Of all the ports we have been in I have to say this is my favorite so far. It has character and so much bustling activity in the port. There are all sorts of seafaring ships here including Russian warships and even an American one!! (we are here in October 2011.. I doubt you would have an American warship there today).
The city is buit right up to the sea and it is very interesting architecture, very European. Did you know this is where Yul Brynner was born and raised (the King and I ) his dad was a very successful entrepreneur in shipping and mining and they had a beautiful house which you can still see from the ship. His dad left his mom when he was twelve and then everything went to hell, as sometimes happens in those situations.
We need our passports here but at least we are not fingerprinted! We meet JT and Cary (the DJ on the ship and his friend a radio broadcaster with his own show in California) at the train station which is also famous, this is the Siberian line! The last stop on the longest continuing railroad track in the world. The trans Siberian was used a lot by western travelers to get to China and Japan.
Our day is mostly walking and we will be lame by the time we get back to the ship. The boys are tall and have long legs but they let let us catch up at important turns…lol. Carey does a couple interviews (he is using this as a working holiday) and we more or less just bum around and see the sights.
Ok this is my impression of Vladivostok. Everywhere there is construction apparently the APEC Summit is going to be in this city next year (2012). This must be very important to them because they are building whole big ‘open air squares’ ! The roads are atrocious with crumbling pavement on sidewalks and roads alike.We need to be very careful and ALWAYS look where we are walking.
For some strange reason I always pay attention to the vehicles and here I am surprised again (as with Japan) the cars are fairly new and clean, also not beat up or dented. Another surprise is how many they have and with two types of steering, left and right sided. I found out later that Japan sends many of it’s used cars here and this is a major trading source. They also have a ‘cash for clunkers’ program …too funny.
Another big eye opener and I am not sure what I expected (maybe Baba’s in head scarf) is the people! They are tall and they are thin and they are gorgeous.. even the guys. Well dressed and I mean well dressed ! it would be fair to say that most of us off the cruise ship were conspicuous in our casual wear.. dowdy even!
These people know how to dress and further more I have NEVER seen so many fashionable clothes and ‘spiked heels’ ! The men at our dinner table that evening were very appreciative of all this. They have Gucci even in Russia. I cannot comprehend how they can afford to dress (these clothes are very expensive) and drive cars. I found out later that the women save their money to buy one or two great outfits and they take care of them and wear them often because they are all looking to attract a mate.. really? Yep.. that is what an informer told me.
Everywhere we went , people were walking with a purpose to somewhere. They would smile somewhat if you looked directly at them but otherwise not so friendly. Traffic jams everywhere on these ‘barely’ roads. . It should also be noted here that everyone smokes.. even the children.. na just kidding. They walk and smoke, woman and men. They do not recycle as evidenced by the cans and bottles on the streets (not overly garbage though.. made up another word).
Looks like they are in the process of transforming this city. I don’t know if it will hold, because even the new structures, sidewalks in granite and marble were already chipping and breaking up but obviously new.. just saying.
A specialty store that is famous for chocolate is on our itinerary, some made only from this locality with a special stamp on it. We load up on chocolate (JT buys for his family, he carries it in his backpack, I buy one box, he carries that too). We open my box at lunch and are so excited to try this chocolate and.. it falls flat.. ah well. I will offer it around at our dinner table to get rid of it.
Getting Russian money (rubles) is not easy here and most merchants won’t take American money or visa. I offer to help two of the girls from the spa (they didn’t have much time on shore) one is my friend from Jamacia. I did the exchange thing at an ATM in port.. leaving my prescription glasses on top of the machine. To make a long story short I went back right away but they were gone. I hope some Russian is wearing them.. they will need them for all the potholes on their streets. yeah!
We go check out a Russian nuclear submarine on display (no nukes left in it .. kinda eerie though) they take American money. The bunk beds are situated right beside the nuclear missiles .. geeze, if you had a party in there and it got ugly it could be quite a ‘blast’. Sharon buys three hats in the little souvenir shop , one is for Colin her son (he esp. wanted a Russian hat!) again they take American money.
Oh and we visited a beautiful little chapel situated by the submarine kinda ‘incongruous’ . I really like this city and we have trekked all over it.. or so our feet tell us.So the only thing to really buy here in Russia is the Russian hats and nesting dolls that are very popular.. and that is a good thing!
We run into some university students that have been let loose to pracise their English and hopefully German on us tourists. We then run across a group of high school students up on a grassy park area, they are so obviously skipping school and getting drunk.. ah well. We are in a great city .. It is a GLORIOUS day …sunshine and very warm.
After a long and really interesting day exploring Vladivostok we settle back into a deck chair onboard ship facing the dock. Our feet are hurting so bad we are hobbling.. lol but so is everyone else! Now here is the most amazing part of our departure.
This port sees only two cruise ships a year, one in May and one in October. People are streaming onto the top of the train station (it has a huge flat roof encompassing the whole station).
There is a flood of people streaming onto the platforms and roof of the station! Apparently they are here to watch our ship leave port!!! We are getting a send off like I have never seen before. The crowd is really patient and stay put..we leave port an hour late. When we blow the whistle (captain does that not us…lol) they are cheering and waving and cars are honking and omg…!!!! I feel like I am on the Titanic…..lol we can still see the flashes of the cameras as we are leaving the harbor .. it is dark already. These people look liked they stayed until we were out of site. I will always remember this…wow! It was one of those moments.