After a leisurely morning and a buffet breakfast at the hotel, it was time to board a small bus for a tour around Petropavlovsk. The drive from our hotel to town took about an hour. First stop was at the Enthographic museum where we learned more about the local flora and fauna and the history of the region. Then we were dropped off at a nearby souvenir market so we could all complete our obligatory shopping for friends and family back home. We had lunch in a restaurant in a multi-level shopping area in the center part of town. Valerie snuck out to buy a new shirt (something clean for the trip to Moscow) and some greatly desired hand and body lotion (I think she missed this the most off all from her missing luggage).
After lunch, we had free time to wander around the central Petropavlovsk market. We explored the fish market, ogled some decadent looking desserts, and then headed outside to the local farmer’s market where vendors were selling cups of fresh blueberries and raspberries, as well as other locally grown fruits and vegetables. This was the only foreign market I have ever visited where most of the vendors quietly sat at their stand and didn’t pester every passerby to buy their goods. Perhaps they haven’t gotten used to the whole free market, capitalism thing yet? Somehow it all seemed rather depressing, watching these mostly older people sitting with their handful of produce for sale, not smiling, not engaging, and not actively seeking business. We wondered how they make a living doing this.
From the market we walked around the city center where we visited the obligatory statue of Lenin (every town in Russia has at least one it seems). Near the statue of Lenin was the statue of St. Peter and St. Paul, the town’s namesakes. When the explorer Vitus Bering reached Avacha Bay in 1740, he laid the foundation stone for the harbor town, naming the new settlement “Petropavlovsk” (Peter + Paul) after his two ships, the St. Peter and the St. Paul, that were built for his second expedition. This statue sat right on a waterway where we got a look at a Russian custom that we had not heard of before: just married couples decorate a commemorative padlock, lock it to the railing, and then throw the key into the water, signifying their undying love for each other. Apparently this is a common custom throughout Russia.
Late in the afternoon, the clouds rolled in and it got pretty cold. Went back to the hotel for dinner, just as it started raining steadily. We went out to the thermal pools again and this time , the very hot pool was open. We were able to get directly into the pool from the inside of the hotel building so we didn’t have to walk through cool rain. It was very nice sitting in the pool while the rain fell.
Next Day: NO TOAST…BREAD! There was no breakfast buffet today so we had the luxury of ordering off the menu. Everyone in the group tried to order toast, because it was actually on the menu, and every time the waiter’s response was “No toast, bread” (toast must be an American thing, who knew?). For some reason they didn’t seem to have the technology to toast the bread. We all thought it was hilarious (okay, I know, simple pleasures for simple minds, a clear indication that we’d been on vacation too long or something like that).
We boarded the small bus and headed back into town where our first stop was a fairly new Russian Orthodox church with the classic gold onion domes (I think they told us this is the largest Russian Orthodox Church in Eurasia). Afterward, we went to the hill above the city center where there were old cannon placements and some memorials from a battle with the French in the 1800’s. Then it was back into town for more shopping and lunch.
In the afternoon, we drove north of the city along Avacha Bay to a spot where we could access the beach and water. We spent several hours exploring along the black sand beach. One group member found an old, rusty Russian license plate that she was going to take home. Someone else gathered beach glass. And another person made the grim discovery of various dead animals in the water (a dog or something, a puffin…). On the way back to town, we stopped at a high point that offered a spectacular view of Avacha Bay. Photographing the bay from this point was a bit of a challenge as power lines were placed right in front of the view. Good thing I had the telephoto lens to look between the wires.
We stopped for dinner in town before heading back to the hotel to get packed up and ready to leave Kamchatka. There was a big wedding going on at the hotel which is why we had dinner downtown. The wedding guests were up late, partying well into the night. I think most of us were too tired to really care. Before going to bed, we confirmed everyone’s flight the next morning.