I forgot to send this when I departed Vladivostok. My new Swiss friend, Michael was here for two days. He thought the chocolate here was almost as good as his own Swiss chocolate. But imagine his concern when I told him that Ecuador produces most of the raw chocolate in the world!
One of the first interesting cities upon leaving the Pacific Ocean and Vladivostok, is Khabarovsk. It sits a mere 25 kilometers from the Chinese border. They say it has a Mediterranean feel, with tree-lined streets, and even squares with fountains. But here, we cross the mighty Amur River. And they even serve sushi in honor of the Japanese business traveler. The city is said to have an international feel. This might be hard to ascertain from the train.
Khabarovsk was founded in 1858 as a military outpost by Count Nikolai Muravyov (later Muravyov-Amursky), while he was taking the Amur region back from the (Fu) Manchus. I am not sure if he made them shave or just skinned them alive. The Trans Siberian Railway arrived from Vladivostok in 1897, though it did not reach Moscow until 1913. But for most of 1920 during the Russian civil war, it was occupied by Japanese troops. As recently as 1969, Russian and Chinese troops fought in bloody hand to hand combat over tiny Damansky Island in the Ussuri River.
But now, Japanese business men make up 80% of the visitors. Yet 80% of the residents speak Russian, not Japanese or Chinese. I will miss their Ice Fantasy Festival in January, similar to the famous ice sculpture show in Harbin. But Khabarovsk houses some of the best museums east of Moscow. The second largest city in the Russian Far East sits on the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers.
The indigenous people here are the Tungusic people. The Russian Cossacks and Korean also invaded, along with the Manchu Qing Dynasty during a century of turmoil. Finally, in 1858, the area was ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Aigun. Today, Chinese traders bring every variety of product to sell in the city markets. And despite the plethora of Russians and Chinese here, Italian food seems to be the most popular cuisine. And I understand the Russians will be happy to teach me how to drink, Russian style. After, the famous Russian banya (sauna) awaits.
Though I will not be spending much time here, Khabarovsk is one of the more interesting stops along the way. Too bad I will not be able to sip some Russian beer on the River Promenade. Maybe next time?