Vladivostok

Vladivostok is at about the same latitude as Erie, but yet it is about as far south as you can get and still be in Russia. Across the bay to the north is Red China. Across the bay to the south is North Korea. Way to the east is Japan. Vladivostok is home to the Russian Pacific Fleet.

Lessons in cross-cultural communications:

1. You can purchase a speciallized telephone adapter to convert from the Russian standard phone plug to the American standard by saying the following phrase in the local electronics shop: "Compute-tare Teleo-phono Ruski pluge - R-J-Eleven". That both parties know a little Geek helps.

2. Every DVD in print, movie or Southvare, is available at the local kiosk for a few hundred Roubles ($4-$5)

3. Pizza here includes a big dollup of mayonaise and sometimes salmon.

4. If you say the word "EEN-Ter -nYet" loud enough and often enough they will sell you a ten hour internet access phone card for 250 Roubles ($8). You are on your own deciphering the Russian instructions.

We took the night train from Khabarovsk to Vladivostok. We had to argue with a couple to get our berths. The stewardess/conductor settled the issue in our favor after much ticket (bill-yet) inspecting.  
It's tough taking pictures through filthy windows. These are dashas, small homes with gardens. They are plentiful outside of the cities. They tend to be very small with steep corrugated steel roofs.  
The infinite rail cabin.  
Arrival in Vladivostok after the 13 hour ride. This was our fourth and final "red-eye". At least this time we had some leg room.  
Our hotel fronts the bay. Entry is via the roof from the rear. It looks nice put there is no heat and the floor mothers (a purely Russian invention to employ the matronly-advantaged) keep a close eye on us. So far we have been reprimanded for hanging up our coats wrong (in our own rooms!), sitting too comfortably while using the internet, and generally being male. They even gave us a lengthy lesson in how to use the tv remote, in verbose Russian. They don't take nyet for an answer. And it's just the first day.  
The view to the south out my hotel window. The buildings are on a spit of land that defines the north boundary of the main harbor.  
The mountains across the bay are in Red China. North Korea is to the left, blanketed in early morning fog.  
Local architecture.  
Some vessels in the commercial harbor. We hope to get out to see the naval harbor soon.  
 More vessels.  
The famous headless statue of Vladivostok.  
Revolution era satues in a central square.  
Jumbotron playing a Red Hot Chili Pepper's video.  
Lenin pointing at the jumbotron uttering "I vant my MTV!"  
Urban scene with electric trolley. We could learn a few things from these guys about mass transportation.  
Suicide in progress. Just Kidding. Cool statuary on rooftops.  
The train terminus.  
 More rail terminus.  
An eternal flame war memorial.  
Vladivostok is very hilly, in many ways much like San Fransisco without a ChinaTown.  
A courtyard with a collection of old war memoriabilia. the tank is smaller than a VW bug.  
An old Soviet sub converted into a naval museum. Inside it was too dark to photograph, but it was way cool and way cramped. Some navy dudes were touching up the paint while we were there.  
A war memorial.