Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ex-commie Bureaucracy is Alive and Well

We have spent the last two days in ex-commie pinko countries on the Black Sea. We are currently anchored off Sochi,Russia on a grey, light rain kind of day. Very appropriate in my humble. The closer to Mother Russia we have come, the more bureaucratic things get. In Varna, Bulgaria we had to take our passports with us(first time on this trip) and Bulgarian officials stamped it at passport control as we went ashore in the passenger terminal. Coming back to the ship, they couldn’t have cared less. Varna street market below.

Next stop was Sevastopol, Ukraine. That’s right, that Sebastopol of Crimean War and Charge of the Light Brigade fame. Still a Russian naval base. A boat load of uniformed Ukrainian officials came to the ship and set up housekeeping at the gangway. They stamped passports coming and going, giving us the evil eye in the process. At breakfast this morning a ship’s crewman told us they had jollied them up with breakfast and lunch plus tote bags and decorative Dutch tiles. One of the Ukrainians said “I hope we finish in time for a drink”.Below is an old man messing about in the Black Sea, with the faithful dog waiting patiently.

In Sochi if you wish to go ashore alone, i.e. not on a ship sponsored tour, you had to obtain a Russian visa months in advance at a cost of $100. We declined and also declined any ship sponsored tours. If you chose a tour, you must present your passport to the Russians along with a copy, which they keep. They then give you a landing card which you must take with you along with your passport and return it to the Russians on your return. The Russian officials are also on board and I am sure will be jollied up by the crew. In fact, right now they are being wined and dined in a private room on the ship. They have also detained one of the tour operators and are having trouble getting the buses to the dock. Commie bureaucracy is alive and well.

Why not take a tour of Sochi, you ask? Fine if you want to see “old trees of the Caucasus” or “walking tour of Sochi”. That would be fun—Sochi is 90 miles in length. It is narrow, existing between the sea and the Caucasus Mountains. I hope they get a few things straightened out before they host the Winter Olympics in 2014.


  1. Greasing the wheels of justice, eh?

    But what happened to Rome, Greece, and Turkey?

  2. The market photo is beautiful. I wonder what those pear-shaped melon-sized fruits are. The man in the water photo is fun. Thanks for the update.

  3. The other places are coming. I did this one as it happened. We anchored in Sevastopol harbor, at a place that had no ships anchor for 15 years. When the anchor was raised it was tangled with old cable from the sea bottom. The port people sent two tugs to get the cable off. One had two guys, one wearing flip-flops and the other had no shirt on. They hooked the cables twice without attaching the line to their own boat, so when they backed their boat the lines romptly fell into the water. They finally figured it out, got the cables free and started wrestling with each other and horsing around. I suspect a liquid lunch and afternoon snack of vodka.