Vladivostok, Russia

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Off-limits during much of the Soviet era, Vladivostok is perhaps best known as one end of the Trans-Siberian Railway and—at least among Russians—for its many hills, which leads to comparisons with another city by the sea, San Francisco. But Vladivostok, nestled in the hook-shaped Golden Horn Bay that lies between two large gulfs, hasn’t even been Russian all that long. It was ceded by the Qing dynasty in 1860 through the Treaty of Peking, when it was only a small Manchu fishing enclave (which explains why the local cuisine reflects strong Chinese, as well as Japanese and Korean, influences).By the early 1900s, Vladivostok had grown past its phase as a military post and into a truly international port, drawing people from around the world—including Yul Brynner's grandfather, for one, who had arrived from Switzerland. During that boom time, the city rapidly filled with theaters, music halls and other fine buildings that still stand, as do the tramways linking them. The arts continue to thrive: Today, the brand-new glass-and-steel Primorsky Stage is a branch of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky, while a Hermitage Vladivostok is due to open soon. A statue honoring Vladivostok's famous native son Yul Brynner, who was born here in 1920, was also recently erected.

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