Despite the fact that it’s known as the most disgusting city in Russia, I actually quite like this place. The setting for one is stunning, as it is surrounded by some of Kamchatka’s most impressive volcanoes.
The trouble is that nothing new has been built since the end of communism. The whole city looks like it did under the Soviet Union, with no buildings taller than five stories and many on the verge of collapse. The government does little to help: the streets are full of litter and nobody cleans the ice or snow off the streets in winter. The snow often reaches second-storey windows, and residents themselves have to keep clearing it away to keep access open to their front door. The only place in Russia I have ever slipped and fallen on the ice is here, where in fact it happened twice. Indeed, one internet video shows footage someone shot by holding their mobile phone out of a window for 2 hours in spring. In those 2 hours, he caught 27 people falling over on the ice. As you can imagine, residents of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky are not fans of their own town and nostalgia for the Soviet Union and even Stalin is strong.
There is stuff you can do around Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, such as skiing, climbing the volcanoes or even paragliding off them. Talk to local tour agencies about this, as well as about hiring helicopters or land transport for trips elsewhere in Kamchatka.
If you are planning on heading further north up the peninsula, daily buses leave for Klyuchi (site of Eurasia’s largest active volcano) and the indigenous Even villages of Anavgay and Esso at around 7am and 8am, take around 10 hours and cost 1000 roubles one way. You can also hitch hike to any of the above destinations, which is extremely easy in Kamchatka. Get a local bus to drop you off just outside the city on the road to Yelisovo (where the airport is). Alternatively get one of the many regular buses to Yelisovo (30km away) and start hitching from there. You’d have to be lucky to get a lift straight to Klyuchi, Anavgay or Esso and you’re more likely to do it in stages, getting off and hitching new lifts in towns such as Yelisovo, Koryaki and Milkovo along the way. Up until Milkovo there is only one road, so any vehicles travelling along it are good for you. 50km or so after Milkovo the road forks, the right fork going to Klyuchi and the left to Anavgay, Esso and the start of the zimnik (temporary winter road) north up the peninsula to the isolated town of Palana.
Click here for my blog about Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky with 2763 words and 12 photos.
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