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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

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during today’s Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the center’s Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonight’s performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Center’s Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodina’s website for more details.



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