PDD Geoguessr Challenge #17: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Petrozavodsk, Russia

Petrozavodsk, Russia. Photo based on an interpretation of aerial imagery by Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Petrozavodsk, Russia became a sister city of Duluth in 1987. With a population of 250,000, its Duluth’s largest sister city. Petrozavodsk is the capitol of the Republic of Karelia and located on the western shore of Lake Onega. Like Duluth, Petrozavodsk has a lakewalk that features art from its sister cities. In 1991, artist Rafael Consuegra won a national competition to represent Duluth in a sister cities sculpture exchange with Petrozavodsk. Below is a picture of his sculpture, The Fisherman, that I took with a disposable camera during my brief visit to the city nearly 20 years ago.

Rafael Consuegra’s “The Fisherman.” Photo by Matthew James

I had booked a trip on the Trans-Siberian train and while the route doesn’t go so close to Petrozavodsk, I was aware of the city and felt, accurately, that I wouldn’t be any closer any time soon. So I took a side trip for an overnight stay in Petrozavodsk. I thought that the above photo was the only remaining evidence that I was ever there, but I just went into the archives of the Yahoo Group that I used to have with my college friends and found a message that I had sent from the city itself. I remember nothing of the specific events related here. When I read it now, it feels a bit like something pulled from archive of Slim Goodbuzz. In any event, this was my impression of Petrozavodsk on September 25, 2006:

I finished You Shall Know Our Velocity on the train to Moscow. Afterwards, I realized I was moving for almost the entire time I was reading the book. And the last place he goes to is my next stop. Thanks again for the recommendation, Josh. I’m in Petrozavodsk, Russia, now. It’s Duluth’s sister city, the one I debated about going to. I was in Ekaterinburg last week, and it was really depressing. Lots of angry looking teenagers walking around in 80’s clothes with cigarettes hanging from their mouths and 40 ounce bottles of booze in their hands. The traffic was awful and the parks were empty and full of dead grass and the housing was mostly 50 year old concrete apartment blocks that hadn’t been kept up since they were built. I expected the same from this town. But it’s surprisingly nice. It’s full of green space and has tons of walking paths that are actually in use by lots of mostly non-drunk people. It has a lot of really busy streets, but most of them can be avoided by walking through a park and trail system that spreads across most of the city. And it has a really nice lakewalk, just like Duluth. I hate to admit it, but this city actually out-Duluth’s Duluth. And I came across some really pleasant things walking around today. All the leaves are changing colors and falling, and as I walked along a wooded path beside one of the schools, I could hear the brass band practicing. While going down a street with two pedestrian paths separated by a wide grassy area covered with trees, I passed a mom and her two daughters. About twenty feet behind them was a girl with a big smile on her face, hiding behind a tree and then darting forward to hide behind the next tree ahead, following what I assumed to be her family and trying not to be seen. The city is still a bit poor — plenty of concrete block housing (but in much better shape) but it seems far less depressed than the other cities I’ve been to here. I also finally found a place with internet (the hotel). So far, it’s been really hard to get access to in Russia. Also, eating has been difficult. None of the restaurants have English menus and all the food has meat. I usually get around this problem by eating out of convenience stores, but here I guess they have shoplifting problems, so instead of convenience stores they have these big booths on the street where you tell a woman inside what you want and you pay and then she hands it to you from inside her box. So if I can’t find a way to describe it, I can’t get it. But I can read Cyrillic now. I never realized how close to the English alphabet it is. It’s really close. So close that I can only brag about it if you don’t bother to look at it on Wikipedia and learn it yourself in twelve minutes.

Perhaps it happened after I sent that message, but I’m surprised I said nothing about the one occurrence that I still remember, something I regret to this day. Not having much else to do, I went to the university library directly across the street from my hotel. I was sitting at a table flipping through a book with pictures of the region when I noticed that the students next to me were all studying English. I had left the group of traveling tourists that I had met up with on the train and hadn’t had a real conversation with anyone in days. If they were all studying English, I thought they might be at least somewhat amused that they were sitting next to a native English speaker. I imagined starting up a conversation with them and that leading to perhaps going out for a drink and making some local friends. But before I could work up the courage to interrupt their silent study, they got up and left as a group. I immediately felt I missed the opportunity to create one of those travel experiences that remains memorable years after the travel has ended. Although given that is my strongest memory of the city 20 years later and I’m telling it here, I guess I actually did have one of those experiences, just not the one I hoped for.

Fortunately, other people from Duluth have succeeded in reaching out to people in Petrozavodsk and formed active relationships over the years. According to the Duluth sister cities website, “Our relationship with Petrozavodsk has supported medical exchanges, student exchanges, music, dance and art exchanges, as well as several far-reaching programs that explored new ways to support a healthy youth population in our communities.”

You can get a sense of the Petrozavodsk lake walk here:

Or explore the city through this week’s Geoguessr challenge. Each round has a time limit of 5 minutes.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #13: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Petrozavodsk, Russia

How to Play Geoguessr

GeoGuessr can be played on a laptop or desktop and on Android or IoS mobile devices with the GeoGuessr app. Just click on the link that fits how you play and create an account to start playing.

Every game consists of five locations based on a theme chosen by the game creator. You are shown a Streetview image stripped of all the informational labels that are normally overlayed onto the image. Unless the challenge specifically restricts it, you can move around and look for clues like street signs and business names to find out where you are. The image below shows a basic overview of the Geoguessr screen layout and controls.

Once you think you know the location — or are nearly out of time — you use the inset map to place your marker where you believe the round started. After you hit “Guess,” you will see how close you were to the correct location and how many points your guess earned. The closer you are to the location, the higher your score, with a maximum score of 5,000 points. On a map that covers a small area, like the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood, being off by a few blocks will cost you a lot of points. On a map that has locations from around the world, you will get nearly all the points just for finding the right city. The maximum error for a perfect score also changes by map size, but in general if you are within 50 feet (15 meters) you will always get the full 5,000 points.

Not often, but every now and then, GeoGuessr gets a little buggy. If the underlying Streetview imagery has changed since the game was made, sometimes it repeats the last round, gives a black screen, or doesn’t allow a guess to be made. If that happens, please let me know and I’ll update the challenge.

At the end of the five rounds, an overview screen shows your score for each round in addition to your guessing time and how far off you were from the correct location. The correct locations and your guesses are also shown on a map and you can click on any of the round numbers to review the locations. Additionally, the final screen in a challenge will show how you rank compared to the top scorers of the challenge. When choosing your user name, keep in mind that your user name and score per round will be visible to other players of the challenge.

If you have feedback on this challenge or ideas for future challenges, please share them in the comments below.

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