From Japan to Germany: A Frozen Bay in Vladisvostok
In this article of my series “Japan to Germany” I tell you about a day full of ice and snow, delicious pancakes, and timetable confusion.
After a night in the airport hostel in Vladivostok, I went to the city early in the morning. Already the evening before I had planned which train I would like to take because the train service to the city center (about 55km away) is quite limited. Arrived there, I was “greeted” by a Lenin statue and went to my hostel to get rid of my luggage. I couldn’t wait to walk in the completely frozen Amur Bay, because I could already see it from the window of the train. The ice was so thick that even cars could drive on it. The check-in to the hostel took a few minutes and then I went to the shore, which was only a few minutes away.
Many people were on the ice. Most of them were busy ice fishing. In the beginning, I was a bit skeptical, but after a few steps on the ice, I felt very safe. Nevertheless, it was slippery at times and I had to watch where I stepped. In some places, there was snow on the ice, which was very pleasant when walking, in other places I sank in about 10cm with every step. I was on the ice for quite some time and could have even walked to the other side of the bay. However, I was stopped by hunger and so I walked back..
I was in the mood for pancakes, which are an elementary part of Russian cuisine. I also had a real craving for cheese, which is rare and expensive in Japan. Strolling through the streets, I found the restaurant “Ух ты, блин!” (literally translated: “Oh, you pancake!”, but more appropriate is “Wow, amazing!”) and it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. For a few rubles (about 2 Euro) I got a cheese pancake with a drink. Then I realized again how easy it is to get good and cheap cheese in Russia. After this refreshment, I took a look at the city.
Vladivostok is not particularly large, so I could easily reach everything on foot. Although I have to admit that I hadn’t really planned my stay and rather looked where my path leads me. It led me to a harbor promenade with a war memorial for the Second World War. Specifically, it was dedicated to the Soviet Pacific Fleet. There was even a submarine (C-56), which could be visited. Admittedly, the whole scenery was a bit abstruse, because in the same harbor was a part of the current Russian Pacific fleet. With a war memorial in the back and ready for the next war? I have to admit that I don’t know what to think about that. Around the port is the Zentralnaja Ploschtschad (“central square”), also here is a war memorial. This time it commemorates the civil war from 1917 to 1922 and the Soviet Union. In Russia and in the former Soviet republics there are many such monuments today, some of which are perceived as very controversial, but that is not the topic of this article. Nevertheless, such monuments always make me think. On the other hand, there is also a monument to the Gulag survivor Alexander Solzhenitsyn on the promenade. Solzhenitsyn published several books about his time in the gulag and was a well-known regime critic of the Soviet Union.
Vladivostok is mainly known because it is the terminus of the 9,288km long Trans-Siberian Railway. For my trip with the Transsib, I wanted to fill up my “supplies” and therefore I looked for a supermarket. Compared to Japan everything seemed to be so cheap and I bought some oatmeal and good bread. Onboard of the Transsib is a restaurant and you can also get food at train stations, but I wanted to pack a basic stock of food and also buy something to share with fellow passengers for my 3-day trip. Before I started my trip, I had to change my online voucher into a ticket, but that only concerned the international route Moscow-Kyiv. I did this already in Vladivostok and it went without any problems at the station.
It was getting dark and I packed my things in the hostel and had dinner consisting of good bread. I felt perfectly prepared for the departure on the next day and even managed to edit a video. The departure the next day? When was it again? Sometime around noon or so? The Russian Railway offers an app for managing tickets, you also get current information about trains and you can check the route at any time. I opened the app to check all data again. I have to say that timetables in Russia can be super confusing because there are many time zones. The app showed me the following “departure in three hours”. So around midnight. Phew, that was pretty close, if I hadn’t checked everything again, I would have missed the train and that in turn would have affected the rest of the trip. In the darkness, I went to the station and picked up some money in a very shady corner. Vladivostok seemed completely safe to me, even though I was used to other things in Russia. Arrived at the station, I waited for my train.