I’ve been busy writing up my Russia research for Lonely Planet’s Russia and Trans-Siberian Railway books. I did manage to squeeze in a short article on Vladivostok for the New York Times last Sunday.

The city has much more to talk about. One of the things that fascinated me most was a growing breed of new entrepreneurs who are busy re-working how the city sees itself. Mr Park, quoted in the piece, is a hilarious guy. A Korean-Russian, he jets to South Pacific islands for vacations, buys outrageous Gucci and Prada outfits in Italy (‘America makes it so hard to visit, visa-wise, so I just spend my money elsewhere).

Another cafe in Vladivostok fashioned itself as a humble little English bakery with a Queen Elizabeth plate behind a case of quiche and local pastries few locals have seen before. The owner, also a Korean Russian (married to a British guy), said ‘I couldn’t live with a regular job, working for someone else. I had to try this even if it failed.’

This is sort of new for the city. So far from Moscow, things have been corrupt and wild for a while. A couple mayors have been ushered out recently — one is in a Moscow jail — and people tend to by quite cynical of any positive change. ‘We’re an impermanent place,’ the bakery owner said. ‘People come and leave. We’re a port town. Nothing stays.’

The first business after the fall of the USSR was punctuated with street shoot-outs. A 20-something or 30-something didn’t really have access to opening a spot on a main central street like hers. And now that the APEC summit will come to Vladivostok in 2012 — and lots of money in preperations — maybe Vladivostok will have its day, and live up to its name somewhat: ‘to rule the east’ in Russian.

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
Tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply