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This week, the Russian city of Sochi will open its doors to all of the world as the games of the 22nd Winter Olympiad begin. The Russian resort city is the first subtropical city to host the winter games, yet all the buzz has been about security concerns and stray dogs. Lost in all of the bad press lies a jewel of a city just waiting to be discovered.The city of Sochi is located on the east coast of the Black Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of Moscow. Bordered by the Caucasus Mountains, it is a haven for beach-goers and ski bums alike. The nearby ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana has quickly become one of Russia’s most popular ski resorts and will host the alpine and nordic events during the 2014 Winter Olympics. One of Russian Predident Vladimir Putin’s favorite holiday destinations, the resort features ski slopes boasting a nearly 5,800 foot (1,760 meters) vertical drop. Furthermore, the resort lays claim to 4 chairlifts in which the upper most station reaches over 7,600 feet (2,300 meters) in altitude.
While most of the world may remember Sochi for its wintry luster, Russians know Sochi as their “summer resort capital.” Long before the Winter Olympics descended on this beach town, Russians were making their way here to swim in the waters of the Black Sea. Although the population typically rests around 400,000 people, during the summer months the city’s population is said balloon to double that number due to the influx of tourists. Mainly Russian in nationality for the moment, it can be expected that tourists from around the world will now be traveling to Sochi long after the Olympic Torch is extinguished.
It is believed that Sochi has been inhabited by humans for tens of thousands of years, making the area an interesting place to view ancient artifacts and ruins. Over the years, the area has been controlled by several different civilizations, including the Byzantine, Greek, and Roman empires. For tourists looking to enjoy the ancient ruins of the area, the Godlik Fortress still remains. Initially built in the 4th or 5th century, some of the walls and towers of this Byzantine fortress still stand. In addition to the fortress, those searching for places of antiquity may wish to visit the Loo Temple. Originally built sometime between the 10th and 12th century, these Byzantine ruins still stand – albeit in poor condition. Many of the areas best ancient artifacts can be seen as part of the over 150,000 piece collection at the Sochi History Museum.
For those who enjoy a more artistic flair, Sochi is just the place! Each June, the city hosts Kinotavr – also known as the Sochi Open Film Festival. Although not as famous as Cannes, this beachside festival is second to none. Being Russia’s largest film festival, it only makes sense that Sochi plays host to Russia’s biggest film stars, directors, and writers for one week each year. In addition, the city lays claim to the largest collection of art on the Black Sea. From antique to contemporary art, art lovers of all types can enjoy more than 5,000 items of various styles at the Sochi Art Museum.
In addition to hitting the beach, outdoor enthusiasts may enjoy taking a hike up Mount Akhun. Here, tourists will be treated to the best panoramic views of the city. On a clear day, you may even be able to see the Turkish coast. Once you’ve completed your mountainside trek, spend some time in one of Sochi’s beautiful parks. One of the most popular parks in the city is the Dendrarium. According to Sochi Magazine, the park sits on approximately 20 hectares of land and is home to over 1,700 different species of bushes and trees. The park offers breathtaking views of both the mountains and the sea, easily positioning itself as one of Sochi’s must see attractions.
Whether you love swimming or skiing, modern or ancient, Sochi has it all. And, although this Russian gem has long been a hidden destination to the international public, it is clear that Sochi has now opened its doors for all the world to see. So, come and discover Sochi – Russia’s “Black Sea Pearl!”