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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Russia - 3 July, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Khabarovsk (Hotel Turist) N4828.198' E13503.357' 14 meters .
Walking tour of the city . . . .
Finish Khabarovsk (home stay - 3 Donskoy Lane) N4828.198' E13503.357' 14 meters 1 km (by car)

Total:

16 km

 

Weather: Partly cloudy, sunny, very hot and humid.  Constant breeze.

 

 

We have a slow morning and laze around in bed until about 10:30 AM.  Time to get up and head over to the bank and try to change some money.  We only have a rough idea where the bank is, but Lars heads out armed with the map and a need for some more roubles.  He heads off in the general direction down the main street and after about 4 long blocks comes across the cross street that seems familiar.  After heading down this side street a short ways, he is rewarded with the sight of the bank.  Knowing how the system works and where the correct counters are, he heads right down into the basement and finds the same lady at work behind the counter.  She recognises Lars, but is busy so sends him to her colleague.  The whole process takes about 15 minutes and he is on his way back to the hotel with enough roubles to last us a while.

 

Back at the hotel, we have a quick lunch made from the leftovers of last nights dinner and then pack up our bags.  It is time to check out and we are not sure how strict they are about late checkouts.  Since we have gotten our visas registered, we are moving over to the home stay.  While it is a bit of a pain, we want to be able to experience to some extent the home life of the locals.  The floor lady checks out our room to make sure that we have not taken any of the glasses, ashtray or the towels, then signs our pass to let us out of the hotel.  The security guard downstairs carefully checks our pass and then lets us go on our way.  Now, to find a taxi.  We ask at the reception how much it will cost to take a taxi to the homes stay, which is not very far away.  The conversation does not seem to be going very far as we try to communicate with them in very poor Russian.  But things work out in the end - a man behind the counter joins in the conversation and ends up offering to take us there.  When we ask him how much, he says it is not far and not too worry about it.  He is happy to take us there.

 

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His car is outside and we load up all our luggage.  We sit in the car for a while with the engine idling and he explains that he needs to warm up the engine - even though it is very hot out today.  After a few minutes, we are on our way.  It is about five minutes to the home stay.  Good thing we were shown where it was yesterday as it is down a side street.  As we are unloading our bags and trying to get in the door, a lady walks up who turns out to be our hostess.  Good timing.  From the exterior, the building looks old and run down.  Another Soviet contribution.  The lobby is awful.  Dark and dingy.  Mailboxes falling apart.  No lights.  We are just glad that we are on the ground floor - we are not sure if the lift worked.  But once in their apartment, while it is simple, it is neat and tidy and warm.  We drop off our bags in our room.  It must be there living room and we are sleeping on the pull out couch.  They show us the bathroom and toilet.  Basic, but functional.  They even seem proud that there is hot water, but she does indicate that the water does not always work.  It seems that hot water can be scarce around here.

 

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It is 1 PM and time to go and check out the city.  We walk back out to the main street and walk towards the park.  When we reach the park, we turn and walk along the ponds that are scattered along the edge of the park.  Two of the ponds are pretty basic - just big water holes lined with large stones.  Not sure how clean they are, but they are filling up with people who are catching some rays and escaping from the growing heat.  It is going to be a scorcher.  The last pond is much more beautified version and has fountains, pavilions lining the edge and swan boats you can rent to paddle along with.  When we reach the end of the park, we carry on along the tree lined boulevard of Ussuriysky.  A very nice stretch with lots of shade and people wandering along.

 

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At the end of this boulevard, we finally reach the Amur River at the River Boat Landings.  Time to find some water at one of the many kiosks that are scattered all over the river front, catering to the many people relaxing on the broad walkway that stretches north.  We have a short break on a bench in the shade and then make our way along the river bank.  The river bank is made up of large stones, but it is still filled with people enjoying the summer heat and a swim in the river.  Boats line the river's edge, ready to take people up and down river to the various villages that line the river.

 

As we pass along the base of a cliff that just up to a promontory overlooking the river, we come upon a monument which marks the spot where the city's founders came ashore in 1858.  The city was founded as a military outpost by the governor general of Eastern Siberia, Count Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky, during his campaign to take the Amur back from the Manchus.  We reach the other end of the promontory and head inland to go to the Intourist Hotel.  We have to pick up our train tickets that have been delivered there.  All this has been arranged over the internet with people we have not met, so we are hoping that all has worked out OK.  It has - they have our tickets and we collect them.

 

From the hotel we head over to the top of the promontory that overlooks the river.  At the top is a cliff top tower where we get some excellent views.  This was the spot where a troupe of World War One Austro-Hungarian POW musicians where executed for refusing to play the Russian national anthem.  There is now a very nice cafe located here - it has excellent views over the river.  Also here is the towering statue of Count Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky (whose remains are actually in the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris, where he died in 1881).

 

Our next stop is at the nearby Regional Museum.  We pay our entrance fee and head in.  We are directed to a large room just off the lobby, which is filled with natural history displays, including a couple of stuffed, rare Siberian Tiger.  We find out later that this part of the world was not covered with ice during the last ice age, so that is why tigers and panthers have survived here.  After checking out this room, while nice, we were starting to wonder whether or not it was worth the admissions fee when we were directed up some stairs towards some other rooms.  Turns out this place is actually quite large - it just does not look it from the outside nor from the entrance.  The only problem is that everything is in Russian - otherwise it would be even more interesting.  We checked out the many rooms, which had all sorts of displays on the history of the region.  Some even recreated rooms and cabins.  There is a large 360 panorama depicting the 1922 civil war battle at Volochaevka, near Khabarovsk where the final Bolshevik victory in the Far East took place.

 

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After spending quite some time in the museum, we decide to walk down the main drag - ul Muravyova-Amurskogo - and check out the action there.  And is there action.  After seeing the beautiful Russian woman working at the visa section at the Russian embassy in Singapore, we had high expectations.  And we were not disappointed.  And they are not only beautiful, they dress to kill.  They are very fashionable and are wearing outfits that we would only expect to see when we go out to clubs or bars at night.  Lars quickly develops a kink in his neck and feels he needs a massage.  Jacqui is just willing to offer a neck brace and some blinkers!!!  We even see some women with babies and young children who are dressed very fashionable and hip and would seem to be more like sisters rather than mothers.  The contrast is huge when you compare the younger generation of women with the older generation.  The older ladies are still dressed in their potato sack dresses and headscarves.  One can only wonder what is going through their heads (they must have just given up on the younger generation).

 

It is time for a coffee break, so we find a modern and hip coffee shop to take a breather.  It is also air conditioned and in this heat that is very welcome.  We have a coffee and some cake and just enjoy the pause in our exploring (but not a break in our people watching - this is a in-place with the young crowd).  Before we leave, we take advantage of their very nice toilets.

 

We carry on towards the end of the boulevard, checking out along the way some of the other coffee shops and the food stores.  There are quite a few food stores that are selling a very nice selection of food and we check out what they offer.  We are taking into consideration what we would be able to stock-pile for our long train rides.  Along the way we find an internet cafe and decide to check our emails and to let our family and friends know that we have arrived safely and are doing well.

 

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Lenin Square - still named after the man and he still has his statue gracing one end of the square, overlooking the citizens of this fair city.  The square is packed with people.  It is after-work hours and people are out and about enjoying the great weather.  The fountains are spraying their water high into the air and the people are in groups chatting and, often, drinking.

 

For dinner we decide to check out the cafe Lonely Planet has recommended - Kazam, which is right near the square.  We decide to try them as it is written that they have menus in English and with pictures.  The problem is that Russian uses another alphabet, so it makes it harder to just try to figure out what the letters are spelling.  We figure out what we want to order and take our seats in the back room.  The food is not that good - it is micro-waved, frozen stuff.  But it is filling.

 

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We decide to take a slow stroll back to our home stay.  From Lenin Square, we head on along ul Karla Marxa, stopping off in a small shop to get some more water.  Halfway along Dinamo Park, we head into the park, crossing through to head to the ponds at the other end.  From there, we can retrace our route from this morning, taking about 30 minutes to walk back.  Back at the home stay we take a quick shower.  Lars enjoys the ice cold water, taking the opportunity to cool down.  The apartment, of course, has no air conditioning and in this hot weather is rather warm.  We spend some time chatting with our hosts, who prepare us some tea and offer us some chocolates, before heading off to bed.

 

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