Insights into Russia, Finland and Estonia

IMG_0050Mike Reddy is a founding member of Woden Valley Community Council and is currently it’s Deputy Chair. In 2014 and 2015, whilst on self-funded overseas travel, Mike kept a travel diary published on the WVCC website highlighting observations on public transport, renewable energy, housing, and other issues of interest to the Council, those that attend our meetings and access its website.  This year, Mike and his wife Christine are travelling in Russia, Finland and Estonia.

Part One: Canberra to Vladivostok: 24/8

Our flight to Vladivostok via Seoul left from Sydney early on Thursday morning so on Wednesday night we stayed in an airport hotel.  I travelled up on the bus, again amazed that a bus can travel 300 kms quicker than a train, further testament to the lack of spending on heavy rail infrastructure in Australia.  We have observed enormous expenditure on fast trains in Italy in the last two years. Chris came up later on the plane.  As is necessary for all travellers using the privately owned Sydney Airport she had to pay to travel from the Domestic terminal to the international terminal despite remaining in the airport precinct.  This is a cost we have never faced overseas.  It does not encourage inbound tourism.

IMG_0051As our Seoul – Vladivostok flight left on Friday morning we overnighted in a transit hotel within the secure area of Incheon airport.  This saved us from being put through the immigration paperwork. Although we were only in Korea for about 16 hours, much of it sleeping, we did notice that the internet speed in South Korea is about five times quicker than in Woden.

Vladivostok is a city of around 600,000  people.  The airport is around half an hour’s drive from the CBD.  There is a connecting train, but as we don’t speak Russian we were met by a driver and travelled on the 4-6 lane highway.  We spent three days in Vladivostok before boarding the Trans Siberian Railway.

As Vladivostok has a military base and is strategically important to the Russia navy, it was off limits to foreign tourists during the Soviet era.  It is now a bustling commercial city with fast food franchises, iPhone shops, and smartly dressed locals.  There is an increasing tourist presence especially from cashed up China. Vladivostok is also a major university and technical college for the Far East region.

Vladivostok’s public transport is based around a very old diesel powered bus fleet.  We saw no light rail, trams, or trolley buses.  We saw no wind farms or solar infrastructure, small or large scale.  Apparently the Far East of Russia has very cheap power (one of our guides said it sells at 2cents US per kW hour).

The most striking item on the Vladivostok skyline is the impressive suspension bridge that links both sides of the harbour.  It was opened in 2010 and looks similar to Sydney’s Anzac Bridge but about ten times bigger.

There is a bit of construction of high rise but there are also signs of partially completed high rise developments that went bust.

We enjoyed our stay in Vladivostok particularly as the late August weather was so kind, hitting around 28 degrees.  Locals call warm days in late August-early September “grandmother summer”.  When we went on a stroll to the shores of the Sea of Japan thousands of locals were swimming and sun baking on the narrow beach.

On Monday our driver took us off to the railway station to start our real adventure on the Trans Siberian Railway

To be continued…

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