Cold Russia

I was up bright and early to take my breakfast before getting off the ship to experience Vladivostok. It was sunny and much warmer than I thought it would be in Russia. Vladivostock is best known as the Pacific end of the 5778 mile long Trans-Siberian Railway. We could see it from the ship. I grabbed my espresso power smoothie from Fernando and debarked to look around.

The first thing we saw was the Statue of Lenin so we all took our photo opportunities. A group of shady characters hovered around the base and I was suddenly very aware of my purse. There were food stalls set up nearby selling candy, cookies, and even meats of every variety. I said hi to a couple of police walking by and they were not friendly at all. Just then, a bunch of happy children on a field trip crossed our path so it offset that awful energy. Little did I know that those children would really be the only smiling faces I would see in this port.

The streets were in pretty bad shape and I found most of the buildings dirty, old, and drab. We basically just wandered around for several hours and try as I might, I could not get a smile from anyone. In fact, many of the people scowled at me and some even sneered. It wasn’t a good feeling at all. I tried to have compassion for these people who are still probably not used to outsiders. Closed to the outside world for most of the Soviet period, the Primorsky Territory has only been open to tourists since July 1992.

I checked out a supermarket and found that the prices were generally lower here than what I am used to. There were also gigantic beers in the cooler but we didn’t partake. I doubt I could have managed to even lift it up to drink it.

We found a church with the onion shaped tops that are unique to Russia. The super shiny blue and gold domes could be seen all the way across town. Inside there were lots of people saying prayers and lighting candles but there were no chairs. I think maybe that is because they were renovating.

We searched for the market but couldn’t seem to find it. Barely anyone spoke English and no one understood it either. Their language is hard to pronounce so you can imagine our troubles trying to communicate. Finally in the end, we did find the market but it was mostly home stuffs and clothes. Nothing that any of us wanted or needed. I was much more fascinated with the cats.

There were a couple really rough looking tom cats roaming around and one was still bleeding from a fight. I heard some mewing coming from a junk pile and I investigated further to find a tiny little kitten. She was adorable and must have only been a few weeks old. It took everything I had in me not to scoop her up and smuggle her onboard. I miss my cat.

As we trotted back to the ship, we all began noticing the unbelievable heels that most of the women were wearing. How they could walk in those things on these dreadful excuses for sidewalks, I will never know. The women were tall and quite thin, some of them resembling mannequins from a store window. But none of them smiled. The men wore steely expresssionless faces and they didn’t seem to take style as seriously as their women did.

My impression of Russia is not one that would bring me back anytime soon. I suppose the largest country in the world has some warming up to do and I don’t mean temperature wise.

Grateful for understanding.

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