Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sochi Resort Town

On my last day in Russia, I decided to head into Sochi proper for a Sunday outing. At breakfast I met a fellow in a Vancouver 2010 T-shirt working on the stage sets for the opening ceremonies. Rather than take a taxi, he suggested I take the 125 bus, since if the road was really congested it might take a couple of hours and turn out to be very expensive.
I took his advice and got onto a local mini bus. You give your money to a fellow passenger who passes it on to the driver. There’s no ticket, no receipt. However, I soon discovered I was on the wrong bus, and transferred to a larger bus for what turned out to be a 45 minute ride into Sochi.
On the way I saw a variety of building designs typical of the area.
I had no idea where to get off; but eventually saw a new Hyatt Regency under construction and figured it was as good a place as any. I walked down to a waterfront walkway,
past a number of elegant hotels and parks, and eventually reached the seafront and discovered people  swimming in the sea and sunbathing on the pebbly beach. It was hard to imagine that in 3 months the world would be gathering here for the winter Olympics!
With its palm trees and large hotels, this part of Sochi reminded me of French resort towns on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. 
While some seafood restaurants had menus in English, I did not find the multi-lingual menus one sees in Italy and other parts of Europe. Presumably this will change. But for the time being, this is a Russian resort town, not an international resort town.
Wanting a photo of myself with the sea as a backdrop I approached two young girls who misunderstood me and thought I wanted to photograph them. So I did. Their faces are characteristic of many Russians coming from more remote parts of the country outside of Moscow.
Along the pier I came across a large mirrored building that turned out to be the Bosco Sochi Olympics souvenir store. The bold designs and colours are fascinating.The prices are higher than they were in Vancouver.
Vancouver's red mittens have been replaced by Sochi's rainbow mittens.
As I was leaving, I walked by a shop front with a small English sign that spelled Massage. I looked inside and was astonished to see a fellow and his girlfriend sitting with their feet in aquariums full of what looked like minnows. 
I had never seen this before and asked if I could take a picture. “Sure” he said, “but you should try this. It feels wonderful.”

Had I been with my wife I know I would have walked on. But I wasn’t with my wife and decided to join him. I paid the equivalent of $5 for the minimum time…five minutes and after a couple of minutes I was ready to move on. It was truly an odd sensation, and if I could have relaxed I might have enjoyed it.
That evening I tweeted out a photo and received a reply from NY_1108, who turned out to be a Russian lady. She cautioned me about putting my feet in a public aquarium since it’s easy to pick up a disease!  Now she tells me.  So far, I feel fine.

Rather than take the bus or taxi back, I decided to take the train to the new Adler Train Station from where I would get a cab. But on my way to the station I saw the 125 bus which dropped me off near the Radisson Hotel.  (Take the train!)
There were not a lot of lights on in the hotel, especially compared to the adjacent Athletes' Village where workmen were finishing off suite interiors...but I just know all the lights will be on in 3 months.

The next morning I returned to Vancouver via Moscow and London. However, it is possible to fly one stop to Vancouver via Frankfurt or numerous other European cities. 

Even if you don't get to Sochi for the Olympics, I highly recommend a visit before or after mid-February. As was the case at Vancouver and Whistler, the significant Olympics investment  has dramatically improved the number of available hotels and other tourist facilities.
Thanks to everyone who helped make my trip to Sochi and Krasnaya so very enjoyable and special.

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