Remember, I finished the last blog entry with the news of continuing the snowboarding season in a very unexpected place? Here it is, welcome to…Sochi!
We haven’t skied outside Alps in many years, I actually only have been to the Pyrenees and USA-Canadian mountains besides the alpine experience. So, going to Sochi’s Olympic facilities was quite thrilling! But not only did the mountains excite me, but the city itself.
For those who don’t know me since childhood: I spent a big deal of it in Sochi because my grandparents live there, so sending the kids away to the sea for the hot months was an annual practice. I could take friends and cousins with me, my grandparents loved everyone around and it was always such a blast! At some point, as the summers started getting hotter, grandma and grandpa would go to the north to escape the heat, and we would get an apartment for ourselves, yay! Still being underaged and not being able to travel abroad alone, this was luck of a lifetime! My real adult parties started on Plotforma of Sochi. Nostalgic I get!
I had not visited Sochi in almost 7 years, though! So I did not see how it had changed after the Olympic Committee decision to run the Winter 2014 Games there. I was expecting something spectacular, of course. Considering that in my childhood Krasnaya Polyana was just a field of donkeys’ poop with 2 old funiculars where you had to lock yourself to an iron chair with a chain that would end up hanging on the level of your knees. The facilities turned out to be even nicer than I expected. Everything is modern and good-looking. It surprised me, though, that even on the days with crowds of people the lifts were still running at their lowest capacity level. That caused very long lines, of course. I guess this typical Russian “protocol above common sense” did not pass Sochi by, either. Some areas like the Southern Slope definitely lack 2-3 additional lifts to eliminate Disneyland-in-China-like lines. But there is night skiing which is absolutely a cool thing not that common for Europe! In general, everything is open until late, which is normal practice in Russia, but unusual after Alps where even apres-ski bars often close down before dinner.
The service, despite desperate attempts to be on the highest level, also suffers quite often. We stayed at Rosa Springs Hotel, which obviously lacks simple vertical management. Too much staff on the same operational level causes pure chaos. They would smile at your as bright as the sun, but no requests can ever be met – only following the protocol, again. The hotel itself is also just too big. Taking it 15 minutes of walking in a bathrobe to get to the swimming pool as a bit annoying. Especially if you learn at the end of the journey that the spa area is closed out of the blue. It was not that bad, don’t take me wrong. I just really prefer small cozy family hotels of Tyrol.
The food is decent taking into consideration Russian sanctions against edible foods. The restaurants “Груша” (“Pear”) up on Rosa Khutor where we stayed and “Шале” (“Chalet”) down in the village were quite good, with few remarks from my foodie self. We celebrated Ksusha’s Birthday at Harat’s Pub and it was a total blast! Such good life music and vibe! I haven’t danced this crazily since St. Petersburg’s Dumskaya street, if you know what I mean 😉
The best thing was the weather! +15 in the sun? – yes, please! Too warm to ski? No! On the peaks it stayed cold enough, and the snow getting soft and wet closer to the bottom wasn’t annoying at all as it is so heavy that it doesn’t get lumped into mogul-like bumps. Snowboarding was very pleasant, so was our time there in general, because we were a big fun crowd with a lot of champagne and good mood!
I couldn’t wait to see the city of Sochi. On a nice Monday afternoon we drove down. The new roads are awesome! No traffic jams which used to be so typical in my childhood, all modern junctions, we made it there like on a rocket! My grandparents live away from the touristic center now, in a very quiet beautiful area close to the beach. So much had been built in Sochi, it’s unbelievable! And I don’t mean just the new skyscraper hotels; the suburbs are full of unfinished condos. I can tell that the construction fever swept over the area big deal. A lot of companies obviously went bankrupt and countless projects remain abandoned, wondering what their destiny is going to be. Th city changed its face completely. We even took a small city bus instead of waiting for a driver to look around a bit. Some areas remain untouched, but all downtown is framed in modern grandiose constructions now.
Me and Ksusha stayed in town for the evening to walk along the famous promenade which I must have walked more than thousand times in my life and grab dinner. The promenade looks the same, I wonder if the same camel Yasha still sits there in summer. Everything is, of course, quiet during the winter time, but there were still a lot of people having a slow romantic walk glazing at the sea. I liked it even more than the crazy summer with a lot of noise and fuss. Market tents where I used to buy every single bracelet made out of shells when was a kid are now replaced with less authentic, all in the same style, townhouses, on the ground level of which are still same souvenirs being sold. but it looks more classy and harmonious than those random tents were. I loved the tents, though! The main entertainment for little me when in Sochi with grandparents or aunt was to take a walk to the promenade and persuade them to buy me something useless but urgently desired.
When I go to the city where I don’t know a place for dinner, I always check on Instagram, 2018 is so straightforward. Sochi doesn’t have a city foodguide account which came as a big surprise to me. If I moved there, I would develop one myself right away! So if you are from Sochi and you know food, please create a guide asap, it’s gonna get famous at one point anyways 😉 I picked 3 places to chose from: Marinad, Old Boys “Pirs” (why the hell are there no normal websites?! this needs to be fixed by the local food society, too) and Syndicate. The first two seemed proper just for the warm season, so we went to the Steak House “Syndicate”. A bit Russian-style-wanna-be-posh in my opinion, but good! Quite a decent wine selection incl. per glass, which is not very common for expensive restaurants in Russia; indeed good meat with a fine understanding of what I mean under “I want this raw, please”; nice service and a cool design, too! I just remember from my childhood that the selection of where to eat was either an outdoor grill place with karaoke and drunk tourists after which you smell like a kebab more than a kebab does, or an awfully decorated with all glittery restaurant so expensive that it would be ridiculous to go there even for a coffee, which always left those empty or rarely hosting drunk crowds of some nouveau riches. It was good to see that the city developed quite well gastronomically. I read good reviews on quite a few places, and just walking on the streets it seemed that the resort managed to attract some gastronomes with good taste. My overall impression of the new Sochi was very positive.
If I lived in Russia, I would probably love to live in Sochi. Hope to come back in another 7 years at least!
Meanwhile, Vienna is still cold; looks like this year we will have a proper long winter which didn’t happen the past 5 years since I’m here. My snowboarding season is far from being over, and next week I will already ride on in a new area. To be continued! 🏂