Heihe skyline from BlagoveshchenskAt the confluence of the Amur and Zeya rivers lies the border town of Blagoveshchensk. This portion of the Amur river serves as the border between Russia and China and just across the flowing water you can see the city of Heihe, China.Seeing China coastline from RussiaIt is a popular past time to stroll along the water and look across the river at China. I think the Chinese know this and that is why those gigantic letters atop their buildings are in Russian. The biggest letters you see translates as “Yuan Tung” which is Chinese for “Far East”. The smaller letters say “wholesale center.” They are obviously hoping their neighbors will be enticed to come over the border and do some discount shopping.dsc_0828-1We are not sure how effective the advertising campaign is, however, as the bulk of those strolling the riverside, gazing across the water at the enticing shopping center appeared to be Chinese tourists. We saw them by the tour bus load, visiting every attraction and viewing area. This is a popular place for taking pictures, obviously, for both visitors and locals alike. And this is where things can get a little complicated.dsc_0833-1Here is a picture of a Chinese tourist in Russia taking a picture of China.dsc_0877-1Here is a picture of Russian teenagers next to a Russian fountain taking a picture of themselves with China in the background.dsc_0878-1Here is a picture of a Chinese tourist, taking a picture of Russian teenagers, taking a picture of themselves, with China in the background.dsc_0829Here is a picture of an American tourist in Russia taking a picture of an American tourist taking a picture of an American tourist with China in the background. (I actually have more of this kind of thing but Amber thinks I have already worn this theme out.) Besides, there are other things to see in Blagoveshchensk than views of China.dsc_0824This is the Triumphal Arch above and below, several samples of the log homes that were built here as long ago as the 1850s by some of the original settlers of the area. We saw dozens of them throughout the city. Most were still occupied private residencies!dsc_0857dsc_0852We saw local tween-agers climbing up on this patrol boat but we opted to remain less conspicuous for pictures. And we have observed that it is not uncommon for horse or pony rides to be available in in any park or square.dsc_0837dsc_0861-1We only spent several days in this little town as we had tickets to Chita, a two night train ride farther west. Russian trains have a classic feel to them with their two tier bunks, large tea table, and endless supply of boiling hot water, supplied by a gas fired, iron, boiler located outside the car’s attendant’s station. You just turn the red handle and boiling water comes out. They even provide these great tea mugs to use. You can literally drink tea or coffee the whole trip! Of course if you do, you will increase the amount of time you get to experience another classic feature of the Russian train car – it’s lavatory. Personally, I never get tired of stepping on that big metal pedal to operate the flush mechanism and seeing the track below hurtling by as the trap opens…dsc_0904dsc_0948dsc_0367-1The westernmost point of our journey into Russia was the city of Chita, pronounced chee-tah, (the same way you might say “ta-dah!” when you have done something amazing). Until about twenty years ago it was a “closed city” and only the old Soviet government knows what amazing things they were doing here then. Today it looks and feels much like the other eastern Russian cities we have seen but fall was definitely making itself known the five days we spent there and we had to time some of our sightseeing in between torrents. One of the first things we saw stepping out of the train station was the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. It was stunning!dsc_0037Of course I was equally impressed with Park Odora and the collection it had on display!dsc_0990img_8995
Our apartment was not far from Lenin square so we often found ourselves passing beneath the gaze of this iconic figure.dsc_1014Since it was fall, there were street vendors selling pine nuts or Kvass everywhere!dsc_0045dsc_1011Hot dogs and kvass
This is called the sculpture of Love and Faith. We stopped by on our walk to the train station to catch our ride out. You can tell we are traveling by the backpack Amber is wearing on the back and the bag with food for the train on the front! dsc_0052We were fortunate enough to catch a Sunday afternoon of “Chita Jazz.” A number of musicians performed jazz and jazz renditions of older tunes all afternoon, mainly in English. We will leave you with this short clip of Russian jazz musicians performing John Lennon’s, Imagine. I could not help but think how much the world has changed in some ways. When that song was written, Chita was a closed city in a cold war. Now Russian musicians are free to perform it enthusiastically – just off Lenin street.