Most certainly one of the best decisions I have made while living in Vladivostok was to move in with a local host family. The benefits I have received as a result are simply immeasurable and I cannot recommend enough for others to do the same. While this post recounts a late Sunday outing accomplished with the aid of my family and their transportation on and around Russian Island (Русский остров), the vast majority of the activities can be enjoyed easily and inexpensively via bus and a little help from your own two feet (на своих двоих)!
Sable Bay (Бухта Соболь)
While the most popular lighthouse for city dwellers here is undoubtedly Tokarevsky Lighthouse (Токаревский маяк), located at the tip of the peninsula on which the city center itself is situated, I had for some time wanted to visit the more exotic Basargina Lighthouse (Маяк Басаргина). Standing on its own small island accessible only by foot bridge at the tip of the peninsula of the same name, Basargina was an intriguing location I had only glimpsed in photographs. However, I was disappointed to find out that the apparent reason for this one-sided popularity was simply a matter of accessibility, as the military is currently not permitting passage to the lighthouse by land. All was not lost though, as we consequently learned that the Pacific-facing shore of the peninsula is a popular place for a stroll along the beach and to take in the fresh breeze coming across the bay. The plethora of modern housing developments which have sprung up all along the surrounding hillsides give credence to the beauty of the location.
It was also here, at the elbow formed by the peninsula and the mainland that we witnessed a hilariously uncommon phenomenon. As a dip in the terrain allows seawater to fill a small lake-like inlet, this inlet freezes over the winter forming a circular rink of sorts. Only this rink is not for two legged skaters, but four-wheeled drifters – that is, of the most common variety – from families in vans (my own included) to solitary senior citizens. Perhaps strangest of all was the seemingly universally understood system by which all roundly abided. Drivers going about their daily activities would suddenly pull of the road, wait their turn so as to never have more than three cars in action at once, rip off a couple of donut-riddled laps around the frozen venue and then calmly get back on the road and continue on with the day’s tasks! Though most bus drivers are not likely to follow the actions of my host father and partake, passing the time walking the shore and observing this unusual spectacle would certainly be well worth the trip in itself.
Novik Country Club
остров Русский, пос. Мелководный
Meals from 350 rubles
Just pass the FEFU (ДВФУ) campus, a short trek down Paris Settlement (Парис посёлок) road will put you on the territory of a small year-round recreation center generally referred to as Novik (Новик). With a skating rink splayed out right on top of the frozen ocean waters, the location provides a truly unique opportunity to skate on the edge of the continent. For those with skates, the experience is absolutely free, while those in need of skate rental (прокат) will be charged a mere 20 rubles an hour. The rink is also outfitted with a small heated hut (теплушка) where one can comfortably change clothes (переодеться). A café serving tea and snacks is also located directly on the water next to the rink, providing the convenience of being able to make the trip without tasking oneself with finding something to eat later. However, note that the hours of these services change seasonally, so be sure to call ahead!
Other attractions at this site include a sports club where water sport competitions such as rowing (гребля) are held during the summer. Kayak and canoe rental are also recreational activities offered during the active season. In case that’s not enough of a workout for you, there is also an aerobics area with a bench press, lateral- and pull-up bars for anyone looking for a little extra muscular strain.
For those whose appetites are not fully satisfied by the offerings of the cafe, there is a full-fledged restaurant on the premises. The log cabin style building nestled amongst the woods on the oceanfront feels more like a setting on the shores of Lake Michigan than the Russian Far-East. Even more so as the inside walls covered with placards sporting pithy sayings and the shelves lined with fresh pumpkins and jars of in-house prepped preservatives leave you with the impression that you stepped into some kind of Russian take on a Cracker Barrel. That being said, the four or five cats that wander the restaurant, approach guests and snooze on the chairs of unoccupied tables are distinctly novik.
As this was simply a warm-up stop for my family and I before getting back on the road, we kept our order simple: a small teapot (чайник) of herbal tea for 200 rubles ($3), two baked tomatoes with garlic and herbs (помидор запечённый с чесноком и травами) for 120 rubles ($2) apiece and two orders of ratatouille (рататуй) for 150 ($2.50) rubles a piece. Complimentary dried black bread strips (сухари), a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce and fresh pumpkin jam (тыквенная варенья) were all free compliments (комплименты) of the restaurant. While our appetizers were not spectacular, the pumpkin jam left me regretting that I did not order something from the seasonal menu sporting entrees prepared with the bountiful pumpkin harvest seen on display throughout the restaurant. Taken into account alongside the restaurants relatively unique location and atmosphere, our experience here was a decidedly positive one.