………a little bit of Europe in the Russian Far East
21.08.2014 - 23.08.2014 25 °C
With the big cities of Siberia behind me arriving in the middle of a bustling train station was not what I expected but there it was people, buses, taxis and trains going in all directions it had a great buzz to it. I grabbed the first taxi tout and negotiated a fare to the hotel about 5-6kms away which was situated on the mighty Amur River, the natural border between Russia and China. I realised my phone was not on roaming when I asked reception where the breakfast room was and they replied it was lunchtime (12pm)! Apparently the train had lost a couple of hours somewhere and we had also gained two time zones, so lunch it was…………….Have said how relaxed I’m feeling these days?
Khabarovsk is a bit of a gem situated 800km north of Vladivostok, the city of 600+ thousand stares across the river at China with the closet border crossing about 30km away yet you would not think that you are within cooee of this huge Asian neighbour. The city and its architecture are well maintained with Russian cathedrals and centuries old buildings surrounded by tree lined boulevards, a multitude of parks, beaches and public areas and lit by ornate streetlamps each topped with five large spherical lamps which gives the city a wonderful feel of an evening. Well serviced by numerous restaurants, coffee shops, bars and pubs it really is a little bit of Europe in the Russian Far East. In fact the only main standout piece of old Soviet architecture, besides some old apartment blocks in the boonies was the old Intourist Hotel but give them their due it has kept pace with the times.
For those interested in knowing a little more about this place check out Wikitravel (Khabarovsk) and the pics of the stunning cathedrals. Another little known fact is that many people think Siberia covers the whole far flung reaches of eastern Russia when its borders actually meet the last of the huge Russian states, the Russian Far East and this runs through to the Pacific.
So after lunch and a brief walk it was back to the hotel for some blogging and relaxing. The city has quite an active bike scene and each night they gather at the square to do what bikers do when they just hang out. Some nice blokes and a variety of bikes on display it was worth a walk by each night to say hello and check out the bikes. Something hearty was calling tonight and I settled into a great meal at the Bier Haus before heading home.
Friday was laundry day so once organised I set off with the city map and a list of food places that the girls at reception thought I may enjoy. What a great day high 20’s with a light breeze I had worked up quite an appetite by lunchtime and landed myself at Kabachok, a highly regarded local Ukraine restaurant and of course I had to have the Chicken Kiev washed down with a chilled local lager. I continued my exploring until mid-afternoon when I headed back to the hotel and a nanna nap. Zzzzz.
Headed out late for dinner but I had already planned to eat at the steak house El Rancho and whilst expensive even by our standards the Brazilian filet steak was cooked to perfection and complimented with a glass of Chilean red. Now it is Friday night and the Harley Davidson Bar was apparently the place to be seen and chugg down a couple of coldies. The bikers from the square had all moved down and were parked outside milling about and just adding to the atmosphere. Now this bar may be called the Harley Davidson but the staff are all dressed in full on western gear, with pistols, hats, spurs the lot! I wandered in and in my best Russian ordered a beer from the bartender who happened to be Cuban and only spoke Spanish and English! We chatted a while, me being interested on how, why he was here working in Russia? This was his adventure and right now he couldn’t think of a better place to be! It was during this our conversation that I noticed that our conversation in English was being listened to by two Russian girls further along the bar. It wasn’t long before I received a wave and an invitation to join them…………..meet Elina and Juliya, two mums out for a girls night out and only too happy to practise their English on a visiting Australian. It was a great night with loads of fun and laughter as well as the opportunity to meet a variety of other Russian locals throughout the evening. Thank you ladies for your hospitality and sharing a little bit more of Russia with me.
Since I had made the decision to re-join the group today I had a flight booked to Yakutsk early that evening and the day was spent visiting museums and enjoying the sunny weather. Now I was also quite looking forward to my first internal Russian flight and this was not a quick Hobart- Melbourne; the flight was basically north for 2 hours 40 minutes…..there is no doubt this is a big country!!