We wake up in a different city, a different Vladivostok. The Lord of the East seems to be in a better mood today and has allowed us to travel the streets without inflicting upon us weather that resembles the inside of a washing machine on the 'warm' cycle. The streets are now full of people doing Vladivostoky things. There is a shell game going on in one of the main streets where tourists (a.k.a. suckers) are encouraged to pit their eyes against the nimble hands of the busker. Taxi drivers sit in their cars doing the crossword, waiting for their fares. Naval personnel wander around in groups and we even come across some Russian Mormons.
Vladivostok is rebuilding itself. Although the gates of the city had been shut off from the outside world until '92, today it is a hive of activity. Workmen are patching up wounded buildings with bricks. Cheap Korean workers are mending cracked footpaths. But everyone seems so intent on fixing everything today that some building have been half-finished while the builders, carpenters and road workers move on to patch up another part of the city.
Observations on Russian people thus far (WARNING: Cliches ahead!):
The guys in Vladivostok wander around wearing little in the way of clothing. They are either in shorts and t-shirts (it is a hot day) or wearing Adidas tracksuits. Some walk around shirtless. Though at home I'd think the shirtless guys would be just showing off here I think they do it because it is hot. I could be wrong. Most of the men here have short haircuts and are clean-shaven reminding me, with a three-day stubble, that I am an outsider (if i should happen to forget). They all look like they play sports; soccer (what the rest of the world calls 'football') or outdoor basketball. Strangely enough, I counted about eight of them with hand injuries. Nik counted about four.
Russian women are tall and beautiful. But beautiful like...like...someone like Asia Argento is beautiful. A bit distant perhaps. They don't make eye contact on the whole, and those that do look at you seem to see your reflection in a mirror, rather than the you who is wolfing down hot dogs and trying to get a glimpse of their cleavage. They look like they don't wear any underwear. Probably have pool parties where the likes of us are never invited. Not too dissimilar to the chicks on Chapel street, but more Eastern European.
We bump into Konrad the German Chaos physicist again. 'You were not there at Bar Americano last night?' he says. It sounds like a question but it isn't. No, we say, we were tired and damp and besides we didn't know how to get there. 'I shall draw you a map.' says he.
Did he have a fun night without us last night?
'Oh, yes. It was a wonderful evening. I was lost in trying to get to this place and I asked people if they knew where Bar Americano was. After I asked the third one he offered to guide me there as it was diffklut to get there. We found this place and he bought me drinks all night long. Then he introduchted me to some beautiful Russian ladies.'
Holy Crap! This Bar Americano is sounding pretty damn good. They buy you drinks and help you get laid!
So that night we trek off to find Bar Americano. Since we're staying with a little Russian old lady we decide to leave a little earlier than usual so we can return at a decent time (ie- before five in the morning). We follow Konrad's hand drawn map.
...and get lost.
...and get lost.
...and get lost.
By the time we find the place the land is getting dark. The bar is situated inside a block of flats. We know this because, phrasebooks out, we finally decided to ask someone. 'Does thou know Bar Americano?' I ask in my heavily accented Russian to a guy standing outside of his apartment block talking to a lady. 'Da,' he says, 'Over there.'
Bar Americano turns out to be a pool hall. Despite its name, there are no Americans there. No one speaks English. And Alex's brother is not there either. We drink some beer and head home.