The first thing that really strikes anyone who visits Vladivostok is probably the fact that the entire city is at a seemingly 45° angle as it wraps around a bay with steep hills/mountains around it. You should really bring some very comfortable walking shoes (but not hiking boots, why must all Westerners bring hiking boots on their first trip to Russia!?), because you are going to be pumping it uphill a lot of the time or bring some extra cash and download the Yandex Go app in order to get around in taxis. The question is, will these old beaters, mostly from Japan, be able to get up the hills or not? That is a risk you are going to have to take! Public transport, besides the exception of taxis, reminded me fondly of my upbringing in the American Midwest, where we proudly reject the concept entirely.
Map: These are all the locations around the city of Vladivostok that we filmed. If you visit the city, we recommend checking out most, if not all, of these great places.
Note from Tim: Due to certain “international restrictions”, your credit cards may not work well in Russia any more. To enjoy the pleasure of using taxis, try to bring as much physical cash as you can and exchange it. Make sure to get change at every place you eat or store you visit because the taxi drivers do not usually have the correct change, that, my friends, is “your problem”.
Vladivostok is a sea/port town and that defines the way it looks. Water and boats are everywhere and so are bridges to get across the bay. In fact, the “Golden” and “Russian” Bridges have become symbols of the city, much like the Tower Bridge in London or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
We started our adventure staring down at the Golden Bridge from a lookout point, which was very hard to get to parking-wise on the hills above the city. This is definitely a completely different look from Moscow or St. Petersburg, that’s for sure. But, we wanted to make sure to get footage of the other giant bridge (Russky), so we headed over to the Novosiltsevskaya Artillery Battery.
Note from Tim: A mysterious parking lot is located at these coordinates: 43.117898, 131.902491
This lookout point (and the previous one) is completely free of charge to visit, by the way. Vladivostok has been of great military and strategic importance since even the time of the tsars, so it shouldn’t be surprising that obsolete defenses abound rusting under the beams of the sun.
And if those cannons ironically floated your boat, then there is even more military history that you can easily check out. A bit of a ways outside the city, after a short drive, you can visit ‘Fort #1’ that was built way back during the tsarist period to theoretically defend against the Japanese. The fort never saw one direct confrontation, but it is still extremely cool inside, both literally and figuratively. It is filled with dark salt encrusted corridors and all sorts of other eerie zones that would make for one heck of a horror or post-apocalyptic movie!
Note from Tim: Our guides specifically asked us not to lick the salty walls of the bunkers. Apparently some tourists think this is a fun idea, then they have to go to the hospital as the “salt” is full of poisonous chemicals created from decades of corrosion.
The guides showed us all around this truly unique location and, to be honest, it seems to be in great shape after all these years, as they say: “Built to last.” Just watch your heads though! Unlike the soldiers of old, you do not have a helmet to protect you from interesting design decisions like extremely low ceilings! There are plenty of people out there who love touring abandoned locations, if you are one of them this fort will NOT disappoint!
For those of you who want to see the exact opposite of an abandoned fortress I’d recommend ‘Jubilee Beach’, which is sort of like a boardwalk with all sorts of little businesses, especially food stands, where the young people of the city go on dates or just hang out with their friends. In a way, it is kind of like a permanent carnival with some light entertainment, a performer or two, but most importantly is all the food. There were so many food stands, I really couldn’t decide what to get, everything looked so good, they somehow even had Mexican food, which is somewhat of a rarity in Russia!
Note from Tim: I am a hardcore introvert, but for those of you who might want to meet random friends, which seems to be something Russians are open to, especially with foreigners, then this would be the place to do it. It seems like Jubilee Beach is designed to bring people together. And even if you fail to get any phone numbers from the opposite sex, you can dry your tears over a bowl of excellent pelmeni.
Not surprisingly, being right by the sea/ocean, Vladivostok has a lot of boats for rent and fishing is an extremely popular activity for locals and tourists alike. I’m not really a fan of fishing, I like to do something outdoors that is active, playing American Football, shooting at targets, building something, etc. Fishing seems to be a competitive form of sitting, so overwhelmed by the fear of being bored out of my mind, I asked the captain of the ship if he thought we would catch any fish. He sarcastically and with a smug smile told me not to worry about it. Only later I found out why he was so confident beyond the normal Russian default reasoning that “everything will be fine”. If you live in Russia, that expression is the answer to all of your questions and most of the time it is an outright lie!
So, as soon as we started fishing, literally within 45 seconds, I had a fish on the boat, followed by another and another. It was like they were just jumping on the boat. This was by far the most active fishing session of my life (sorry Dad, no offense) and we essentially had an entire haul of fish in less than an hour. One could say this was “Turbo Fishing” or at least that’s what I would call it. The captain cooked the fish for us and, you know what, it was actually good!
Also, the Turbo Fishing adventure allowed us some good opportunities to film the epic coastline that definitely looked like nothing you’d see around the Baltic or Black Seas. The views were simply amazing and makes a guy glad to be alive. So, even if you don’t like fishing, renting a boat could be worth it just for the views! In fact, we always make a video about the best drone views of the region we go to in 4K video!
Note from Tim: We rented the boat for 10 hours to film a lot of stuff in one day. By around the eighth hour, I was starting to lose my mind. Make sure if you rent a boat that you are clear on what you want to do and HOW LONG it will take!
We actually had planned to sort of storm the beaches of the Basargin Lighthouse, which is very cute and on its own sort of little rocky island, however, we found out that the military “doesn’t take kindly” to that sort of thing, so we filmed it by drone. Wouldn’t it be cool to live on your own rocky island with only one little bridge to get on and off of?
At this point, we were all a bit hot and I (as always) was a bit hungry, so we went back to town and I grabbed a local treat called a ‘pyanse’. According to Wikipedia, this extremely hot meat and cabbage filled puff ball is a Russianized version of a Korean “King Dumpling”. It had so many calories per square inch that I was absolutely stuffed after eating it. Hot meat grease inside of spongy bread… It was a piece of heaven and it is the most unique local dish associated with the region. If you don’t try a pyanse, then you haven’t been to Vladivostok!
Note from Tim: One place where you can get a pyanse any time of night or day is outside the big train station.
After a good solid sleep we drove up to Glass Beach, but I don’t want to spoil the story behind this one-of-a-kind phenomenon, so you’ll just have to watch the video in full on Rumble to find out!
From there, we went to see the “famous” and “iconic” Tokarevskii Lighthouse. Our producer Misha had really hyped this up as the most epic and gorgeous thing that we were going to film, that there would be tons of locals around and that this was going to be something really amazing, the type of footage that we need for sure! And not only that, but it would make the perfect end to our episode about the city itself, because the lighthouse is right on the edge of town.
But when we got there, it was this tiny barrel, dwarfed by huge power lines going across the bay that were far more impressive. Misha and my other Russian colleagues were offended that I thought that my Dad and I could have built that thing in a week, given enough bricks and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. It was a massive disappointment, but, what do you think, is the Tokarevskii Lighthouse iconic or a hyped-up tool shed? Although the lighthouses were a massive disappointment, everything else was quite awesome. Vladivostok FTW!
Now, many of us, probably most of us, live in cities or towns, so maybe we should get the heck out of urban environments on vacation, right!? Check out this map below the text to see how to get to all the places we went outside of the city. Some of them are quite far!
So, being hungry for the great outdoors, we took the chance to hire a guide to take us around the ‘Marine Nature Reserve’, which is a titanic national park with both land and sea as part of its territory.
It is hard to put into words just how great the alien, natural beauty of the park was, but we can add an image of the “stone trousers” that are quite famous there. There were plenty of cliffs and fields and just everything wondrous from nature. In short, it’s very cool!
Also, deer and other random animals came right up to us while we were filming. Both Misha and Yulia, my loyal producers, said they “felt like a Disney princess”. Good times!
Note from Tim: The park is not designed for driving or for random people to come and go, you really need to have a guide take you around!
After this, we filmed a few different capes, one of them named after the “Soaring Turtle” shaped rocks that are right on the edge of a cliff. This was very neat and all the rocks and views quickly changed with every kilometer that you traveled and it looked like it was in a completely different country from the Marine Nature Reserve. This would be a lovely location for a picnic (providing you clean up after yourselves!) or a romantic stroll. Good stuff, I wanted to see a stone soaring turtle and, well, I got exactly what I asked for!
Another interesting site that we saw was the Brynner Family Mausoleum, which, yes, is directly connected to famous mid-20th century Hollywood actor Yul Brynner. The Russian Revolution had a lot of negatives and for people very much connected to the aristocracy like the Brynners, it was the end of the line for them in Russia. They were all forced to flee the country (that’s how Yul found himself in Hollywood and not Vladivostok) and, during times of great suffering and poverty, their family mausoleum was looted for valuables. Sadly, besides the building itself, little is left, but it sure makes for an unusual sight right in the middle of a now “dacha community”. For those who like some mystical spookiness, this is certainly for you!
Note from Tim: Yul Brynner is partially responsible for me starting a life in Russia, but to find out why you have to watch our video which includes the full tale of the mausoleum.
Another great thing about Vladivostok is that it is much farther south than Moscow, meaning it is very warm and sunny, almost like a post-Soviet San Francisco, meaning that water sports are certainly on the cards. Terrified of drowning, I let my colleagues go kayaking without me and they had a blast, except for audio wizard Albert, who simply could not keep his kayak straight. But seriously, Vladivostok has all the water action you could ever want and there are plenty of guides who do whole boating/kayaking tours to take you to cool beaches and grottos inaccessible by any other means.
Producers Misha and Yulia talk about this kayaking adventure with great fondness to this very day and not just because it was fun watching Albert fail over and over again! They had a blast and really got to experience the sea and do something very out of the ordinary from a Moscow perspective. I had beers and a big seafood lunch while I waited for them, so I was quite happy with their kayaking as well and remember it fondly!
One other thing we did with an element of danger was go to the local Safari Park. Now, the Far East of Russia (and Siberia) is known for having some big and also endangered animals. There have been some big media campaigns to save the tigers and what not, so, of course, I jumped at the chance to see these highly advertised creatures in person.
Thankfully, none of them were in cages, but, instead, inside of large habitats that you could see from walkways that were high up in the trees. It was kind of like walking 25 feet over the top of Cleveland Zoo. The animals had a lot of room to romp and, later, we actually got to go into the habitats of some of the non-predators who lacked the means to kill us.
All-in-all, this was another winner and probably the best thing to take children to. Very neat, but wear shoes with some good soles, because you are going to be doing some major hiking up and down metal walkways in the sky!
Unlike my young enthusiastic and slim producers, I see gastro-tourism as our most important mission and Vladivostok did not disappoint! All the locals say that if you visit any restaurant in town, then it should be ‘Zuma’. It’s famous for its seafood that comes right from the waters surrounding the region. The Chef was nice enough to show us how to make his “Wok Shock” (which rhymes in Russian pronunciation, but not my Cleveland accent) made of mostly scallops - one of the many delicious sea creatures that I am allergic to, but will eat anyways to make a good video.
After my time in the kitchen was over, I had some sea urchin and sea cucumber served raw. That may sound insane to Midwestern ears, but ,trust me, it is really good and really different and it provides a unique taste experience that is hard to describe. Usually one does not call meat “refreshing”, but when it comes to these two animals… it is. Then, they threw an entire steamed crab on the table for me and, well, I had a good day, to say the least!
The food at ‘Zuma’ was literally breathtaking, as I was eating so much so fast that I couldn’t catch my breath. You will be really happy with the crab, squid, fish and everything else they grab from the ocean, good times!
Next we went to the ‘Hunting Lodge’, where they serve fresh meat from land animals only. It is sort of the inverse of ‘Zuma’, but, yeah, bring on the elk, baby!
As I should have expected, much of the food seemed to be “Vodka Oriented”, as I would call it. In Russia, all alcohol is to be accompanied by appropriate food, this is the difference between alcoholics (no snacks) and sophisticated vodka connoisseurs (with snacks). They had a plate of “pickled everything” with vegetables ranging from hot peppers, to tomatoes, to carrots all pickled to perfection. They had whole plates of meat appetizers, soup in a pastry bowl and plenty of moose, elk etc. cooked to perfection.
The sad part is we had other things to film that day, we really needed to open up some bottles of the good stuff, but, alas, daylight filming hours were at a premium! Vodka would have to wait.
We finished off our culinary tour with something really cool that you might like to do. One boat service offered a picnic on an uninhabited island! So we jumped on the boat and rode all the way out there. They set us up with all sorts of sea food too much while on the beach, with absolutely no one around for miles. This is another great “date night” option for sure ;).
So there was steamed crab, smoked octopus, lots of types of shrimp, basically it worked out to be a big basket of seafood, although everything was served cold. I am pretty passionate in my opinion that “cold things from a bag” are not true food, so I can’t say this was my favorite thing, but I think many of you would enjoy this a lot.
But ending our culinary tour on an isolated island beach that was essentially our own private beach… yeah that is pretty darn sweet!
Vladivostok and its surrounding Primorksy Kray are kind of like a Chinese landscape with San Francisco plopped down on top of it that is somehow still very Russian, but with really nice weather. It’s a neat place that would be great for any vacation, So please go watch all about them on our channel Russia: Tips, Tricks & Travel on Rumble.
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