Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Has Sprung in Vladivostok

Kristen says...

Proof, winter is finally ending:
The first green of spring (that I've seen) in Vladivostok! :) Woot!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Safari Park with Tigers and Bears, "Oh My"! :)

Kristen says...

We are enjoying a long weekend thanks to International Women's Day, hooray! :)

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to travel with the recently-returned Ty Stephens and members of the group SoulJaazz (if you remember they were here this time last year, we got to visit the tall ship Nadezhda with them) to the Primorsky Safari Park, a small animal rehab park/zoo located an hour or so outside of the city.
The park specializes in rehabbing local animals who have been found injured or abandoned by past owners. The hope is that some of the animals can be returned to the wild.

The park is broken into four areas: Predators, Birds, Tigers and Large Mammals.

We visited the predators first:
While many of the animals here will be rehabbed and returned to the wild, the bears are usually turned over to the circuses.
Red fox
Wild cats
Our guide said that less than one in 10 of these cats could be tamed as house cats--most wouldn't even let you pet them
Imagine this beast in your home :)
This little otter was very cute and playful
Until he wasn't (our guide had quite a few cuts on his hand from this altercation)
The next park was the bird park:
This eagle(?)'s talons were injured from the cold--too much ice fishing I guess :)
A cheeky wink from an owl
Look into my eyes...
And yes, they also have tigers in the tiger park! (Amur Tigers...a few miles farther north in Siberia there are actual tigers running around the countryside, at least 500!)
One of two Amur (Siberian) tigers at the park

The two tigers were in separate areas, I don't think they could get at each other. One simply had a high fence around it, the other's enclosure had an elevated walkway encircling it upon which visitors could get a 360° view of the tiger's park.

 The last park was the mammal park, with such gems as deer and a couple very friendly pigs!

They also have a few imports scattered around the parks:
Red wolves--not actually native to the area, but here nonetheless
It's hard to see, but that is a raccoon... I love going to places where raccoons are considered zoo animals! :)
We had a very nice time visiting the animals, even though it was just a little bit would be interesting to go back in the summer and see the place with green! :)


Monday, March 3, 2014

More Vladivostok Sights

Kristen says...

As you know, we've been here now for over a year, and so have had the opportunity to see Vlad in all seasons.

It has been especially nice to be able to appreciate the winter this year...after two years in Honduras with no snow in sight, I have enjoyed the cold white stuff here in Vlad (not that we've had that much, but when it's here, it's wonderful!).

We arrived last year smack dab in the worst (meaning coldest!) part of winter, and I admit I didn't appreciate it very much, but this year, being able to ease into it a bit (and being gifted with an extremely mild season) has been (mostly) marvelous!

A couple weekends ago, as part of our tourist-ing in Vlad, we took a trip out to Russky Island, the previous site of our Dragon Boat racing and home to one of the Universities and the newest hospital located here in Vlad. It is also the place that the "world's longest cable-stayed bridge" connects to the city.

We actually wanted to go see the fort that is located there, but it was closed on Mondays, so we just decided to drive around instead. The island has one really nice, long, pretty straight, paved road that bisects it, and a windy, gravel, bumpy road that halfway circles it. We took the long straight road to a place where it connected to the bumpy gravel road and had a nice afternoon taking in the sights.

For your convenience, here is a screen shot of the Google Maps view of the island:
You can see the bridge in the upper RH corner and the two roads weaving their way around the island
 We stopped at a couple convenient viewpoints to see what we could see:
It looks like the waves just froze as they hit the beach
Pip is deciding whether to jump in or not...he decided not. :)
We also started to notice something else...
SUV on the ice?!
 The further we drove, the more cars (and people) we saw:
Best use of a side car?
 After a bit we decided we might as well pop out on the ice ourselves...not in the car, of course, which is illegal, but on foot...
Me trying to get up the courage to jump up and down
Chris had no such compunctions :)
 Just as we were getting ready to leave, we saw someone boldly drive out where we had just been jumping:

 We got back in the warm car and continued on our merry way. The island is slightly hilly, and Chris and the friend who was with us decided a little hiking to the top of a hill was in order:
 It was a good choice--what beautiful views!
The path we took to the top of the hill
A view of the Russky Bridge
 At the top of the hill we even found a simple little monument with a beautiful view:

 Closer views of the monument, which was dedicated "In memory of 100-anniversary events Port Arthur Icon of the Mother of God"

A closer picture of the view of the city from the monument (the bridge on the RH side is not the Russky Bridge, but the one we can see from our home).

Another sight from the top of the hill:
I'm not quite sure how these cars got there??
 After the sojourn up the hill we were all quite chilly, so we decided to head back to town. We stopped just one more time for a last beautiful view of the city and the ice:
 And, just to give you an idea of the number of cars driving out on the ice...
 A regular highway...until spring, of course!  :)


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Our Next Post!!

Kristen says...

Just in case anyone is interested, we received our next State Department assignment this past week...

We are both very much looking forward to two years in Canberra, Australia! :)

Of course, we are also still enjoying Vladivostok (and will be for the better part of the next year), so don't expect too many Australia-filled posts for a bit... :)

Anyway, we just thought we'd let you know.