Tuesday, May 05, 2015

pat, i'd like a vowel

Today was a big turning point on our cruise.

We have touched land for the last time until we arrive in Vancouver in another seven days.  That is, unless the ship takes it into its head to sink.  If that happens, I have no idea where we will make landfall.

Our visit today was to Russia.  To Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskyto be more specific.  I am willing to bet it is not high on anyone's tourist list.  If you recall the name, it may be only because Korean Airlines Flight 007 flew over the city before it was shot down by a Soviet fighter in 1983.

The Kamchatka peninsula drops south from Siberia -- like an appendix -- from the Russian federation.  The city's setting is every bit as overwhelming as Alaska with volcanoes and snow-covered hills.  The city itself is even more underwhelming than Athens.

When Communism justifiably joined the Ford Edsel in the crypt of history, some Russian towns pulled down statues of Lenin -- not wanting to be reminded that the guy butchered so many of their countrymen.  But not


The main square is still named Lenin Square, and Old Vladimir still glares down on the people who so greatly disappointed him in both life and death.

There is not much to the town.  Some memorials.  But a lot of utilitarian buildings.

The fishing fleet stationed here harvests over a million tons of fish -- one-third of which is sold to Japan.  I found that a little ironic since the fishing areas are long-standing disputed territory between the two countries.

The importance of the fishing industry is apparent in the city's architecture.  One of the city's most striking buildings is the fisheries headquarters.

But this is an old settlement.  Vitus Bering, Russia's Danish-born premier explorer in the northern Pacific, founded the town in 1741.  Choosing a name was simple.  He named it after his two ships Svyatoy Pyotr (St. Peter) and Svyatoy Pavel (St. Paul).

The town was far from the machinations of Moscow, but history did not leave it alone.  During the Crimean War of 1854-1855,  superior numbers of Anglo-French forces twice attempted (and failed) to capture the place.

The Kuril Islands and Sakhalin that run south from the peninsula, have long been contested by the Russians and Japanese.  The Japanese held the islands until the end of the Second World War, when the Reds seized them.  That is still a festering wound that flares up periodically.  One of the squibs that could easily cause a World War One-type confrontation.

When the Russians were humiliated in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, the Japanese invaded
the Kamchatka peninsula -- and came close to capturing
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskyto.  Undoubtedly, the Russians enjoyed returning the favor in 1945.

The city is spiffing up for its 9 May celebration of the end of World War Two in Europe.  Interestingly, there is no great celebration of victory in the Orient.  That ma be because the Soviets participated in that war for six days.  Not a bad land grab for a few days work.

Most of the buildings are new.  Even this church.

It looks old, but it is newer than my Allen Edmonds dress shoes.
Speaking of shoes.  The Russian women in
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskyto are beautiful.  But they all have one thing in common, the are stylishly turned out.  That is a sentiment I thought I would never write.

I am sitting on the deck right now.  The sun is setting and the temperature is plummeting. 

For the next seven days, I suspect we will not be using our deck very much.

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