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Destination: Vladivostok

The name Vladivostok can be translated into ‘Rule the East’, an apt name for a city that is most famous for being at the end of the Tran-Siberian Railroad. Dubbed the ‘Russian San Francisco’ by former Soviet leader Nikita Kurshchev this comparison is not so unlikely due to its location far away from the capital, among rolling hills on the Pacific coast and not at last because of the fog that is often seen hanging over the Golden Horn Bay. The industry of the 600,000 inhabitants is typically, for its harbour location, fishing and ship engineering alongside energy and food production.

Geography

The development of Vladivostok as a thriving city was somewhat delayed by its sheer distance to the capital that spans seven time zones and about 9,3000 kilometres. This geographical detachment from any other economic and cultural hubs located in Russia and the closeness to China, Japan and Korea have formed a unique culture different from other Russian cities.

Vladivostok lies in picturesque scenery. It is surrounded by bays, islands and many canals as well as the hills, where the landscapes of the north and the south meet. Northern pine trees or oak woods grow next to ginseng and other plants usually associated with South East Asia. Two bridges mark the cityscape: The Zoloty Rog Bridge, which spans the Golden Horn Bay, and the Russky Bridge, which is the world’s largest cable-stayed bridge connecting the mainland with Russky Island. The island is a former military base and now a popular weekend retreat for hiking, cycling and swimming.

History

The historical town centre is famous for its beautiful architectural design, the majority of which has remained untouched since the city was founded in 1860. Due to its location Vladivostok has experienced the changes in the western part of the country with some delay, but it has also gained the unique status of being the cultural and strategic centre of the vast Russian land mass in northern Asia. In the Soviet Union Vladivostok was home to the Pacific fleet of the Russian navy and was therefore closed to both the foreign and Soviet public.

What to do

The architecture is especially remarkable because apart from few relics from the Soviet era it boasts few modern high-rise buildings. Instead the cityscape is marked by small housing from the Tsardom era. Part of the city centre is made up by Millionka, the former Chinese quarter, with its picturesque courts full of nooks and crannies. There are also many traces of the military history and museums and galleries are aplenty. Those looking to catch some fresh air will enjoy the surrounding area or a trip to Russky Island.

Climate

Due to the location by the sea the annual cycle is marked by a monsoon climate. The famous fog is mostly present during the spring, which tends to be rainy. Precipitation is likely in the summer as well, but normally passes in form of short showers. The best time of the year to visit is autumn with its warm, dry and sunny climate. Compared to the harsh conditions in Siberia the winter is surprisingly mild and temperatures rarely ever fall below -20°C – still freezing by European standards of course.

Weather in Vladivostok

 

How to get there

Despite of its far-off location Vladivostok is well-connected with both the West and the East. The most famous means of transport is of the Trans-Siberian Railroad that connects it with Moscow, but also with China and Mongolia.

The only airport is located about 30 kilometres from the city centre and is served by the major Russian airline Aeroflot. Flying in from the neighbouring countries is also an option; Tokyo is only an hour and a half away. Airport transfer is available via bus and train. A taxi is an option as well, though tourists could expect to overpay for the transfer.

There are also ferries running to and from Japan and South Korea or buses to north eastern China.

Why you should visit

Valdivostok offers a truly unique experience in a place where Western and Eastern cultures meet. Its historical charm and beautiful natural surroundings will appeal to those looking for a city break, as well as travellers, who enjoy the outdoors, making it one of the Russian experiences not to be missed.