of Vladivostok, Akita, Japan. If you have a limited time in Vladivostok, make sure to go up to Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint with the funicular. This unique fact in Vladivostok that will surprise you is a chance to see the city in its most fantastic sight.

The “Arch of Desires” and the monument of Cyril and Methodius at the Eagle’s nest Viewpoint.

Svetlanskaya Street has Charming Pastel Buildings And a Statue of an American Lady Who Left Her heart in Vladivostok

Main Road in Vladivostok, Svetlanskaya Street

Vladivostok’s central avenue used to be called “Amerikanskaya” before 1873 in honor of the steam ship “America” of the Russian Imperial Navy Fleet. Then it was renamed “Svetlanskaya” after the ship “Svetlana” used by Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich when he visited Vladivostok. After Lenin’s death in 1924, it was renamed to “Leninskaya” in his honor. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, this iconic street became Svetlanskaya again.

Svetlanskaya Street has a fair share of impressive antique buildings but one detail that will catch your attention is the sculpture of an elegant lady. She was an American, Eleanor Lord Pray who had lived in Vladivostok in the early 1900s. She fell in love with the city and everyday she sent letters to her relatives in her native Maine, USA telling stories about life in Vladivostok. When she died, her relatives in the US found the letters and were made into a book with the title “Letters From Vladivostok.” It became a bestseller in Russia. Another unique fact in Vladivostok that will surprise you.

Eleanor Lord Pray

Statue of Eleanor Lord Pray along Svetlanskaya Street

At Sportivnaya Market, People Speak Russian-Chinese Pidgin

In Vladivostok, the Sportivnaya Market is the largest trading area and a favorite of the the locals. You can find anything – music, films, kitchen wares, apparels, toys and best of all, food. A huge market where you can purchase anything and everything and with a diversity of Uzbek and Vietnamese vendors and shoppers who speak Russian-Chinese pidgin. This is a contact language used by Russian and Chinese traders as a form of barter communication during the 18th to early 20th centuries. Known as “Kyathta Russian”, this is also a unique fact in Vladivostok that will surprise you.

In Old Vladivostok, the Churches Has Numerous Sects

In the beginning of Primorsky region’s history, varied nationalities have re-settled in Vladivostok. The area has been populated by people from Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic states, Poland and Finland. These ethnic groups worked together in developing Vladivostok and brought with them their various religious backgrounds. Their faiths have a very big influence on the culture of old Vladivostok.

For years, the Russian Orthodox Church is the city’s dominant religious institution. Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Islam and Buddhist beliefs were later permitted with restrictions especially during the Soviet era. Today, visitors may view some of the old Russian Orthodox churches with the golden domes. Other religious attractions include old Catholic and Lutheran churches. Again another unique fact in Vladivostok that will surprise you are the various houses of worship that can exist in peace, respect and harmony.

Indulge Yourself With the “Pyanse”

Pyanse is a street food in Vladivostok with a Korean twist. A unique fact in Vadivostok that will surprise you, its name has roots in Sakhalin’s dialect of the Korean language. Twenty years ago, it became popular in Vladivostok which replaced Russian fast food. It’s a steamed pie filled with stewed cabbage, meat and spices. Although it may be packed with high content of calories, when exploring the sights of Vladivostok, you can have it as a good lunch especially when you ride in the Trans-Siberian train or climbing Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint.

Vladivostok is indeed an exciting blend of Russian and Asian culture. It has been rated among the world’s top coastal cities by the National Geographic. A relatively new and unspoiled destination, take this as a marvelous way to start your Russian sojourn in the future. Be sure that Vladivostok will give you a grand time.

Bonus: The great Hollywood actor , Yul Brynner was born in Vladivostok.

Reference: Wikipedia