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Post 98: Vladivostok

Roughly translated, Vladivostok means ‘Lord of The East’ and it will be our last port of call here in Russia. It began life in the 19th century as a trading post and as such had more in common with both Shanghai and Hong Kong than it ever did with Moscow. The population of Vladivostok had always been far more multi-cultural than in any other part of Russia and at its peak at least four fifths of its people were foreign nationals, predominantly Korean and Chinese. This all changed in 1922 when in the final days of the Bolshevik Revolution, Vladivostok fell to the ‘Red’s’ and Stalin had all of the foreign nationals either deported or shot. Since that time Vladivostok has taken on the mantel of a military town and home to the USSR’s Pacific Fleet. Until as recently as 1992, Vladivostok was ‘off-limits’ not only to foreign visitors but to Russians as well.

The good news is that Vladivostok is returning to its former cosmopolitan roots and has once more become a thriving centre of life, commerce and entertainment. It feels like the kind of city where ‘everything’ would be available if the price was right.

I’m actually feeling quite low as I ride south into Vladivostok, the settlements slowly beginning to overwhelm the countryside, the traffic density increasing and the heat from buildings, life and people intensifying with every miles closer to the heart of this city. I have, for possibly the final time in my life, experienced Russian rural life; it’s hospitality and it’s dangers, it’s beauty and it’s starkness, …. it’s roads and it’s people. Arriving in Sochi more than a month ago Russia had felt almost like ‘A Country Too Far’ for Poor Circulation, ……. but once again the amazing things that I’ve discovered here have surprised me. Russia has lodged itself under my skin and I know that in years to come my itch to return here will begin to need scratching on an ever increasing basis.

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