Sailboats in VladivostokAt the southernmost point of Eastern Russia’s Pacific Coast is the bustling port city of Vladivostok. It is tucked into a large bay off the Sea of Japan, with the border of China only 100 kilometers to the west and the border of North Korea 150 kilometers to the south. Millions of tones of shipping pass through the port every year but thanks to its beaches, cafes, night life, beautiful scenery, monuments, museums, and amazing summer weather it has become a premium vacation destination as well.FountainBeach and shoreline walkOur journey here actually began many months ago during the cold, dark winter days in Maine with Amber diligently downloading and meticulously filling out the lengthy Russian visa application. Our journey continued while we were in Shanghai as we stood in line in the Russian consulate to present our application and (cash only) to acquire a visa. There was a three-day period that week our passports were with the consulate staff for processing. I have to admit that I found, being in a foreign country, without my passport in my possession and in the workings of a gigantic bureaucratic machine a little stressful.

Amber, on the other hand was fine. I remember exactly what she said to calm my nerves. It is the kind of statement a person does not hear every day. She said: “Relax! Our passports are in the hands of the Russian government. They will be fine!” She was absolutely right. We picked them up the day before we left Shanghai with a beautiful Russian visa sticker all filled out with our names written in Russian! Our journey was complete when we caught an Aeroflot flight out of Hong Kong that put us in Vladivostok and we caught a bus into town for our first views of Russia!Suspension bridge VladivostokDSC_0006Cathedral VladivostokDSC_0004One of the first things Amber and I noticed about the city is the number of cafes. They are everywhere – some serving pastries or cakes, some serving sweet or savory blini, (a crepe like pancake), some serving full meals – but all with coffee! – really good coffee, and lattes, and cappuccino… We discovered a person could literally spend all day, everyday, just moving from cafe to cafe trying various offerings and drinking coffee while looking out at the passers-by. (This is a definite contrast to China where reasonably priced coffee shops were scarce and pastry shops even scarcer. It may take us a while to master this whole sitting and drinking coffee and eating pastries thing but we plan to work hard at it for the sake of having a genuine Russian experience.)Music Bar VladivostokBecause of its ideal location as both a port and defensive position, the city has a long and rich history. Thus it also has a long list of historic sites, museums, and attractions to visit. There was no way we could see all of them but we did get to a few. We made sure to take a ride on the funicular electric hill tram. Funicular VladivostokFunicular 2, VladivostokAnd we did not take the internal tour of the beached Soviet era submarine but we did take an extended tour of the Fortress Museum.Submarine, Vladivostok DSC_0232

We also happened to be in town the weekend of the annual V-Rox international music festival. It was awesome! Bands from all over the world came to play into the night on two beach-side stages. The three-day event was free and there were lots of side attractions like, 3-D rides for adults, street food, kiddie rides, and vendors selling things like t-shirts, jewelry and leather wallets.V-Rox Music FestivalWhere else on earth can you tour a coastal fort complete with cannons, and cruise missiles while listening to a live band!?

The hostel we stayed in was very busy, partially due to the festival weekend. We met people visiting from all over Russia as well as Korea and even the US. It was great to exchange experiences with fellow travelers (and get some much-needed help with my Russian!) We spent six days in Vladivostok seeing the sights, sitting in cafes or listening to live music. After we checked out of our hostel, we took one last stroll through town on our way to the train station. It happened to be just at sunset and it felt like a very fitting way to end our last day.DSC_0314DSC_0329 (1)This last clip is of the band Burn the Ballroom, a US based band out of Washington DC. They performed excellent, all original, material but closed the event Saturday night with a cover of a popular tune the audience appeared to know well. Can you name that tune from this short clip?