Siberia, Russia 2 – 11/2014
Arriving in Vladivostok, the port city on the far southern coast of eastern Russia, our first priority was to meet Yuri Melnikov, our shipping agent. Yuri would arrange our customs exit from Russia and our ferry passage to South Korea. Next, we had to wash off the grime from The Turtle V of over 4,000 miles of Siberian winter roads. Then we took advantage of a day of rest to explore this old Russian port. In 1860, the military supply ship Manchur, under the command of Captain-Lieutenant Alexey K. Shefner, called at the Golden Horn Bay to found an outpost called Vladivostok.The name Vladivostok loosely translates from Russian as “the ruler of the East”. The city had been closed to all foreigners until 1992.
Signs of the crumbling Soviet empire were still to be seen, but the city was warm and inviting and many of the old buildings have been beautifully restored, including the historic train depot, the terminus of the infamous Trans-Siberian Railway. There was a feeling of being in a “city by the bay” like our own San Francisco, with amazing suspension bridges, some of the highest in the world, and relaxing promenades along the waterfront. A street guitarist played the Beatles’ song, “Let it Be” when we strolled by. As we had felt 18 years ago, despite political differences, Russians still want to identify with all the images of the European and Western world, clearly evidenced by the street ads and billboards. In fact, despite the recent problems of Georgia and the Ukraine, all the people we met here and on the road were very friendly and a few were genuinely excited to meet both Americans and Swiss foreigners for the first time. The USA and CH country stickers and the Swiss and American flags on the rear of The Turtle V just above the California license plate were met with the same extension of Russian hospitality we had experienced in 1996. We were joined at the port by a nice French couple, Maéva and Remi, traveling in a huge Mercedes motorhome with two big dogs. Having already experienced several mechanical problems with their overloaded vehicle, we again felt lucky that we had only relatively minor difficulties on our whole Trans-Eurasian adventure. As The Turtle V was driven away to load on the Eastern Dream ferry, we gave ourselves a big “thumbs up”, having completed our second crossing of Eurasia, this time from West to East, and with only South Korea and the Pacific Ocean on the horizon, our second adventure around the world. Standing on a pier at the water’s edge, yes, we could see the back porch of Sarah Palin’s home in Alaska.