ARKHANGELSK: The number of people exercising along Arkhangelsk's seaside caught my attention. I don't remember many people jogging or biking when I was here for years ago. Maybe it's because the boardwalk has been repaired or maybe its just part of the outdoor fitness trend visible in many cities around Russia. I asked Eva, 16, if she bikes often along Arkhangelsk's seaside. She said her parents recently gave her the bike for her birthday. However, Eva said she has been playing sports since a young age and would like to study sports medicine. "My grandparents have doctorates in science - my grandmother in pharmaceuticals and my grandfather in dentisty. They advise me to pursue medicine and it interests me. A sport medicine because I have been ice skating since childhood and I simply want to combine these two interests."
ARKHANGELSK: ''I don't give myself a specific goal of, say, 5 kilometers to walk. I just walk back and forth along the seaside while I enjoy it,'' said this grandmother and retiree living in Arkhangelsk. She was out walking on a Sunday afternoon using her Scandinavian walking sticks. Several others were walking with such sticks in Arkhangelsk. She said it had become more popular in recent years. This retiree said she also goes to the gym a few times a week to exercise with machines and weights, something her doctor recommended. I asked her what she thought of it. ''I really like it. I feel good each time I go.''
ARKHANGELSK: It was like a scene from a movie or a magszine. A couple walking along a sunny, empty beach onevweekend morning. Except, this beach was about 250 km from the Arctic circle. Ilya, who met his girlfriend Ksenia this summer, said he likes Arkhangelsk and has no plans to leave. "Each street reminds me of my childhood or youth. All my relatives are here. I met my best friends and girlfriend here. I love this city for its history, architecture and nature," said Ilya, 25, who works for a diamond mining company outside Arkhangelsk. As he works on a two-week rotation basis, he doesn't see Ksenia, 23, every day, but they communicate regularly via social media he said.
ARKHANGELSK: "A person is like a book - each one of us has our own story. A book about me would be a melodrama. I didn't have the happy childhood that others had," said Elizaveta, an Arkhangelsk university student. She was sitting by herself in a cafe drawing a boy with big eyes. She said she draws to express her thoughts and feelings and was inspired by the Hollywood film 'Big Eyes.' Elizaveta is studying to be a speech therapist. She said she grew up in a town where mоre people than usual have health issues and that partially influenced her decision to chose such a profession. "My dream is to go to Germany to see how speech therapy is done there and in general learn more about their medical practices. I am trying hard to reach my goals."
ARKHANGELSK: "I served in the armed forces in Armenia and the smell of coffee is everywhere there. People there drink coffee in all situations. It was there that I learned understood what coffee is," said Alexander, 29, who was working the coffee-to-go kiosk he owns on the pedestrian street in Arkhangelsk. Such freshly-brewed coffee kiosks can now be found in most major Russian cities, but three years ago they basically did not exist. Since then, they have sprung up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, to use a popular Russian expression, from Vladivostok to Ulan-Ude and Irkutsk to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Alexander opened his in Arkhangelsk three years ago. "I made a lot of mistakes - from the professionalism of the baristas to tge quality of the coffee," he said when I asked why he didn't yet expand. "You can't give up," he said. "He who gives up doesn't achieve anything."
ARKHANGELSK: ''My twin sister and I are planning right now to move to Moscow because of the job market here. People of my age are leaving, but they are choosing St Petersburg, not Moscow," said Daria, 25, who works in real estate. "There isn't much work and the salaries are disappointing. I was working as an engineer, but left because I was earning a very small salary. I now earn three times more." According to local people, the median salary is around 15,000-20,000 rubles ($250-$300 based on the current ruble-dollar rate).
ARKHANGELSK: The sunny autumn Sunday morning brought quite a few people to the partially refurbished seaside in Arkhangelsk. Some jogged on the asphalt, others ran along the sandy beach, while these two friends and first-time mothers took their newborns out for a walk.
ARKHANGELSK: "We are not alike in character. I am more creative," said Nastya (left) about her twin sister Vika. They were walking in Malye Karelya, a park on the outskirts of Arkhangelsk city filled with historical wooden architecture from Northern Russia. Nastya said she loved to write poetry and would read it to Vicka, but she didn't show strong interest. "She is far from [poetry]," said Nastya.
St. Petersburg: Maria, 28, was working as a manager at an authorized Apple reseller in St Petersburg when she hired Max, 26. Now the two plan to get married this autumn in Las Vegas. Maria grew up in Arkhangelsk to the north of St. Petersburg, but moved to Russia's cultural capital some 10 years ago. Max grew up in Kostroma in central Russia and moved to St. Petersburg to study law.