I’ve got something to say about this trip. It’s really no big deal to travel in Russia as I did. The visa is the hard part, and then any jackass—no offense, Ryan Lochte—can buy train and bus tickets. Hitchhiking has risk, of course, but that’s just my thing. Russia has an abundance of hostels, Airbnb, couchsurfing, and cheap hotels like most other other countries and plenty of buses, trains and Blablacar rides like most other countries. Communication is a problem, but not frustratingly so (Google Translate is your friend, maybe your BFF) and certainly not a legitimate reason to avoid coming. Give Russia a chance.
I might experience Russia in a vacuum. I’ve seen an idyllic Russia. My experiences are different from others I’ve meet and the stories I’ve read. I’m not going to dwell on it.
I created a public trip on Couchsurfing to see if anyone would host me, but instead a Serbian girl getting her Masters here wrote to ask if I’d like to meet in town. When Saturday came around and the weather was good, she proposed we hike to a beach she had heard about. It was the ultimate in fortuitous timing, as we went to a cape I hadn’t known about and doubtful I would have tried to have go to on my own anyway as there were no signs. It was the prettiest place I have seen in all of Russia: Cape Tobizina.
We took a bus to the end of the line, then I told her in a moment of bluster that we could hitchhike to the trailhead, which we did quickly and easily, to her and my surprise, then we hiked in for 3 or 4 kilometers. I took this 36-second panoramic video from one of the best vantage points. (Link is here if you can’t see below.)
A quick thing about this: where else in life is a girl half my age inviting me to the beach for the day? She was interested in the amount of traveling I had done, but still. Couchsurfing acts as the conduit, but that kind of engaging spirit is impressive and not easily found these days. Big fan of Serbia all of the sudden.
There’s a Whatsapp English-speaking group called “Vladivostok English” that gets together every Sunday at 5pm at Travelers Coffee in town. My Airbnb host brought me. It’s always a good idea to attend such meetings to meet new people. Always.
Tomorrow I fly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the World Nomad Games. My friend, Stephen, took amazing photos from the last one two years ago. My plan is to visit Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and then go back to western Russia before escaping the cold weather altogether.
It’s a good thing I am going to a backwater like Bishkek (via Novosibirsk). Otherwise, in summer you can get stuck here. Flights can be cheapish to South Korea, but boats aren’t cheap to Korea or Japan and you can’t fly to so many places from Vladivostok.
This is my route in Russia if you can’t see the map below. 12,500km (7700 miles).
Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS, subscribe to an email feed, see what’s cooking on Facebook, pray that I’ll say something witty on Twitter, check for a non-boring photo on Instagram, and if you are really slumming it, there’s always Google+.
What a nice wrap-up to your trip across Russia, good job (even the spot of hitchhiking bravado). I quite like Kyrgyzstan though I have to say it’s my least favourite of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics (loathsomely referred to as the ‘stans). But Kazakhstan is about my favourite. Let me know if you need any suggestions, but I’m afraid Kazakhstan is, even more than Mongolia, a country where you need wheels. The cities are mostly dull, but if you can hitchhike into the interior, it’s a genuinely fascinating place. One trip you can do with public transport is a visit from Aktau or Zhanaozen to the desert pilgrimage sites of Shopan-Ata and Beket-Ata. As a casual visitor, I don’t think you can get a better glimpse of traditional Kazakh spirituality than this. Sept / Oct are also great months to visit as it’s not 45ºC.
Now what? Hopping over to Japan? You can land in Toyama where I used to live. There used to be Russian guys strolling about all the time.
Hi Tom, I just got to Kyrgyzstan. Japan tempted me, though. I’ve never been to Toyama.
Hi Daniel, Thanks, and thanks for the KZ tips. I have a feeling I will end up having only a week, max, and fly out of Almaty, so I might not be able to do much. Aktau and Zhanaozen are quite far.
I am coming here mostly to take advantage of the media pass for the World Nomad Games, which should be worthwhile, I hope.
“Give Russia a chance” )))
It’s Leonid from Moscow. By the way I’d been living near Vladivostok for almost 4 years. Yes, It’s special.
Hope you’r ok.
going to moscow – let me know )
Ciao Leonid, I love Russia! Everyone knows that–or everyone who has read me knows that 🙂
Are you going to Moscow or moving to Moscow?
I live in Moscow.
I mean, if you would get back to moscow, pls let me know.
I’ll show you Gorky Park one more time )) or another one place )