Petropavlovsk, Kamchatskiy, Russia
Dramatically sited on hills and surrounded by majestic, snow-blanketed volcanoes and distant snowcapped mountains, Petropavlovsk is itself a rather plain, workaday Soviet-styled city. But the Kamchatka Peninsula on which it sits is one of the most fascinating geographical features in the world. No roads lead to Kamchatka, a domain still largely given over to unbridled natural forces. Get a handle on the region at the half-timbered Museum of Regional Studies, which covers both natural and human history. Climb the forested slopes of Nikolskaya Hill, passing the gold-domed Monument of Glory honoring the heroes who resisted the Franco-British assault in 1854, for panoramic views back over the city and the shining Avacha Bay. The new Vulkanarium explains the seismically active area and its numerous active and dormant peaks. In the city center, a heroic statue of Lenin still inspires with a sweeping gesture. Several nearby volcanoes beckon those wishing to climb: Koryaksky, Mutnovsky and Gorely. For indoor pursuits, the Alexander Nevsky Chapel, the Gold-domed Trinity Cathedral or the Salmon Museum offer interesting material.