Sochi: Russia’s Sub-tropical Olympic City

 

Our recent family cruise on the Black Sea included a fortuitous stop in Sochi, Russia. We embarked in Athens, sailed across the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara, up the Bosphorus Strait through Turkey, where our ship, Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner, entered the Black Sea. Besides being an exceptional lesson in world geography for my boys, it was an opportunity to explore several unique ports in four countries on this lovely turquoise sea. Most memorable was Sochi, located close to Russia’s border with Georgia.

At the time of our visit, the 2014 Winter Olympics (February 7th -23rd) seemed very far off. I noticed only a small billboard in the port announcing this upcoming international event that would draw thousands of visitors to this city, established as a fashionable resort under Stalin and home to his dacha, or summertime residence. While the mighty snow-capped Caucuses, Europe’s tallest mountains, loom above the harbor, this tourist destination actually enjoys a sub-tropical climate in its lower elevations and features inviting sand and pebble beaches and graceful palm trees along its coast. The Olympic events will actually be split between the coastal and mountainous districts, roughly 30 minutes apart.

As we strolled along the lovely sea promenade in shorts and t-shirts under bright skies and sunny 77 degrees Fahrenheit weather spending our rubles on cold bottles of water, it was hard to imagine Sochi serving as this winter’s Olympic venue since its average February temperature is a balmy 50 degrees. It is actually the warmest city to ever host winter Olympic games and according to Time, for the past year, Russia has been diligently stockpiling snow and inventing ways to keep every flake frozen.

Our visit to Sochi included a tour of the Russian Tea Plantation, the only one in the country and because of the city’s unique climatic conditions — warm, humid and consistently sunny — it’s the northernmost such farm in the world. Up in the mountains an agronomist, who specialized in the technology of growing tea, greeted us near the fields and expounded on the distinctive history of tea in Russia. A quick hike down a forest path led us to a wooden izba (chalet) where we were treated to a tea tasting and serenaded by a folklore troupe in traditional dress — their lively Russian melodies accompanied by accordions.

Servers produced traditional Russian samovars to dispense the freshly brewed black tea, which was served with delicious homemade breads and pastries, honeys, nuts and jams. We explored the Russian handicrafts – matryoshka (nesting) dolls, lacquered boxes, and painted clay figurines — in the tiny gift shop at the front of the chalet. On our journey back down the mountain, into the city proper, I gazed up at those beautiful and majestic Caucuses, and prayed for snow in February 2014.

Sochi, Russia

Sochi’s Sea Terminal and its notable 71-meter high steeple tower

Sochi, Russia

Sochi — Russia’s Riviera on the Black Sea

Sochi, Russia

The view of the Caucuses from the Russian Tea Plantation

Sochi, Russia

A Russian folklore troupe performs at the Tea Plantation

Russian matryoshka nesting dolls

Russian matryoshka nesting dolls

For more information:
Sochicityguide.com
Sochi Winter Olympics

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10 thoughts on “Sochi: Russia’s Sub-tropical Olympic City

  1. Wonderful and fascinating article, particularly at this time when people are deciding whether to go to Sochi or not. Must have been fascinating for you , Lenny, and the boys to see something so new and different in today’s world. A reference point for watching the Olympics on TV, and of course we all hope they go well for all the athletes and attendees. I know you would want to stay away from any political comments in your travelers’ advisories.

    You have really told your readers so much about how nourishing these family vacations are to build on as family experiences and inspirations for the boys future interests. It is just wonderful what you are doing. Also, I love your photo!\

    Happy new year.

    L0ve, Linda and Sandy

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind words and for reading my article. Yes, it was a miraculous feat to supply all that snow for the Olympics that year, but if you click on the “Time” magazine link in my article you will get to read how this was all accomplished! Thanks again for reading, and to see more of my future articles, please subscribe to my blog. Happy Travels!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Carnival of Cities for 16 March 2014 | Sheila's Guide To The Good Stuff

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