I’ll admit I approached today with a bit of trepidation. Coming of age in the cold war 1980′s, films, TV and even the President infamously portrayed the USSR as the “Evil Empire”. 30 years and a cultural revolution later, I didn’t know what to expect of my first visit to Russia.
Sake Cruise ’09 sailed into the Siberian port of Petropavlovsk located on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The of the port looked stunning as we arrived. Petropavlovsk has incredible natural beauty. With three active volcanos and sweeping low mountains, the city created a charming backdrop from the boat as we enjoyed breakfast onboard the ship.After we were cleared for tendering ashore, Scott and I decided to forego any organized tours and strike out on our own. Scott lived for 4 months in Leningrad in the 1980s and his language skills speaking russian proved invaluable during our hours on land.
Our first stop was at the monumental statue of Lenin that dominates the town’s main square. Every Soviet Union town had one and I guess the folks of Petropavlovsk decided to keep him around. The mist coming in off the ocean provided a dramatic backdrop to the photogenic Lenin. What you can’t see in the photos is the utter state of disrepair in the plaza. Steps and walkways were crumbling, crooked and deteriorating.After a quick stop in a souvenir shop, we stumbled across a striking sign of russia’s westernization: A brand new glistening Gold’s Gym! Newly renovated with shiny gold logos on the facade, this workout facility would have been at home in any upscale strip mall in the States. drop and give me 20 you girlie-man! For me, the highlight of this shore excursion was finding sake at a Japanese restaurant in Siberia! We stumbled across a Japanese restaurant called “Sushi Bar Kyoto”. Luckily for me, scott was able to read Cyrillic and explained to me that “ÑÐ°ÐºÑ” was actually Sake! of course I had to try it and asked for it ‘cold’.
What arrived was a room temperature big box sake that lacked subtlety, but hey, I was drinking sake in Siberia, so who’s to argue. After the big sake adventure, we took our small boat back to the cruise ship and hunkered down for the evening. The trip to Petropavlovsk left me feeling so grateful for all the luxuries (and sake) I was enjoying aboard the Mariner but I did receive some memories I won’t soon forget.
Tomorrow is a full day of cruising the Kuril Islands and another sake seminar! I’m hoping for calm seas and delicious sake.