7/4 - Vladivostok
Today's pretty simple: book Japan, pull that info out, check the reg situation, then plan and do as much as possible of my Vladivostok tourism.
Sunrise is late here (because we're not actually GMT+11, duh) and gray, so I actually have to set an alarm for 7 to wake up in time to get cracking. If I take an evening bus back from Harbin, it may be easier to catch, but not only will I not see anything on the way back, I'll arrive still effectively in the middle of the night.
Cut another damn lace -- same boot -- this morning. Good thing I have spares and backups to the spares.
I didn't ask about re-reg, but will tonight. It's not important till tomorrow anyway. I'm apparently running an hour fast, as the battery hasn't opened yet. Oh well; time to take a break and write up some pics, and decide if I like kvas.
0397. Graffiti dudes on a wall between Port Royal and the hotel.
0398. This isn't an ad, it's a real city sign.
0399. Fishing boat out in Amur Bay.
0400. Real liquid bread. It's not out of an actual бочка, but I figure "Mug and Keg" brand kvas is at least a decent imitation of artisanal, at least as I'll get here on the foggy east coast. Kvas, for the uninitiated, is a Russian traditional beverage made by fermenting leftover black bread, customarily sold out of a tank on the street in the summer months. It's got a sweet-and-sour taste that is not directly comparable to anything that Americans are familiar with; maybe a Goya malt soda, only not bad. As indicated, this isn't a taste-and-bin, but as long as there are uncollected beer caps, I'm probably not going to lay any more in.
0401. Sovietism: smokestack and Olympic sports center.
0402. Do we call this Инглиц (Inglits)? The idea is green+drink, but putting it together like this looks silly.
0403. Subduction zone. A perennial problem in Vladivostok, which is kind of built on a vertical seamount. When the fill underneath goes, the pavement is next.
0404. Chinese gate at the end of the sports complex.
0405. Up the steps to the first emplacements.
0406. Further up; anti-air weapons.
0407. The fort is still garrisoned.
0408. Inside the berm.
0409. Back of the signboard; view of the beach in earlier times.
0410. 12.7mm ammo can, converted to a wastebasket.
0411. Vladivostok from the fortress crest.
0412. AA mount and the start of the casemates.
0413. Torpedo and wall gun.
0414. Courtyard and museum door.
0415. Inside; artifacts from pre-Russian occupants.
0416. Map of early settlements.
0417. Full view, old Vladivostok crest.
0418. Bust of Semonov, founder of the Russian city here.
0419. View of old fortifications; stand-in since I can't get to Dalian. The defenses here were on the same model as Port Arthur, which is a good deal more famous.
0420. Fort diorama and old shell.
0421. More 11" shells.
0422. Old fortress gun cast into a concrete plug. The garrison jury-rigged these due to a lack of modern artillery in the Russo-Japanese War; the concrete helped reduce the chance of barrel burst with modern powder and prevented the Japanese from picking off the gunners, since the guns mounted this way were old beaters that were easily outranged by the more modern cannon on the attacking ships. Absurdity from ingenuity, the Russian way.
0423. Slate for 0422.
0424. Old harquebuses and fortress guns.
0425. Fort collection of modern weapons; the fort used to be a training center as well, hence the representative NATO stuff.
0426. Communism corner.
0427. Confiscated from the (pre-revolutionary) opium dens.
0428. More police seizures -- everything from nunchucks to a sharpened fencing foil.
0429. Automatic grenade launcher.
0430. Machine gun carriages from the Civil War era.
0431. Breech chunk of a 9" gun.
0432. Fortress casemate diorama.
0433. Shell fragments recovered during renovation.
0434. Ammo tray for a 20mm quick-firer.
0435. Garrison arms from Bredan to AK-47.
0436. Exhibit hall view.
0437. Japanese-built Colt-Browning .50.
0438. Recovered from Japanese troops in Manchuria.
0439. Memorial slab, outside.
0440. Naval ensign over the casemates.
0441. Ikon in the fortress wall.
0442. Along the casemates.
0443. AA carriages in the courtyard.
0444. 1900 impression date and wall.
0445. AK-160 minigun.
0446. '50s-vintage heavy cruiser gun.
0447. Ships off the main pier.
The rain made it a little troublesome to write, but I've got this done up, and it's time to move on. Next point: the regional history museum.
0448. Up the hill; a real Asian look.
0449. Go-kart hall in Soviet style. Most of downtown Vladivostok is pre- or post-communist, so this '70s Soviet modernism is wicked rare.
0450. Cover-up. A Soviet-era mural is slowly obscured by new development.
0451. The FESCO clock; more of a sculpture than a functioning timepiece.
It's still pretty early, so I can finish this Myel'nik (windmill something), do the local history museum, and then get lunch and/or provisions before hiking around the Horn to the marine cemetery. Tour hard.
Local History Museum!
The well-famed tiger versus bear area was closed for renovations, but the actual exhibits weren't.
0452. Doors in the stairwell; under renovation.
0453. No banister, no problem.
0454. Cut stained-glass window.
0455. Side view -- this is too badass for words.
0456. Artifacts of Russian China; this probably isn't part of the Larissa Andersen collection, but folk should look her up anyway. A f'real Russian Millennium Actress.
0457. Carved chest, same exhibit.
0458. Artifacts of the Harbin and Shanghai concessions.
0459. Old Harbin view and a contemporary gramophone.
0460. Russian cold steel.
0461. Japanese, from the same exhibit. There was a lecture going on in this room, and I prioritized not disturbing others over getting non-blurry pictures...and really, you can see samurai swords whenever the hell you want.
0462. Chinese swords: nice form, horrible craft, all they've got going for them is blade thickness.
0463. "Post Russia" introductory plaque. This was a cool art installation.
0464. View of most of the exhibit.
0465. All meine alte Deutschen put ya haende up, yo.
0466. Break-in relief. This part of the museum was under renovation and not technically open, but it's Russia, shit's not locked or guarded or anything, so I went in, rolling my heels, and saw some cool stuff, including this.
Moving on; got to hike around the Horn in the wind and rain.
0467. War memorial stela on the harbor.
0468. PBF goes to kindergarten.
0469. Dwarflord-looking-guy in a parklet.
0470. Reconstructed Nicholas Arch, same park.
0471. Pre-Soviet bosses in the wall of a restaurant.
0472. Assist mirror. Vladivostok is legendarily full of RHD cars with bad sight lines; these aftermarket mirrors give better outside (not "driver's side") visibility, and hopefully cut down on accidents.
0473. Under the bridge. The Golden Link is also pedestrian-enabled, and I hope to come back topside.
0474. The former location of the ASW memorial.
0475. Up under the underside.
0476. ASW memorial; moved to still have a harbor view instead of bridge pylons.
0477. Plaques for individual ships.
0478. Pacific Fleet, anchored under the bridge.
0479. Mooring pier, further along.
0480. Badass view under the Golden Link.
0481. Onion domes and boxing promotion; Russia in the popular mind.
0482. Navy monument, looking out to the Horn.
0483. Watch dogs? Moar liek screw-around-or-whatever dogs.
Another break, drain the other beer out; there's still pickles for the rest of the way, and it's not like south Vladivostok is uninhabited.
0484. Orthodox priest on his celly. Black robes, so it's probably his wife giving him the business.
As it turned out, no marine cemetery, but I did hike the Golden Link, which is something at least.
0485. Memorial to the fallen of the Russo-Japanese War.
0486. Pacific Fleet museum courtyard. The actual museum was closed.
0487. Japanese light tank, select shot.
0488. Russian PT boat.
0489. Minisub; this thing is like Huntley scale.
0490. That Japanese tank, close view.
0491. Hat for scale. This thing had a crew of 3 (driver, gunner/commander, loader), but is like mobile-suit sized for the likes of me.
0492. Admiral Kuznetsov memorial plaque, actual museum.
0493. Crest of a northeast Vladi hill.
0494. Panel of a Soviet-era public art piece.
0495. Non-Orthodox church.
0496. Another memorial to fighters in the East.
0497. Soviet mural, heading into east Vladivostok.
0498. Up into the east Vladivostok hills.
0499. East Vladi panorama; the east end of the Horn.
0500. Traditional kvas dispenser.
0501. Railroad bridge underside; cool view, bad place to get stuck. One mad dash a hundred feet on, though, and I was in the clear.
0502. Culvert, south Vladivostok.
0503. Rail spur back to the east.
0505. Soviet-era wall art.
0506. North across the Horn.
0507. Tower crane and north hillside.
0508. Graffitied Soviet mosaic.
0509. North to the navy drydock.
0510. Lumber depot on this side.
0511. Memorial stone for 1901, and also the entrance to a hillside hobo camp.
0512. Foot of the Golden Link.
0513. Bridge towers north.
0514. The poorly-sited Hotel Meridian. Seriously, why on earth -- excepting business on this side -- would you stay short-term in south Vladivostok?
0515. Up the span. Foot traffic's allowed 7am-9pm.
0516. Yeah, I hiked across this.
0517. Guided-missile cruiser berthed on the north side -- those things that in the US fleet, you'd expect to be torpedo tubes, are for surface-to-surface anti-ship missiles. This is what you do when you can't build anything big enough to stage modern fighters out of correctly. Almost certainly Varyag.
0518. Tall ship in the harbor.
0519. Down to the Dimitry Donskoy -- not the SSBN, just a normal surface ship with the name.
0520. Long shot along the south shore.
0521. Northwest into the crook of the Horn.
0522. East Vladivostok, lost in fog.
0523. Far hill to the southwest.
0524. Frigates of the Pacific Fleet.
0525. Along Svetlanskaya, high above.
0526. Reminder of the old days.
0527. Statue and sarcophagus (?) of Duke Nikolai, headed westbound and down.
Well, that was an experience. If you've never done a crap with a knife between your teeth because the cubicle door has gotten kicked in at some point and won't close, come on down to Russia. It's a goddamned trip.
Tomorrow, I find out about registration and decide if I'm going to China. If not, "new beer and crab chips" sounds like an excellent plan till I sail for Japan.
7/5 - Vladivostok
Today's the decision: if it's possible to get my current reg, and if I can confirm transit links, I head out to China tonight, leaving most of my gear in place. This is kind of risky, but you can take risks, or you can avoid fun things. If it's not going to come off, oh well; I'm sure I can fill the two days in the schedule with something else, probably that day trip to Ussuriysk and another hike over the Golden Link to the Marine cemetery.
Well, the registration was super easy. Now for the bus parts...
No out from Harbin -- plane too late, train too slow, bus too unreliable and beureaucratic. That being decided, I don't need to change any of my USD for RMB. I do, however, need to go to the train station to check times and prices to Ussuriysk before going completely hog wild on caps and crab chips. I spent more than intended yesterday, but some will last and other was museums. Souvenirs can probably wait till Japan.
0528. In case of terrorism. These government-issue posters are just hung up in the hotel. It's informative to know about blast radii I guess?
0529. Exactly what you want a port-town, beachside bar to be called. Now that I'm in town for the weekend, I can probably go up here and get a bite, or at least pester the staff until they put on Running Wild.
0530. Mural/sign in front of the market.
It's a good thing I don't actually need to go anywhere today, because my left knee is throbbing at a low boil, complaining of all the punishment I threw at it yesterday. Thus, in addition to two packs of crab ships and five new caps -- there's probably less than 10 left, and then I have to hit the minimart on Svetlanskaya and pay their dumb prices -- I have a bag of dried shredded squid for protein content; bread, beer, and pickles don't have much in the way of Rohstoff for joint rebuilds.
Critically, the local produkti has Haerpi. I thus get both normal and limited-edition caps without setting foot in China. Apparently, this beer -- or at least the variants on immediate offer -- is like 3.5%. It's hot and sticky enough out that I'm not complaining, but srsly. Illusions shattered.
0531. Ships out on the bay.
0532. The fog gets caught on the towers.
Because it was late and I didn't have much in the way of proper food today, I went out and hit up the produki again. Barring cans and American beers, I'm pretty sure I've completed all the unique caps from this place, which brings me to 40 on the trip. There are other pick-your-own opportunities in Vladivostok, but as I've found, they tend to be more expensive than this one. Also:
0533. "In my country, we have only one kind of cheese -- it's called cheese!"
Yes, lulz, ok.
Tomorrow, despite dawning in Russia rather than China, is full of possibilities. I need to check about setting up a Ussuriysk trip for Monday (tomorrow's too soon and stuff may be closed on Sunday), see if Luch has a home game soon, and then finish off the last of my pre-planned tourpoints.
7/6 - still Vladivostok
The fog's cleared off a little -- I can see the headland on the other side of the inlet now -- but it's still hanging over everything. This is mostly an off day, and tomorrow may be as well, but there's still stuff to do, and if I can keep the boil on, I can get it done.
My knee's feeling a little better, but I pushed it really hard Thursday, so in a way these largely rest days are a good thing. There's no good way across the main hill of southwest Vladivostok, and I want to be sure it's in top condition before I have to go back across it in full pack Wednesday morning.
0534. Far shore, socked in. There are often ships in the anchorage off the point, but with the fog coming in last night, they all cleared off for deeper and wider waters.
For Ussuriysk, the bus appears to be the best bet; about 2 hours on, so if I can get the 7:40 I'll be golden -- and if not, there's a 9:25 and 9:50. I'll need provisions, but that shouldn't be too hard. Return is unspecified, but probably close to a 2:15 offset from departures. Now I just need to find the bus station...
It's going to be a hike of several kicks to the bus station if I can't figure out a quicker way, but why not? Let's move and see if it's realistic.
I didn't find the bus station. However, I did find a pretty neat 3-hour hike, and a parade in the bargain.
0535. This event area is packed for what turned out to be dragon boat races.
0536. Powering in.
0537. Ship out in the bay beyond.
0538. An old-style open car takes some newlyweds up from the battery embankment to the center.
0539. Crossing over; a more pedestrian marker.
As soon as you cross the tracks, you're immediately out of the urban bustle and into quiet residential streets. It's about as sharp a transition as you'll find.
0540. Traps from the pedestrian side.
0541. Sweep of the tracks off to the north.
0542. Graffiti on the rail embankment.
0543. Overgrowth and pipeline.
0544. Steps up to the tracks to cross back over.
0545. Defaced caution sign.
0546. New construction and container terminal.
0547. Plastic deer and Christmas stuff on a Chinese restaurant. Ok then.
0548. So there's where those guys from the Hilltop ended up...
0549. Name bricked in. Most of the time Soviet construction puts the build date like this.
0550. Orthodox church and tower crane.
0551. Closer to the church.
0552. Different angle, more towers.
0553. Murals on the erosion control wall.
0554. Close-up on the Imperial fleet.
0555. More mural sections.
0556. Ship mural on an apartment building.
video10: Head of the parade.
0557. We have SUVimos, Russia has stretch vans.
0558. The parade stacks up over the hill.
0559. Red banners advance; yes, it's 2013.
The people carrying the flags looked like members of a veterans' association, in which case it's not real surprising.
0560. A group of Chinese marines watches the parade.
0561. Back west; blue sky in the center, but the hills hold the fog in here.
0562. Iron Angels MC local chapter taking a break.
So today was a good day after all...and I just need to figure out how and when I'm doing Ussuriysk, and I'll be fair well set on Russia.
0563. Afternoon; the sun's drifting off to the west, and it's burned off all the fog.
0564. Actually-visible ships in the anchorage.
0565. Glorious sunset. There's no need for the sun to be going down at 10 PM at this latitude.
0566. Ship and burning clouds.
So I didn't end up going out, but that's ok. I did a lot in the morning, and if I push it I can probably do Ussuriysk and (or at least or) bars tomorrow.
7/7 - Vladivostok
One way or another, I'm going to figure out how to do Ussuriysk today, and hopefully get it done as well. The two-hour trip is a little heavy, but sunset comes late here for no reason, and I'm seriously out of other stuff to do in the three days remaining before I sail. Train to bus of bus to to bus or train and feet, I'm gonna make this work.
So I got on the 60 bus going the wrong way. And it's not a loop. On the plus side, I got to see a lot of southwest Vladivostok that I otherwise would not have.
0567. Light filters down across the ridge.
0568. Tree and slope, southwest Vladivostok.
0569. Out into the Eastern Bosporous.
0570. Full view from this land's-end.
0571. Bridge across the strait to Russkiy Island. I didn't hike this one.
0572. Into the bay from Kazanskiy Most.
0573. Freight rail yards south of the passenger station.
0574. Church on Kazanskiy.
0575. Mural on the outside of "Shishabar".
0576. Memorial in a parklet in the southwest.
I was not able to figure out hos to work the ticket machines, and the current next train for Ussuriysk appears to be like 5 PM. Going to try for a 60 going the other way at the bus depot, and if I fail it, just head home, sack out, and think of other things to do.
0577. Chinese navy making a port call.
0578. Odd little statue on Admiral Fokina.
The minimarket on Svetlanskaya is a bonanza. Despite looting 5 new caps -- including a Tri Medvedya (Three Bears) special edition -- there are at least three more waiting, including a Tuborg on a pull ring. With such a different selection half a kilometer apart I can't be sure I'll finish Vladivostok, despite this new load taking me out to 25 caps here alone. Add the ~20 collected from Helsinki to Ekaterinburg, and I'm not sure I'll have space for any other souvenirs of my own.
Souvenirs for everyone else will go in on Tuesday, probably; Monday I make one last great push at Ussuriysk -- or just hit the alcomart and hope some of the mollusc booze has filtered down.
0579. Pony corps, headed down to the beach.
0580. Front view of Admiral Makarov.
0581. Whaleboat racing in the bay.
0582. Entering the lists.
0583. Dragon boat rounding at the ruined pier.
0584. Following the leader.
0585. Out into the bay.
video11: How Russians do crew.
0586. Whaleboats past the ruined pier.
0587. Banner for the dragon boat races.
0588. Dragon boats turning in.
0589. Standing out to sea.
If I hadn't done that hike this morning, I'd feel like a bad tourist, but I do have a tendency to go native, and a Sunday in watching TV with beer and pickles is kind of wicked Russian. If only the FNL was on TV, or Luch was at home...
A Few Words On (70)
Tarzan at the Earth's Core (E.R. Burroughs)
Crossover time! Jason Gridley needs help saving the emperor of Pellucidar, so who you gonna call? It's Burroughs, so of course, Tarzan of the Apes. The mashup is a little forced at first, but quickly gets cranked up, and if the conclusion is a little crammed, there's a lot of monster-fighting and cavegirl-wooing on the way, and despite the lack of screen time, the Waziri get multiclassed to fighter-engineers, as good as it's going to get for black characters in this period. Good stuff, but ultimately it's a crossover and limited by such.
0590. The fog starts to roll in.
0591. Fishing boat headed for the shacks in our inlet.
I've finished the Svetlanskaya minimart, and am within two caps of finishing the local produkti unless some of the American beers (Bud, Miller, etc) have pull tops. The only problem is that drinking through it is some hard fucking metal: I have an "Amsterdam" in the fridge at 7%, and a second Охота (Hunter) (hockey world championships edition) at 8%. As usual, I leave the hard bit for last. It's only four beers in this load, you say; well yes, but it's two liters (about six American servings) and half of it, as described, is overproof, leading to an alcohol load of about 8 beers, and I already put away 5 (2.5 liters, .5 liter overproof) this afternoon. As the pictures show, I'm seeing stuff still instead of just drinking my vacation away, but bottlecap collecting, at least done this way and at this intensity (closing in on 50 caps this trip) is not a hobby for the lightweight.
0592. Sitting right in.
FFS, even the DV special edition is overproof. It's a good thing I'm doing this particular load at night. Bars are obviously out of the question, but really, I probably want to wait till they're not full of Chinese sailors on liberty.
Finally, after nearly 5 days on the line in shifts, my laundry is done, and I can open the balcony door unhindered. It didn't take this long in Germany, but there I had tent poles also and less to wash -- plus I could open the damn windows.
0593. The fog covers the shore.
0594. Look along the main face of the hotel.
0595. Superhero standee on the apartment side.
0596. The fog blankets the inlet.
0597. Мой балкон.
0598. View down on the short side.
0599. View right along the hotel.
0600. View left; another dude has the same idea.
0601. I told you this was a Soviet ruin.
0602. Close view of the entrance decorations.
0603. Sitting out in the bay. The same ship from before; its purpose now becomes more clear.
video13: Lit up like the proverbial Fourth of July.
video14: Finale -- sparks burn away to black.
Damn, that was unexpected -- and pretty killer. Guess I don't have to wait till I get to Japan for random summer fireworks.
As shown, the first weekend in July is not a bad time at all to be in Vladivostok.
7/8 - Vladivostok
Today, I make one last try at getting to the main bus station to take the 501 north. I thoroughly expect to fail, because there is no direct route that doesn't involve walking on the highway.
Google Maps is a goddamn liar. Anisimova does not connect, by any means worthy of the name, to a loop inland downhill of the Khabarovskaya complex. This determined, I went back, but got some decent pictures and a cloud bath -- plus the sure knowledge that you can't really get to the bus stop from southwest Vladivostok.
0604. Whale mural by the Ocean theater complex.
0605. Another neat mural by the theater.
0606. Dinamo stadium gate.
0607. An unusual parking attendant.
0608. Golden tire for this auto mechanic's.
0609. Russian construction safety. The concrete blocks keep cars from hitting you while you avoid walking in the giant hole.
I got 2 of the last 3 caps; the remaining one will fall tonight or tomorrow. Technically, there is another, but I reserve the right to not collect stuff with mangoes in it, even if it has a pull ring.
0610. I'm not going to this. I do need to look up the bands, though.
Despite blowing through a huge amount of rubles -- less the 560 I need to get on the boat, I have about 2000 left -- I am in a decent position on souvenirs. I've got most of work and half my family covered, and if I still have my девушкий to take care of, I've at least got that mostly planned, and some of this stuff isn't available till Japan anyway.
My get of souvenirs from this time out is the 34th and 35th caps of Vladi, and a ДВО patch that I'm not going to sew into my jacket till we're outbound from Korea. I don't wear it, and the formation itself is defunct, but I'm still not messing.
I will probably try to draw 3k or so tomorrow, and finish up (sorta) my souvenirs at a cost of nearly 2k (planned). My remaining exchange USD will go mostly into yen, smallwise into won at the port exchange office. After that, all that will remain is to eat and drink down my remaining provisions, and get ready for the ferry. Oh, and put my 30-odd beer bottles into a garbage bag rather than just on the floor.
0611. Sailboats in the inlet.
0612. Just a normal day in southwest Vladivostok.
7/9 - Vladivostok
My last full day in Russia; as mentioned, job 1 is going to be most of the rest of the souvenirs (hopefully), but for now I'm doing recon on Donghae and Sakaiminato. Once I get to Hiroshima, I can recon the remaining areas, but I need to get there first, and I'm fair sure I don't have a Donghae map on paper.
Info out, hotel confirm "printed" to file; I'll need to check that later once I'm out of range, but for now, there's stuff to do, at least for a little while.
I hit up the bankomat successfully, but it's still too damn early for any shops to be open, so I got a roll and, unbelievably, another new cap, then headed down to the battery to sit a while.
0613. Green dragon sign on Admiral Fokina.
0614. Square of the Sister Cities.
0615. Unquiet seas. The wind is driving the water in from the bay, and it's not impossible that we might see some actual heavy weather this afternoon.
Well, that's done. What I don't have yet of the souvenirs, I can get tomorrow waiting for the boat. All that's left is to repack all my crap tonight, then check out and ship out tomorrow.
I've definitely enjoyed my time in Russia, and while I'm looking forward to Japan and potential liberty in Donghae, I'm also kinda ready to go back home. After a while, the lack of communication starts to wear on your, and it's not helped by being wicked bastarding hot all the goddamned time. This second will only get worse in Japan, but my Japanese is much better than my Russian, and the places I'm going, Miyajima aside, are all flat, so I'm not going to be -- well, as often -- drenched in sweat from trudging up and down hills all day. We'll see when we get there; I may be overrating my language skills and underrating the terrain, and there's still the boat tomorrow too. Take nothing for granted.
The weather cleared right up; I'm probably going to go out and get dinner, breakfast, and boat provender in, and maybe the remaining souvenirs, depending on staffing levels, but I want to wait a little to cut down some on the damned heat. Everything is as packed as it's going to get for the time being, so I'm kind of wedded to my shirt choice for tomorrow. I'm planning to "use up" the Russia shirt and do Japan in my hoops and AC top, but it needs to survive till tomorrow still.
0616. Final count. Nineteen caps to VVO, 38 collected on-site. This is kind of ridiculous.
Dinner got and consumed, and I'd be done with souvenirs if I was more assertive. Oh well. More packing done, more cleaning done, ready to hit the road.
0617. Mountains across the bay. It's always been too hazy to see, but the mainland is right across Amur Bay there.
0618. Ranges behind ranges. To the left, eventually, you get to Kasan and Tumagan -- but I'm not going that way.