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Sochi: From Palm Trees to Snow

Published: January 7, 2014 (Issue # 1792)



  • Sochi may feel like a landscape from a dream familiar and strange at once.
    Photo: Andrey Selskiy / Wikimedia Commons

  • Despite a coastline spanning 145 kilometers, Sochi is not a big city population-wise, with only about 350,000 inhabitants.
    Photo: Olympstroy / Wikimedia Commons

  • Although most of Sochi's sports facilities will be devoted to the games, the Gornaya Karusel ski area expects to have some slopes open to the public, organizers say.
    Photo: Mikhail Mokrushin / RIA Novosti

SOCHI, Russia (AP) For visitors to the Winter Olympics, Sochi may feel like a landscape from a dream familiar and strange at once. Palm trees evoke a tropical seaside resort, but the Black Sea itself is seriously cold; turn away from the palms and the jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Caucasus Mountains rise nearby. Lively and garish modern buildings mix with Stalin Gothic piles, like trophy wives on the arms of elderly men. Billboards are written in an alphabet where some letters sound exactly like you think they do, others mean something else and the rest are flat-out alien.

What may seem oddest of all is the city's cheerful and relaxed aura in a country stereotyped as dour. Even a local statue of Vladimir Lenin catches the casual vibe. He's not haranguing the masses, just standing under some trees with one hand in his pocket as if he's killing time waiting for a date.

Some questions and answers about the resort city often called the Russian Riviera:

Am I in Sochi?

Rather like New York City, Sochi is a sprawling municipality, incorporating four boroughs. Confusingly, one of the four is called Sochi. So it's possible to both be in Sochi and say "I'm going to Sochi."

All the Olympic events take place in the Adler borough, though the snow sports venues are often referred to as being in specific settlements such as Krasnaya Polyana and Esto-Sadok.

Sochi borough is more or less the Manhattan of the city, home to the best restaurants, coolest clubs and the main cultural institutions. The urban part of Adler also has attractive restaurants.

But while its attractions are relatively cosmopolitan, and its coastline is 90 miles long (145 kilometers), Sochi is not a big city population-wise, with only about 350,000 inhabitants.

Will They Understand Me (And Vice Versa)?

Volunteer staff at Olympics test events spoke excellent English and sometimes struck up conversations just to improve their skills (or show off). But outside the Olympic venues and large hotels, communication in languages other than Russian is likely to be difficult. The Games' organizing committee recommends that mobile device users download a translation app.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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