In a brilliant move on my part, before we left the train, I asked our Russian room mate (via the translation of my phone) if she could help us find somewhere to store our baggage, so she led the way through the sea of people departing at Khabarovsk. There was a special room down in the basement, staffed by two middle aged women. They took our information from our passports, we paid the 130r ($4) per bag, and were free to walk around the streets on our 6-hour stopover with only the weight of our day packs (which in my case was still considerable).
I didn’t realise that Khabarovsk was a much larger city than Vladivostok, as I’d never heard of it before researching this journey, but it is actually twice the size at 1.2 million inhabitants. Walking through town, it didn’t feel like it was bigger, either.
The walk from the station was quite pleasant. There was a city-block wide garden path that ran the entire length. The gardens were quite basic and unkempt, but much more pleasant than walking down city streets.
It didn’t take long to arrive at the mighty Amur River, but as I’d worried, at a little after 8AM, we were way too early for everything, and were left to just wander around, which is something we do quite well. Apparently in summer time there are BBQs selling our favourite sashlyk (shish kebab) and beers on the beach, but I guess we were too early for that, too, as the beach was empty other than a few rugged up fishermen. We read that the evenings are filled with the pumping beats of party boats, which we were forced to imagine, sadly.
We’d seen a few cherry/apple/plum blossoms in Vladivostok, and a few more on the train yesterday, but the parks here in Khabarovsk had some really stunning trees. While far from the splendour of some of parks in Japan, it was still beautiful enough to capture our attention. At least for a photo or two.
The other thing that always captures our attention is the shiny gold roof of a Russian church. This particular one, (Assumption Cathedral) we’d worked our way towards for some time. As all churches have been, this was stunning. The bold colours, and the lavish shapes and details were fantastic. It was also a little odd for me to see a church that was so tall for such a small footprint (much like a high rise building).
The area around that church on (Muravyova Amurskogo st) was also flush with beautiful historic buildings. Sadly, it was now nearly 11AM and we still hadn’t eaten, so filling that void was taking precedence over gawking at buildings. But, I’d rather be doing a zombie walk on this street, than some boring back street in a non descript area of town.
Lunch was more cafeteria fare, and we were getting better at ordering. Or maybe we were just hungrier and everything tasted better. I found that my yoghurt/cheese/cream/dairy filled crepes/pancakes were exceptional. We’ve been finding that most restaurants have free Wi-Fi, which really should be the case more places (I’m talking specifically to you, Japan).
Continuing our march along the boulevard of beautiful buildings, we could hear the sound of music coming from Lenin Square. Not having any idea what it was, and still having plenty of time to spare, we went to investigate. OK, so by investigate we walked around and wondered what it all meant, assuming that it was like an education fair, specifically for vocational studies. Whatever, there was some hilarious rapping/dancing on the stage.
Continuing back towards the station, we found yet another children’s park, filled with all sorts of rides. Again, it was mostly empty, and we had to use our imagination about how beautiful it would look with all the fairy lights that are strung up.
Our last stop was at a small market that was only just getting set up when we walked past earlier. It was much like all the other central Asian markets that we’d visited previously, with lots of the same ‘replica’ clothing/eyewear/footwear, and loads of other ‘fashion’. There was also heaps of produce, but not having a use for random pieces of animals, North Fake bags, or President Putin commemorative/satirical t-shirts, we stuck to window shopping, and we probably are better off for that.
We still had a little over an hour to kill before our train departed, and that meant enough time to squeeze in one more meal. We were hoping to find some sashlyk, but settled for a kebab instead. I say kebab, but it deserves to be written as a KEBAB, because it was enormous. And tasty. And only 160r ($4).
We bought some grocery essentials (vodka, biscuits, cheese), swapped our tokens for our baggage from the baggage ladies downstairs, then joined the parade of people up and over the foot-bridge to our awaiting train as the rain began to fall. And still had thirty minutes to spare.
This next journey is going to be more of a test of our stamina – 60hrs to Slyudyanka!