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Sochi

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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! 🏂


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Moscow

I found it a bit bizarre that I visit Moscow quite regularly, but there hasn’t been a single note named like this yet.

As always, I don’t find a way for my posts to follow my location changes. I just came back from my kinda hop-on hop-off trip around Caucasus and now am enjoying “babye leto” (Russian term for Indian summer) riding a bike and playing tennis in my hometown. But there is so much more to tell about!

A big must-eat-and-drink list from Barcelona will happen one day for sure (so will the ones from Hong Kong and Havana…)

After leaving Spain I had a spontaneous 10-days stop in Vienna. It wasn’t in my vacation schedule but turned out to be awesome with all the barbecues and family/friends get-togethers one following another. I liked being around Vienna (we were sometimes going to Klosterneuburg, called “close to Neuburg” by out Spanish friend) in August and will definitely plan to stay for some summer months next year.

Then, I left for my traditional annual trip to Moscow. I fly there every August and usually weather treats me with some tornados and flying cows passing by as soon as I land. But this year I have been so extremely lucky with the weather wherever I go that even in Moscow it was bit less freezing than I feared. Allowed to walk a lot, spend quality time with my sister and her fiancé, meet with my childhood friends and even catch up with the Viennese fellows who were also enjoying rare but pleasant warmth of the capital.

 

Here are some places I tried this time that are worth attention, in my opinion. I don’t go for the most luxury places which Moscow is famous for and which most of the foreigners visiting the city would prefer to try (totally understandable, Moscow knows luxury!). Those are more of what I see as better taste, something not very often observed in Russia. For the locals, they will probably be the most well-known and hyped spots which won’t interest them anymore either. But as a guest, I enjoyed stopping by:

  • Glenuill: a small place with tables placed extremely close to each other, quite intimate atmosphere in general and always smiling handsome waiters that treated us with a cake after our meal. I am not sure what made me like the place: that honey cake or crab pasta I had eaten before it. I am a big fan of crab meat but, unfortunately, it’s not served anywhere you go in the area where I live. Will be more commonly seen in menus in Russia. Anyways, I liked the little restaurant where I went straight from the airport. A nice place for dates. I had a date with my Jane there, and it was absolutely romantic!
  • Рыбы Нет (Ryby Net – “there is no fish”): a meat restaurant which I had already tried a year ago. It’s a typical trying-to-be-one-of-a-kind place of the big city centre, but I like it. Indeed good meat, and high patency ensures always fresh products. I ate a beef tartar there even though I usually don’t risk eating raw meat in those countries where I am not 100% sure about the quality standards. And the location is perfect for tourists, of course.
  • Итальянец (“the Italian”): an Italian restaurant, what a surprise! Famous for its Italian chef it has very well-organized menu and an option to vary any kind of pasta with any kind of sauce, etc. from the whole menu. On the side, there is another place from the same owner(s), a bit less posh but offering no less delicious range of Italian specialties. And you can chose from both menus in whatever the restaurant you picked a table!
  • Молоко (Moloko – “milk”): again, in the very center of the melting pot. But being on the street full of gastronomical wonders, it was the only one where nice staff found a table for us on a Friday evening with no reservation. Be ready that if you ask “Sorry, is there a free table” in Moscow, you may get an answer “How the hell do I know, go inside and have a look” from a waiter. It’s tough mother-Russia, baby! So, Moloko was the only one that agreed to have us, and tven though we were only drinking there, I could see that it’s a place that I call “good one”. The concept was for sure prepared by the professionals so was the cocktails menu. Very close to classic American bars’ standards but with some innovative approach. I ordered a rum-based cocktail with creamy caramel texture and lemongrass in it (since la Petite of Florence lemongrass in drinks is like crab meat in food for me) and was extremely satisfied. Watching the barkeepers was also a pleasure, and you know, I am a big fan of their craft!
  • Upside down cake is a place around the corner, where we tried to sit down for some sweets first. Their range of desserts seemed very attractive, and I had seen the place on Instagram a few times before. But they offer no alcohol at all. To me a cocktail is a perfect dessert, so I don’t really understand how one can position themselves as a desserts place not offering the main after-meal/instead of meal experience.
  • Americano: this is where desserts looked amazing! Can’t judge much as I was too full to eat there, but I loved their location and the atmosphere inside. Perfect for a quiet chat that shouldn’t be overheard or for loosing oneself to some reading or browsing.
  • I like W (W stands for Wine <3): if I had understood it correctly, it’s a chain for those who not only like wine but also like beer, etc. We like wine and food! And both were very good there! I ordered roastbeef salad, bruschettas and creamy sauce pasta with duck and was very satisfied. The place is a bit louder and might require a reservation on busy evenings, but it will be a cool location for a big company pregame or celebrating some event, too! The only thing that I didn’t like was that when we finished our meal and didn’t want more wine at that moment when we were just talking, the waiter kept coming up asking when we will order more drinks and ended up asking if he can bring us the bill when we repeated that we were good for the moment. But, again, that kicking out to seat new customers is common, so don’t get pissed at one particular place, but blame the service culture in general.

I must say I really enjoyed this time in Moscow. Maybe it’s the weather, as I am very climate-dependent. Maybe it’s the fact that all worked out so well with no plan and I got to see so many people. And I admit, I see the progress in the city, even in comparison with last year’s visit. You can pay with credit cards everywhere now; the city sites became brighter and cleaner. Let’s see what happens in the next years.


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Motherland Trip

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photo by Jane

Hey hey hey! I am typing this post about Russia on the very last moment, already flying from Moscow to Paris. Then I will most likely have no internet for about a month. Even if I find it on the bottom of the ocean (I can, you know me), I hardly doubt it will be fast enough to upload new posts. So the blog is probably going to be resting until the end of September. Anyways, we’ll see. I will try to post as soon as possible 😉

Now a short review of my trip around Russia. Flying from Barcelona to Samara takes much longer now as we couldn’t fly over Ukraine. But I still like all those routes when I recognize the familiar cities. Hello, Cannes!

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My first stop was parents’ place where I reunited with my best friends Polina, Daria and Ksenia. It is VERY rare that all four of us find ourselves in the same city at the same time. I can’t even remember such occasion since high school years. Usually we catch up in groups of at most three of us in different places: pretty much anywhere, from Ibiza or Barcelona to Italy; from Togliatti to Saint Petersburg; from Vienna to the mountain valleys. I can’t even describe how much I value all those meetings. 

Parents’ place, family dinners that turn into night swimming with floating wine glasses all around the pool; car racing around hometown and endless stupid but hilarious jokes that only we understand. Yes, please!

Even cooler is our tradition to travel to Saint Petersburg all together after having met in hometown. It has been happening this way for couple years already and I absolutely love switching the city but staying with the same drinking buddies. Another cool news is that Ksenia is moving to Saint Petersburg now! So, even more reasons to come back! Like if I needed reasons. 

So, Saint P was the next stop. 3l8iu_2rqloMy favorite city in Russia, forever. No other place like that in the whole enormous country, I bet. For those who don’t follow me for that long – I used to live there. Having moved to Vienna 4 years ago, I already lost the connection I used to have with the city. All the feelings seem to be very far away and rarely strike me with some weird deja vus; most of the places I used to call mine aren’t there anymore. But what I find fascinating – the people still are. I have some kind of strong friendship with all my friends who live in Saint P. And I am always very happy to see all of you, guys, no matter where life brings us, we seem to always stay on the same vibe.

Last time in Saint Petersburg I wrote about the new places that caught my attention. This time we explored some locations as well, I can recall Bekitzer, Rubinshtein cafe, Buddy, Mickey and Monkeys and Zoom. All were decent, especially for the current situation with embargo in Russia. But honestly, nothing amazed me that much. It’s good to see that the city isn’t dying like many Russian cities now, but nothing that much exciting has popped up in my opinion. I am really looking forward to the next visit because the New Holland, place that I used to love when being a resident, is opening up very soon! Unfortunately I won’t see it, but at least there is something to come back for other than my amazing dudes there.

Weird weather changes, strange but friendly people on the streets like Dumskaya; shiny beautiful houses which look like small palaces; making it to the other side before the bridges go up… This is all so Saint P. And we love it! This time even our parents joined us there later, so the trip was absolute fun.hka_pelg0

My last destination was Moscow.e-d_jnz0fpo I am not a fan, the city is very hard for me to understand and deal with. But it has become much more comfortable to come there since my sis had moved to the capital. Now it’s always a pleasure to text her that I am gonna stay over and be sure that I will have the warmest host ever. 

Her fiancè picked me up from Sapsan, took my suitcase that looks and weights like a small coffin during this 3-months trip and drove me to the very center where I met with another very important person – my classmate Ira. So many people have moved to Moscow, that’s unbelievable! I am just very grateful to stay close with my elementary school buddies and always feel like we never parted when we sit next to each other sharing stories and laughing like crazy. 

I also met Rustam – FLEX crew power forever! And the rest of the weekend was devoted to family fun with my sis aka eat and drink at as many places as possible. I like this shifting around the places from one cocktail to another kind of leisure! She showed me around a lot; I liked TimeOutBar the best.
Well, Moscow is definitely gorgeous. No crisis there at all. All rich and shiny; fresh flowers literally covering it all. Fabulous, of course. I have a lot of different thoughts about the Moscow phenomena though. But it doesn’t matter here, as a tourist you simply enjoy all the beauty and fairy tales around you!

So, that was it for now with Russia. Earlier today I got on the connecting flight to Paris where I am expecting a huge plane that’s gonna take me to an amazing adventure around Cuba and Mexico. 

Thanks again to every single friend and relative of mine for making trips home so joyful. See you soon!


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Always Coming Back

13939603_10209351616894940_770212466119283992_nRussia! Radical weather changes within 10 minutes can mean only one thing – I am in Saint Petersburg!

A bit more than a year had passed since our last visit to St P all together. A lot has changed, and now Ksenia is already almost a constant resident here. It makes me absolutely happy to realize all my closest friends live(d) in the best city of Russia at some point of their lives. And I love our tradition to meet in Togliatti and then fly to St P to continue the party.

Yes, the tradition hasn’t changed, I already managed to stop by in my home town, too. Still hoping to catch up with jet setting and write about all the places I went to! Maybe on my way to Moscow on Friday 😉

Right now I am more than enjoying my favorite Russian city, already met my friends and today even our parents joined us here for a family event that they decided to have in Saint Petersburg. Hope the tricky weather is going to be good to us though!


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hashtag home

 Being home is always good. Even though most of my acquaintances don’t live around anymore, it’s still very cool to come back for several days sometimes. Especially like it happened this time – when some of childhood friends happen to be there for the same period. And my sister came from Moscow for that weekend, too! Ksenia met me right when I arrived, Daria was there with her boyfriend Axel. Was big times of an experience for a Swedish guy to visit our hometown! We were the only people he could speak English with, so for sure us going out drew a lot of attention everywhere! Was fun, a lot of fun, and I love you, guys! And all that special weird Russian thing that we have inside us!
Parents’ house is of course the best place to be again. Any place where they are becomes worth rushing there, but their home is something absolutely amazing! Bright backyard, tasty dinners made together, endless rivers of wine and long intense talks. A lot of decisions taken, as always, when I go home. A lot of amazing emotions, laughs and love. Love love love!


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Once a Russian – always a Russian

qmeaf5pzsxgHey Ho! Long time, huh?

I have so much to tell. As far as I remember, I touched my blog last time when was in Moscow. And now again I found myself here, currently being on my way to Hong Kong. Noooo idea how I am gonna catch up with everything that’s been happening lately.

A lot there is. Trip to Russia; snowboarding tour around such familiar since childhood Gastein valley of Tyrol; introducing Ksenia to skiing and the mountain culture and spending some cool time with her in Vienna as well; discovering a new spot in Italian Alps – marvelous Madonna do Campiglio; healing a broken heart and even falling there again; passing computer programming which seemed more impossible than ever fall in love again. And a lot more.
Let’s start with a trip home. This time I only went to my parents’ place without stopping in Moscow or going to Saint P. And I am already planning to do it exactly the same way in spring again. I started feeling more attached to their place somehow, even though we fortunately get to see each other around Europe quite often, too. And at the same time I totally lost it with Saint P, which used to be my home, my soul. I don’t know how one explains that. I simply don’t feel anymore like mud, rain, unknown over hipster places that are all the same to me. However, I still have most of my Russian friends there. And I wanna hang with you, of course. But as you guys are starting to float to Moscow, it seems like I better invite the loyal Saint P inhabitants to join me and together we hit the capital. In summer, maybe? (I actually was gonna try that in May and already went for booking tickets to remember at the very last second that I have an event coming up exactly at that time. Not today.)
So, only parents’ place for now. I hope I feel like Saint Petersburg again one day, really! But that time I felt perfectly right at home. Family, best friend, endless talks in front of our fireplace drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (which is so hard to get in Vienna, drives me crazy!) and listening to an amazing life concerts collection that my dad possesses. I love it that way. A “winter style” visit home I call that. The “summer” one moves white wine experience to the swimming pool and fireplace light gets replaced with the night underwater illumination. Soon, soon!
If you follow me anywhere, then you for sure must have noticed another major change (alongside with falling out of love *poop emoji*) that happened to me while being in Russia last time. And that was a total change of my hair color. I am platinum blond since then (well, at the moment with pink and purple stripes) and it feels absolutely amazing! I have heard many times that my red hair totally suits me and it’s my special thing. I for sure go back to it once. But for now I am so satisfied! All that stupid cliché shit like “new hair color – new life” absolutely worked out for me. Let’s see, what else it brings 😉
Enjoy your family nests as much as I enjoy mine. Visit your best friend. And the rest is rust and stardust.


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LED-KUF-SVO-VIE-FCO-GOA

Еееее! Я пишу-таки наконец пост! Кто молодец? Я молодец!

Сложно, конечно, рассказывать о паре недель в России, когда я уже две недели в Италии, и мои мысли заняты только итальянским языком, морем и сырной фокаччей с песто.

Я решила объединить пару слов о Тольятти и о Вене, так как своего рода дом у меня и там, и там, и нет, конечно же не потому, что мне просто лень писать.

К родителям я поехала специально к Дню рождения мамы, который я встречаю с ними каждый год. Это также лучший способ увидеть всех друзей семьи и родственников разом, никого не пропустив. Своих друзей, хоть в самом Тольятти у меня их один, я тоже была рада видеть: из Самары приехали Ксюша и Ира, из Питера – Оля, с которой мы там не успели словиться, а из Москвы залетала моя любимая сестра, которую я однозначно считаю и своим лучшим другом. Дома всегда одинаково приятно. Камин, вино, разговоры и Челентано по вечерам; поездки в город на завтрак с кем-то знакомым; ленивый день в бассейне посреди тихого свежего леса; ужины у родителей с кучей гостей – и все снова по кругу. Хоть у меня все меньше знакомых и занятий, которые остались в Тольятти, но я все равно его не забываю, и стабильно хотя бы два раза в год туда приезжаю. Спасибо этой атмосфере маленького города, которая так напоминает мне о детстве. И спасибо жизни за городом за возможность иногда побыть в полной тишине и поговорить с близкими обо всем на свете.

Моя традиционная поездка в Италию была давно спланирована, но в последний момент я успела организовать рейсы так, что смогла заехать в Вену на пару дней. И это было здорово. Я никогда не оставалась там летом, но в этом году успела полюбить жаркие ночи в гамаке на крыше под звездным небом и поездки на мотоцикле, во время которых город кажется куда обворожительнее, чем когда сменяешь пешие прогулки на общественный транспорт. И те выходные в Вене я была совершенно счастлива.

Но пришло время снова собрать так до конца и не разобранный чемодан и помчать в аэропорт, из которого я, казалось, только что приехала. 

последние минуты с чемоданом, который я еще долго не видела

Мне стало очень уж не везти с перелетами. Из тринадцати за этот год шесть были очень неудачными: задержки по много часов, нестыковки, ночевки в других городах, вынужденные поиски отеля в пять утра… В этот раз три перелета подряд трясло так, что люди вокруг орали, а раз ударило волной от встречного борта настолько сильно, что от запрокинувшегося крыла и я не осталась равнодушна. Я не боюсь летать совершенно, люблю проводить время в аэропортах и наслаждаюсь всем, что связано с путешествиями. Но тут уже и я начала задумываться, не настало ли время чаще перемещаться по суше. Как и следовало ожидать с пересадкой в злосчастном Риме, мой багаж потерялся на много дней, все рейсы задержали, на пересадку я бежала, но и она не прошла без казусов. Не важно, в общем. Просто не летайте вуелингом. По моему опыту пять из пяти раз были просто ужасными, и ни разу компания не смогла решить ни одну проблему.

Это все уже не важно. Сейчас мне уже даже сложно было придумать, как описать недели до приезда в Лигурию. Потому что когда ты живешь у Чинкве-Терре, какой-то там чемодан тебе уже не нужен.