The next morning while eating breakfast at a local cafeteria I had a bit of a startling revelation!! Staring me right in the face taking up an entire wall was a larger than life map of the ex-USSR. I realized that I would soon be crossing this giant landmass called Russia. Of course I knew Russia was large, but when I saw the giant map it really put things into perspective and pointed out to me that I had a loooong journey in front of me to reach Moscow.
However, crossing Russia was a thought for another day! In the meantime I had to hurry up so I could meet up with Inna for our morning excursion to Russkiy Island, home of the brand new state of the art Far East Federal University campus! Russkiy Island in a matter of only several years has transformed itself from a nearly deserted island with a population of only about 5,000 people to a hub of business, education and leisure. All of this due to the fact Russia chose this remote spot as the venue to host the 2012 APEC Summit.
Connecting Russkiy Island with the mainland though was no simple task! To accomplish this goal the government sunk billions of dollars into building two very large and long cable suspension bridges, one of which is the largest in the world. What used to take around an hour to reach the island now only takes about 30 minutes in good traffic.
Crossing over the bridge was breathtaking!!! Since stopping on the bridge was prohibited, Inna made sure to go slow so I could get a good glimpse at this incredible feat of Russian engineering!! Once there, we explored the university campus. I’ve seen many different university campuses in my life and even attended a large university, but this place trumped them all! Covering an area of 8,000 square meters the university campus with its modern glass buildings that sparkle in the sun, a beautiful large embankment on Ajax Bay overlooking the bridge, a five star hotel, start of the art facilities on par or surpassing anything seen in the west, FEFU is an absolute miracle! I could never have even come close to visiting here if it had not been for my incredible friend and wonderful guide, Inna! To top it all off I even got a VIP tour around the new state of the art athletic facility thanks to Inna’s brother, Sasha who worked there. The university will likely continue to grow as an important player on the world stage!!
After a quick lunch, we headed back to the mainland and visited the Eagle's Nest Mount perched atop Vladivostok. The views from there were breathtaking, you could see both bodies of water that border Vladivostok, Amur Bay to the west and Golden Horn bay to the east. Just below the Eagle’s Nest Mount is a small souvenir shop with all types of wonderful Russian gifts to buy. No matter what type of gift you are after, this is your place for souvenirs and trinkets in Vladivostok! And, there is no way you can miss it since just a few steps away stands a HUGE blow up matryoshka doll! Even if you don’t feel like buying anything at the gift shop be sure to get a photo of yourself overlooking Vladivostok with this lovely lady!!! The Eagle’s Mount can easily be reached by car or if you’d prefer, you can take the Funicular up to the top and walk a short distance up to the outlook.
Other highlights of Vladivostok that I recommend is shopping on Okeanskiy Prospect and Svetlana Blvd, the Monument to famous modern Russian singer Vladimir Vysotsky, the Submarine Museum on Tseravich Embankment, the City Embankment and if you have the time and transportation get out and explore the beautiful nature of The Far East!! An especially popular destination for residents of Vladivostok is the beach destination, Shamora.
As my evening drew to a close in Vladivostok I felt a touch of sadness that I was leaving the next morning to Ulan-Ude on The Trans-Siberian railway. My time had been packed full of such excitement and good times, I couldn’t imagine how anywhere else could beat this??? But, as I was soon to find out, this was just the beginning of an absolutely epic trip! Stay tuned for my next article about my stop on The Trans-Siberian Railway the capital of The Republic of Buryatia, Ulan-Ude!