July 18.

Vladivostok. The romantic feeling of being in a faraway place, even though it has been all too easy to get here. Getting off the ferry takes a while, and I sit in the corner brushing up my Russian with a set of notes I took in november, the last time I was in Russia. Passport and visa were checked. The passengers were let off the ferry by means of a metal staircase. Waiting at the immigration. Finally, I was good to go, got some rubles from a machine and asked for downtown Vladivostok. “Well, here.” Everything is here: ferry terminal – train station. The latter is a beautiful building I fall in love with. Don’t forget to take pictures. Have a coffee at the pyramid. Coffee in the second floor was supposed to be better – but the machine was broken. No internet, no contact to my couchsurfer. I watch a movie on my laptop: Siberia and hear an old man telling this through my headphones: the Russian police is very dangerous. An American was detained for 28 days because his name was misspelled on his visa. He had to pay 5000 USD and when he refused they cut off two of his best toes. I have far better experience with the Russian police so far I have to tell you. But to spice this story up, I also have to tell you that my name is misspelled on my visa. The first time the cyrillic transcription looked totally different. So I can have some fun. I heard you can walk with a few toes missing. Fingers is a different thing. Would they cut off fingers, I would probably travel to other countries. Anyway, I can’t wait to get on the transsib and sniff the real experience instead of the televised substitute.

And I don’t have to wait long. I will take the train to Irkutsk tonight, it will go for about 70 hours and I will feel happy when I see the East Siberian landscape, to say it with an alltosmooth travelguide way. At the station I meet Vladimir, who is going to show me around his city. He used to be a psychotherapist but switched to photography. He is headed for Moscow to meet his “master” – not in psychoanalysis but in photography that is. I am sure he can take good pictures without killing his “master”.

Vladimir shows me a beautiful hill from where we have a good view of Vladivostok. We take some photographs. He wonders why I wear just sandals all the way but calls me brave rather than crazy. Then he takes me to a cosy bar with a widescreen television set, it is a so-called movie-bar and on the wide screen run documenaries about popstars and dj’s. They serve expensive wine from Argentina, Cafayate. I feel proud I visited Argentinian wine regions; am I one of those guys now who have been “everywhere” and never miss any opportunity to brag about it? There are a few blond Russian women, but “they are all married”, my new friend says. Anna at the bar, for example, is drinking wine with honey and has a voice that is as sweet as her drink, but Anna at the bar has to leave early. There is a dj who lived in Australia and NYC, excelling in English and making things a lot easier for me. The video screen shows the blue man group, and a feature on dj Franki Wild who is going totally deaf – a very touching documentary. Vladimir leaves to visit his mother, and I hang around some more. A group of friendly students walks me back to the station. I give them my email address as always, though I doubt they’ll remember me if they ever visit Europe. Then I board the train and sleep on the bunkbed I like so much.

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