After 3 epic days of walking I decided Sunday would be a rest day. I stayed in the hostel until about midday, mostly chatting with Dasha and eating the supplies I had bought at the supermarket. I also wrote my postcards. However I couldn’t stay inside all day and waste a beautiful day in a city I have always wanted to visit, so I decided I would do a little exploring. I wouldn’t go too far but maybe I would check out the promenade area, close to the hostel. I could also go and check where I needed to go tomorrow to catch my train. I had already been caught out by the curious fact that all train times are Moscow time, I knew it was a seven-hour difference but I had booked a place in a hostel on the basis of arriving 7 hours before the stated time, rather than as I should have, 7 hours after. Basically I had booked a hostel bed that I was not going to be able to use! And it was non-refundable.
Never mind. It turns out that this day was another one of those special Russian holidays that they seem to have every week. Today was Navy Day, and because I was in a navy city, it promised to be quite a party! Indeed many people were dressed up in blue and white stripes, with little naval hats, mixing with Chinese tourists and actual Naval academy recruits and serving officers in uniform!
I discovered that the word “Dalzavod” on many of the buses describing the area where my hostel is located, is actually the name of a huge mechanical and repair plant on the dockside. There is a railway line running from its gates all the way to the central station, along the north bank of the Golden Horn Bay, to transport materials in and out. Alongside the railway is the Tsarevich Promenade, a nicely designed leisure area with places for children to play, stalls, a skateboarding park and of course a memorial wall outside a museum – which happens to be an actual converted submarine!
Today there were special events – music and singing and dancing, and the promenade was quite crowded, predominantly with large numbers of Chinese tourists. I was surprised to find a statue of Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, although given the promenade he is located on is named after the last absolute monarch of Russia, perhaps it is not so surprising. Vladivostok seems quite independent minded, despite the ominous military presence.
I continued all the way to the main square, just around the corner from which is the railway station. But I didn’t go straight there, I had another mission. One of the things I learned when researching Vladivostok was that the famous Hollywood actor Yul Brynner from The Magnificent Seven and The King And I was born here – his grandfather was a prominent local merchant. I wanted to find his house.
It took me a while to find, eventually I had to look up the location because I had walked past the entrance twice (in fact on my first day in Vladivostok I had taken a picture of the staircase leading up to the house!). But there it was, up some stairs and round a corner, a house with a commemorative plaque and a relatively new statue of him, in his King of Siam costume. Brynning!
I checked out the station and found the right place to go for my train to Birobidzhan tomorrow – there are actually three stations, one for the express line to the airport and urban lines, one for regional lines and one for long distance lines – not just the Trans-Siberian, you can also get a train to Pyongyang in North Korea!
I wandered back to my favourite place, the beach and the dancing fountain. Dasha had recommended several museums to me but I wasn’t really interested in art or aquariums, but I was interested in the history of Vladivostok and its origins as a fort. There’s a museum for that, up some stairs behind the Aquarium. It isn’t very well signposted but I had spotted it on my previous forays.
It was actually very interesting. There was a fort-like building with lots of interesting artefacts and exhibits, and some of them had English descriptions (although the English was not always very good!). I learned a lot about Vladivostok’s history and how it developed and spread out from this very location, to original outpost.
Outside the fort were many different types of cannons, which people could sit in and play with (but not fire!). Many children were having fun with them! There were missiles and tanks too. Lots of dragonflies buzzed around, too fast for me to photograph them! Of course there was also a good view across the peninsula from this point (you could climb onto the roof of the fort).
Eventually I decided it was finally time to check out that elusive curry house on Svetlanskaya. They had a waiter who spoke English so I could order without difficulty. I had been waiting 4 days for this! It was good curry – quite a small portion, but the naan bread served with it was nice. I had asked for spicy curry so maybe it was a little too hot. But I was happy to finally have a professionally-made curry, as in Volgograd I have to make my own! I found a few other interesting sculptures, statues and buildings as I made my way home, I got the feeling that in the 5 days I have been here I have only really scratched the surface of what Vladivostok has to offer.