Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The End of the Line

After 6 days, 7 hours, and 24 minutes of train rides, I arrived in Vladivostok on Monday evening. I knew this country was vast, but it took traversing it from the capital to the coast to fully comprehend what 9,289 kilometers really feels like. To put that into perspective, you’d have to ride a train from San Francisco to New York three times to cover a similar distance. There are probably better things you could do with your time though.

With Vladivostok being a third of the globe away from Moscow, I expected it to feel dramatically different. Aside from a slightly more provincial feel (would it kill them to put in a few sidewalks?), it could be another city in European Russia. I’m writing this blog post from a Shokoladnitsa (the Russian equivalent of Starbucks), and everyone has the same Slavic features they had on the other side of the Urals. We’re 40 miles from North Korea, but this city looks about as Asian as I do. 

This is what 3/8 Asian looks like

This is what Amur Bay looks like

Much like Moscow was once referred to as “The Third Rome” and Irkutsk was nicknamed “The Paris of Siberia,” Vladivostok is thought to be “Russia’s San Francisco.” I’m not sure why Moscow ever wanted to be the next Rome (i.e., the next great fallen empire), and I don’t think any political exiles ever called Irkutsk the Siberian City of Love, but I was still curious to see if I’d find any similarities between San Francisco and the Russian Far East. Yesterday I spent the day exploring Vladivostok with my friend Ian, a fellow American expat in Moscow, who happened to be out here visiting his girlfriend over the May holidays. As we were climbing one of Vladivostok’s steep hills, he asked me if I saw any resemblance between the two cities. While Vladivostok also has hilly streets and its own cable-stayed bridge (Zolotoy Most, or the Golden Bridge in English), Russia’s San Francisco definitely has a different daddy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though—much as I love San Francisco, it’s signature scent of eau de bum urine isn’t doing it any favors.

The bridge is named for the bay it spans (the Golden Horn)

Too cold for hobos?

I just realized a funicular is a cable car—I’m discrediting myself

Now that I’ve finished the Trans-Siberian, it’s time to get back to Moscow. First thing tomorrow, I have a 9-hour flight back to Moscow, and then two weeks later I fly to “The Vladivostok of America” (that being San Francisco). Though I have a six-week summer finale planned for Moscowed, I’m sad to say that we’ve almost reached the end of the line here as well. Get ready for a post consisting entirely of sad emoticons!

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