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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Russia - 6 July, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Vladivostok (Hotel Vladivostok - Visit) N4307.091' E13152.665' 0 meters .
Walking around city . . . .
Tour of USS Lassen and USS Fort McHenry . . . .
Finish Vladivostok (Hotel Vladivostok - Visit) N4307.091' E13152.665' 0 meters .

Total (by train):

766 km

Total (other):

19 km

Total:

785 km

 

Weather: Overcast, cool and humid in the morning.  In the mid-afternoon it partly cleared, with occasional sun and was warm and, in the sun, hot.  In the evening, fog rolled in and it was cool and windy.

 

 

We have a lazy morning - nothing pressing to do and we have lots of time in this city.  After a bit of a snooze, we quickly get ready and go and have breakfast in the bar on our floor.  We have a choice of 2 eggs either fried or boiled.  It comes with some fried ham and bread.  The nice part of breakfast is the view we have over the Amursky Gulf.  We stretch out our breakfast by watching a sailing regatta going on out in the gulf.  We have excellent seats and enjoy watching the sail boats go around the markers.

 

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Just before 1 AM we are ready to head out and do some exploring.  We first go and check out one of the other hotels in town - we need to find something cheaper and what to know what our options are.  Then we pass by the Lenin statue (with Lenin pointing out towards Japan) and check out the nearby supermarket to see if we will be able to stock up for our train journey.  Not as good as the one in Khabarovsk, but we will be able to manage.

 

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We carry on down Aleutskaya ul, with a brief detour to check out Yul Brynner's childhood home.  Seems like a nice house where we spent part of his youth.  At the White House (the regional government building), we turn left into Bortsov Revolutsy Square.

 

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This square is dominated by the three statues forming the Monument to the Fighters for Soviet Power in the Far East (yes, that is the name of the monument.  Now, this is a bombastic monument).  We then pass by the entrance to the Russian naval base where the US visiting warships are docked.  We see if we are able to arrange a visit to the ships, but we are unable to do so on this stop by.

 

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Instead, we make our way further up Korabelnaya nab passing by what seems to be the headquarters of the Russian Pacific Fleet and heading to the C-56 Submarine Museum, which is right in front of the World War II memorial.  The submarine museum is nothing special.  We pay to enter, with the first two-thirds of the submarine interior ripped out and replaced with a photo exhibit.  The last third is the most interesting, with the original interior preserved, including the officers area, the bridge and the forward torpedo bay.

 

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Once we exited, we passed by the World War II memorial and turned left to go to Svetlanskaya ul, passing by some form of arch in the shape of a church tower.  A group of ladies and children in traditional dress are putting on some form of performance.  We carry on down the street checking out some of the buildings and other monuments lining the street.  They really seem to like their monuments.  We come upon a tiny church, which we check out and then turn around and make our way back, only this time walking in the narrow park that lines the street.  We find some stairs and make our way down the hill to Korabelnaya nab once more and head back to where the US warships are docked.  Along the way, we pass by the Krasny Vympel, the Soviet Pacific Fleet's first ship, launched in 1923.

 

At the entrance to the Russian naval base, we talk to a number of US sailors and the are more helpful this time.  They find a petty officer that is returning to the ship and he offers to escort us onto the base and his ship, the guided missile cruiser USS Lassen.  This sailor from Hawaii of Filipino descent is very kind to bring us through the Russian guards and onto his ship.  He said that as we were US taxpayers, we should get a chance to see what our tax dollars were up to.  When we got aboard the ship, we are told that we can only see the upper decks - just the day before someone had tried to stowaway on the ship during  a tour and it took them a long time to flush him out.

 

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We had an excellent tour of the deck of the ship.  We got to see all the vertical missile launching tubes, the radar guided gatling guns, the cannon at the front and the exterior of some very high tech stuff.  As we were at the bow, we were approached by a lady who asked us to take her photograph - she turned out to be US Consul General in Vladivostok and she told us that these port visits are now a regular 4th of July affair.

 

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The other fantastic thing about being on the base and aboard the ship is that we are able to get a close look at, and photograph, the Russian naval ships tied up right next to the US ships.  The Russian sailors are lazing around on deck and we wave to them.  While we are looking around, our guide says that he will go and see if we can get special permission to see the interior of the ship - permission is granted!!!  We head back to the stern of the ship and get our special red passes and we pass into the interior of the ship.

 

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This is a very new ship and it is well equipped.  It seemed like we pretty much went every where.  We saw the helicopter flight control, the mess, the petty officers lounge, the officers lounge, the two gyms, the laundry room, the fire fighting equipment everywhere, the post office, the shop and even up to the bridge.  We were going down and up gangways and through multiple locks.  Many were double as protection against chemical or biological attack.  We would have been lost if our guide had abandoned us.  Once back out at the stern we took pictures with the Seahawk and made our way off the ship after expressing our strong appreciation.

 

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Our guide told us that as we were already on the base, we should go and see if it would be possible to tour the other ship in port - the USS Fort McHenry.  This is a Marine landing ship.  We walked over to it and entered through the huge stern door that was wide open.  The guards on duty said it would be possible to go on a tour, just that we would have to wait for a guide.  Now this is a cool ship.  The back two-thirds of the ship is a huge open cargo bay type area which can be flooded with water.  It can hold up to five hovercraft and many other amphibious tanks and vehicles.  When the bay is flooded and the doors opened, the vehicles can just float out under their own power.  Right now the bay is pretty empty, other than a few vehicles and a huge American flag hanging from the ceiling towards the back.

 

Our guide shows up and he gives us a thorough tour of the cargo bay area and the upper decks.  Many more vehicles and some helicopters can be stored on the back upper deck.  On the forward deck is the bridge and other control centers.  We check out the bridge and a couple of high powered binoculars that allow us to see into apartments on the other end of the harbor.  We also get a very close look at the radar guided gatling gun.  An amazing piece of hardware.

 

After we have finished our tour, it is time to head on.  They are preparing an American style barbeque on the pier and despite Lars salivating over a good old burger, it is not yet ready, so we decide to head down to the harbor for a beer and snack.  We find a place that is serving plov and shashlyk and wash them down with a beer.  Then we just wander around for a while.  We decide to try out the ice cream that seems, despite the cold, to be very popular with the locals.  It is OK - the best part is the waffle cone.

 

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It is time for dinner and we wander up ul Admirala Fokina, a street that the have closed to traffic and are doing a very good job of sprucing up.  We are not sure where we are going to eat and in the end try a small place with a wooden front.  A great choice - it turns out to serve traditional Russian food.  It has a very traditional interior and the waitresses are dressed in traditional costume.  Also very helpful, the menu is in English.  We order up a couple of dishes that turn out to be excellent.  We will have to come back here - great food, good ambience and English menus.

 

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Well, it is still to early to head back to the hotel, so we decide to head back down to the beach area to hang out for a while and watch the crowds.  We find a bench with space and just hang out for a while.  We observe with amusement the mini-Karaoke "lounges" that have been set-up around the plaza.  A couple of benches have been commandeered with the TV and stereo on one bench and the singers sitting on the other bench facing the TV.  It is awful - such noise pollution in such a nice spot.

 

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This is the sailors last day, so they are out and about in the town and they (and the locals) seem to be making the most of it.  It is Sunday, and the place is packed with people walking here and there or just sitting at one of the many outdoor beer stalls chatting and enjoying a drink.  One of the best things about this city is all the portable toilets that dot the city.  They are private businesses and usually an old lady is in charge of her small group of toilets.  She will set up one of the cubicles as her "office" and collect 5 roubles from each person for each use.

 

Soon it is time to head back to the hotel - we are getting used to the end-of-day walk up the steep hill to our hotel.  Good way to get some exercise before going to sleep.  After taking a shower and spending some time on our journal, we switch on the TV to watch the Wimbledon men's final.  Once again, we had to put up with B&W reception and Chinese commentary (they could never seem to shut up), but it was worth it.  We expected that we would not be able to watch it at all, so it was a bonus.

 

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