Thursday, July 9, 2015

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Russia

Not the tourist hotspot of Russia, this town of 180,000 is accessible only by sea or air. It's on the peninsula of Russia that hangs down north of Japan and is often used for refueling by a variety of airplanes.

If I had only one word to describe the town, it would be "crumbling". The soviet-era monuments and apartment blocks were grey and crumbling. The benches in the small parks were old, the curbs of the streets were broken, and new buildings were nestled between dilapidated shacks. But, we had a clean hotel and found two delightful restaurants with generous portions of well prepared fresh fish and grilled vegetables. I think we were expecting nothing but potatoes and cabbage and sausage, so food was a pleasure!

It was gorgeous and sunny for our one day on the ground - the first day in months without rain according to the hotel clerk. We managed to find a tour operator who hired a driver to show us the sights (not that there were many to see). He spoke a minuscule amount of English, but Josh's five years of high school Russian made them an even pair, so all was good. So, once again, a cabbie tour of the area allowed us to see the highlights. Vistas from tall hills were glorious, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was magnificent, birds were few and there was no botanical garden.

Of all the places we've seen on this amazing journey, this was the one with the least amount of English speakers, and virtually no English translations on the signs. The people rarely smiled, so we made a game of being friendly and appreciative, trying to elicit a smile...easier with the women than the men. This was the ONLY country out of the 11 we've stopped in where uniformed inspectors came onto our aircraft - and they did it on arrival and departure.

It's not really first world or precisely third world. Russia is different.

Our handler in Russia

The arrivals and departures lounge in Petro
The flight crew in Petro
Carolyn, Becky, and Madelyn after landing in Russia

Jack looking like Putin at a desk in our hotel room

View from our hotel room - new apartment construction
A soviet-era monument

This is the salmon shop

This is the fruit and vegetable shop
The volcano, with clouds simulating smoke

Wild geraniums

Fisher's orchid
Deadly hemlock

Jerry and Madelyn Seckler
Replica cannon from a battle with the French
1950's era monument to an 1800's battle with the French
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Truly magnificent and truly, the only beautiful building in the city. 

New construction on the cathedral 

Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity
The volcano looms over the landscape from almost every angle

From the scenic overlook

Scenes like this were everywhere. This happens to be at the top of a scenic lookout.