Autumn in Sakhalin

I’ve been meaning to write a post about autumn since the end of September. Now since there is currently snow blanketing the ground and I’ve been wearing my winter coat for a couple weeks now, I guess I’m past due for it. Autumn came and went very quickly here.

When I arrived in Sakhalin, it was still clearly summer. Sure it was a bit chillier than Texas, but overall sunshine-y and decently warm. But right after the equinox, the days started to get noticeably shorter. Getting off from work at 7:20 started to mean walking home just as the sun had set. That same week, I suddenly noticed that the leaves had changed colour, seemingly over night.

My flatmate, Ilmira, and I went back up Gorny Vozdukh, the nearby mountain, that weekend. This time we took the gondola instead of hiking. (As it turns out the gondola only costs going one way, so when I hiked up earlier I could’ve taken it down for free and saved myself some of the exhaustion). The mountains had some beautiful fall foliage already, although not as dramatic as say New England.

On the way down the mountain, we stopped at a café for some plov, tea, and blini with condensed milk. Pretty basic but it was delicious!

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The next weekend, my flatmates and I went down to the Japanese gardens in front of the museum of local lore, which is in a building from the Japanese time in Sakhalin.
15046233_10154222044837424_1703962860_nWe took the bus to get there, which was my first time taking the bus here. Buses are rather strange here. Some are basically just vans, and you have the option of paying either when you get on or when you get off. Taking any bus anywhere in the city costs 20 rubles (about 30 cents US).

Excuse the extremely crappy photo, but this is an example of one type of bus here.

The museum itself we didn’t go into, but it’s in a beautiful Japanese-style building built during the Japanese control of the island.

The next day, we decided to head to the beach. Ilmira is from Ufa, so she hasn’t had many chances to visit the sea. We decided to take a bus down to the seaside town of Korsakov. Taking a bus outside of the city is a little bit different from taking one within the city. We went up to Lenin Square where the buses leave from. There buses are basically just parked wherever so you have to walk around to find one that’s going where you want to. Also they don’t really have set schedules either. After you find one that you want, you pay (this time it was about 150 rubles or $2.26) and get on and then sit and wait until the bus fills up enough that the driver decides to leave. The bus ride itself took almost an hour.

When we finally got to Korsakov, we got off near the town centre and started wandering around heading toward where we thought that the sea would be. Periodically we asked for some directions. In the end we had to walk about 8km out of town, past a military base, until we were able to reach a place where we could go to the beach. While we were walking we past a man lying in a ditch on the side of the road. At first I freaked out, thinking he was dead, but then he started snoring, so unlike the Samaritan, we crossed to the other side of the road and passed him.

The beach itself was very small, not sandy, and littered with all kinds of garbage. We were also tired from walking and hungry since it was dinner time and we hadn’t eaten. Despite all of this, there’s just something so amazing and soothing about the sea. We sat and watched for at least fifteen minutes and then took some pictures and walked up and down the narrow beach.

Finally, we turned back and walked the 8km back to the town. We passed the same man sleeping in the ditch on the side of the road. He had changed positions but was still happily asleep. I slept myself on the bus ride back to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

Some time later, I decided to go back to Gagarin Park, the biggest park here, to see how it looked in the fall. I explored the beautiful forest paths of the park.

Everything was looking pretty beautiful and I found some carved pumpkins somebody had left there.

About a month after Autumn began, around October 20, I woke up to snow falling. It didn’t stick that day but within the week it was snowing again and starting to stick to the ground. The temperatures dropped until they were mostly hovering around freezing. To this Texas boy, that meant Autumn was officially over and Winter had moved in.

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