|Sochi Airport with the Olympic Rings|
Before receiving the bid for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics thereby gaining international recognition, Sochi had been a resort town primarily for wealthy Russian oligarchs and bureaucrats. Now, the city has opened itself to the scrutiny of the world. And let me say I am a bit worried about it’s progress as Olympic Season approaches. The region itself has the potential of some of the most popular mediterranean areas, but as many of us American students have claimed Sochi is an illusion of capitalism. Sochi is breathtakingly spectacular, but the resorts and hotels are very Russian, meaning that they were built in the 1970’s and have yet to be sufficiently remodled. For instance, our hotel claimed to have at least 7 restaurants, a fitness center, a nightclub, and a beach bar on the premises. All of these were closed, boarded up, and filled with defective furniture. The promenade was filled with restaurants and practically devoid of night life. Business could make a significant profit by increasing services, but Sochi (and Russia for that matter) hasn’t quite figured out capitalism like America has.
|The Caucasus- to the right of the peak: Abkhazia|
On our fifth and final day in Sochi, we traveled to the locations of the upcoming Olympics when I became even more worried for the city. This Olympics has so far been the most expensive Olympics to construct in history, and they are not even finished. Traffic is terrible and there is currently a mass effort to build infrastructure and roads for those traveling to Sochi for the Olympics in less than 10 months. According to official statistics, only 77% of the roads have been complete, and many olympic complexes are still undergoing construction. I am sure Russia will get it together in time for the games, but with a result of a large deficit for the government.
|Olympic Alpine Village- Krasnaya Polyana|
While looking at the sights, we passed by the Olympic village in Adler (a neighboring city of Sochi) and then drove up the mountains to the three down-hill Olympic sites in the Caucasus. There we stopped at the alpine resort Krasnaya Polyana. This was the most American experience I have ever had in Russia. The Russians completely built the entire mountain village in the last 4 years and it reminded me like any alpine village such as Whistler or Park City. My friends and I had delicious American chicken fingers for lunch at Park Inn resort owned by Radison. We also took a 40 minute gondola ride peak of the mountain. On the way up we saw the locations of the down hill skiing and mogul courses. It was also quite hilarious to see the areas where snow is being stockpiled just in case next winter is as warm as last winter (during this past February apparently there was not enough snow to ski on the olympic slopes). I was blown away by the peaks of the Caucasus Mountain Range and the gorges in Abkhazia. Sochi is a beautiful location to show the world about the wonders of southern Russia. Hopefully, construction will be completed and the winter weather is cold enough though!
|Wine Tasting in the Caucasus|
As my time in Sochi was starting to come to an end, our group quickly stopped by a Caucasian wine and honey tasting extravaganza. My friends and I bought a bottle of Georgian wine for the night - and let me tell you georgian wine may be the best wine I have ever had. We picked the sweet red wine even though the honey wine was also delicious. That night, we ended our journey in Sochi by drinking the Georgian wine on our hotel balcony and then on the beach shore as the sun set. Sochi’s beauty was more than I ever expected. I’m sorry that I had to leave this place after only 5 short days, but I have a lot to look forward to during my last week and a half in Russia. Time has flown and my time in Russia is almost at its end.