For The Record

Issue 8 2014


Experience Sochi with Alex Popov

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Russia’s four-time Olympic swimming champion Alexander Popov, who is a member of the Coordination Commission for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, reveals his tips for the host city, Sochi

It’s going to be a great Games experience in Sochi! This is the first time that the Winter Games will be taking place in Russia, which is a country that loves sport. I’m sure the host city will extend the best of Russian hospitality and make our country proud.

Russia has its own individual flavour and culture and its own way of doing things. I’m sure the athletes will appreciate the culture and, above all else, enjoy it. Russian culture and Russian history is very interesting and, once you get to know it, you fall in love with it.

We’re certainly looking forward to welcoming everyone to Sochi and celebrating the Games!

Sochi will be a unique host to the Winter Games as it is mainly thought of as a summer resort. The city has a subtropical climate and on average enjoys around 300 days of sunshine per year.

It may be a little cooler during the Games, but if the sun is shining, why not go for a paddle in the Black Sea?

Sochi is a very special place, even for Russians. For a very long time it has been regarded as one of the most prestigious resorts in the country and is sometimes called the “Summer Capital of Russia”. But there’s much more to see in Sochi than just the beach. There are several parks that are worth visiting, in particular the Dendrarium (74 Kurortny Prospekt), where you can take a cable car to the top of the hill to enjoy panoramic views of the coast.

One of the main sights to see in Sochi is Stalin’s dacha (120 Kurortny Prospekt, Khosta district) – his summer home – which is a fantastic place to go and visit. There is a museum, beautiful scenery and incredible history. It is beautiful and very well maintained.

There are many caves in the area around Sochi, which are also well worth visiting. The most famous are probably those in Vorontsovka village, in the Khosta district. They consist of three interconnected cave complexes with a total length of around 11km.

For spectacular views of the local countryside, it’s worth visiting the observation tower at the top of the 700-metre Mount Akhun, which is the highest part of the coastal area.

I’m sure there will be a great selection of souvenirs in Sochi, ranging from traditional Russian items to more local things.

You will find lots of stalls selling souvenirs in Riviera Park (1 Yegorova ulitsa). One of the most traditional gifts that people buy when they visit Russia is a matryoshka nesting doll – I’ve even seen some with the Sochi 2014 logo on them! Other traditional souvenirs include Gzhel pottery and handicrafts painted in the Khokhloma style, with vivid flower patterns.

Sochi is home to people of around 150 different nationalities, so if athletes want to try some traditional cuisine, they will be spoiled for choice – not only with Russian food, but also Armenian, Georgian, Azerbaijani and more. If the athletes want to try some traditional Russian food, they could try pelmini, which are traditional Russian dumplings and come in many different varieties. Of course, there is borscht, which is a traditional soup, and there are just simple things like the fresh vegetables – some of the best in the world!

Those visiting Sochi must also try some sundried persimmon fruit. For traditional Russian drinks, there is chacha, which is like Italian grappa or the rakia you get in Slovenia and Croatia. If the athletes want to reward themselves at the end of the Games, then I suggest they try blini with caviar, as black caviar is very expensive!

The Central Market (22 Moskovskaya ulitsa) in Sochi is also great, selling local produce, honey, meat, cheese and other delicacies. It’s adjacent to Alexandria Mall, where you can buy designer clothes.

Sochi is also well known for its tea production, with some of the most northernmost plantations in the world. If you like tea, try visiting the Dagomys Tea Plantation (18A Batumskoye shosse, Lazorevsky District). While there, you can enjoy a tea party in a traditional wooden izba (country log home), along with a performance of Russian folk songs while drinking tea in the traditional Russian way – from the samovar.

I’m sure everyone in Sochi will have a great time and leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of Russian culture.
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