Petropavlovsk, Russia

                                                     View from Petropavlovsk 

April 18, 2010

Petropavlovsk is located near the southern end of the Kamchatka peninsula, on Avacha Bay, which gives the city a nice, protected harbor.  The harbor is surrounded by three volcanoes, which provides a gorgeous backdrop for the city, as do the extensive birch forests.  As you can see from this photo, one of the volcanoes is still active.

The city has many monuments.  As you leave the dock, you  see the statue of St. Peter and St. Paul, representing the two ships of explorer Vitus Bering, after whom the city was named.  Just beyond that is the large square with a statue of Vladimir Lenin, which was erected in 1978, after his popularity had waned.  The backdrop for the statue of Lenin is the beautiful, modernistic glass fisheries building.  They also have a beautiful new theater building.  However, many of the buildings, streets and sidewalks seem to be crumbling.  The potholes in some streets were horrendous.  Fortunately for us, we had a bus driver for our tour who was very good at avoiding them.

Today we had an American Express tour scheduled, but were unsure it would even happen, given prior experience with the Russian immigration officials, who are apparently notorious for being difficult.  Our tour was scheduled for 9:30, to give us time to take the tender to shore.  Someone somewhere worked miracles, because we were all on our buses and ready to go by 9:15.  An excellent start to the day!  The first part of the tour stopped at the monument of Lenin, in Lenin Square, and the chapel/monument dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Crimean War.   The French and English soldiers are buried to the left of the chapel, while the Russian soldiers are buried to the right of it.  Only a few people were able to make it up to the chapel, as the ground was icy.  We then went to a lookout point where we were able to take the photographs at the top of this post.  Lenin square is interesting because it was built in 1978, and it makes the city appear to be frozen in time, as most cities have taken down their statues of Lenin.

Our next stop was at a small Russian Orthodox church, where a communion service was in progress.  That meant we were not able to take photographs inside, which is too bad because the interior was bright and beautiful.  There are no pews in this church, and people come and go during the lengthy service.  They are looking forward to the time when their new cathedral (photo below) will be finished.  As you can see, it will be very nice when it is finished; it is already a landmark in the city.

The next part of our tour was a visit to the Volcanology Museum, where we were treated to a lecture (in Russian, with a translator) by a man who is very well known in his field.  Even more interesting than the lecture were some of the specimens they had.  There were several ‘bombs’, large rocks that were thrown from a volcano.  The specimen in this photo is very unusual, and when 149 geologists from all over the world were confronted with it, they could not identify it.  The specimen was found when scientists lowered a thermometer into a volcanic lake with a hammer to add weight; the rock was caught on the hammer when they brought it up.  The rock is primarily sulfur, which is mixed with lead and zinc.  If you scratch it, you can smell the sulfur.  This kind of lecture seems like a strange thing to include in a tour, but it gave some insight into the area of the world we were visiting.  Even though the subject is one that might be considered dry, our speaker demonstrated a nice sense of humor.  Visits to the museum are by special appointment only.

The final part of our tour was an authentic Russian lunch at a local restaurant.  We were all seated at a very long table, which had plates of appetizers and dessert on them to start.  We were also served bowls of a wonderful borscht, and a plate of pirogies.  As we were finishing our meal we were treated to a concert by three local musicians, who played Russian music for us, with one song we recognized from western music.  These musicians were all highly skilled and a delight to listen to.

From the restaurant we drove back to the dock, avoiding potholes pretty well.  There was a line for the tender, so we went into the souvenir shop for a few minutes, and ended up at the head of the line for the next tender.  The ride back to the ship was uneventful.  The immigration officials were there to do a face to passport check, as they had done when we left the ship.  At time to sail the captain announced that we would be staying for several more hours while the officials finished up their passport work.  We also learned that all shore leave for crew had been canceled due to some passport issue.  We felt bad for the crew, but were happy that the immigration hassles did not prevent the ship’s guests from enjoying time ashore.

Spring is not even close here.  Although the main streets have been plowed, there are large piles of snow everywhere, and as you can see from the photos the mountains are still well covered.   We were blessed to have a beautiful, sunny day which was a little cool.  However, that did not prevent Russian families from enjoying a day at the beach, including the water!

Despite the apparent drabness of much of the city, Petropavlovsk seems to be thriving.  There is much construction going on here.

We had a great day in Petropavlovsk.  It would be interesting to see the city during their summer, to see if their trees really do leaf out....

                                                                 New Cathedral

© Susan L. Stone 2015