After a visit to California in 1959, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told residents of Vladivostok to make the city “our San Francisco.” Given the similarities in topography, it is easy to see why he made the comparison. Both cities are built around large, well-sheltered bays and surrounded by steep hills.
The tallest of Vladivostok’s hills—Mount Kholodilnik—stands about 260 meters (850 feet) tall. The other large hills near the city center are between 160 and 200 meters (520 and 660 feet). Mount Davidson, the tallest peak in San Francisco, is just over 280 meters (920 feet) tall.
Vladivostok’s hills have left an indelible mark on the city. From above, even Vladivostok’s buildings and neighborhood development have been shaped by them. As seen in this image acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, buildings and roads wind around the city’s hills, creating patterns that look similar to contour lines on a topographical map.
Though indigenous peoples have inhabited the area for thousands of years, Russians first established a settlement at the end of the Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula in 1860. Those settlers were drawn by Golden Horn Bay, a valuable natural harbor that helped turn the area into a bustling port city.
Image courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Photojournal and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Adam Voiland.