Everybody knows that the nights are dark in Sochi. As well as the Olympic games were held there. But not everyone is aware that the city which was a top of vacation dreams of our grandparents, is now turning into a trendy, modern holiday resort where all can find leisure activities for themselves: surf spots for active tourists, beaches and bowery parks – for those who enjoy lazy relax, pine forests, waterfalls, nature reserves and even relic yew and boxwood groves for nature beauty lovers. Moreover, it will take you not more than an hour to reach the mountains and change beach flip-flops to snowboard. Green, vivid, amazingly various - Sochi fascinates with slightly felt Caucasian character and light touch of soviet romance.
The Sochi arboretum was founded in the end of XIX century during the tsar reign times, and since then the plants collection continues to grow. Any arboretum is a possibility to make a trip around the world in several hours. Now you wander along the forests of the Amazon, then you listen to the song of bamboo bushes in the mountains of Japan, and in just half an hour you find yourself lying under the palm trees somewhere in Eastern Asia. Silence and tranquility are all around you, only peacocks clack lazily and porcupines rustle. Those who like excursions are offered to rent an electric car (1050 Russian rubles) for a faster look at the beauties of nature or to visit a sightseeing square (pay attention to the lifts, they themselves are the monuments to constructivism), which is a convenient position to observe all the 48 hectares of the park. The entrance fee is 250 Russian rubles, what means you can spend the whole day on the territory of the park: poetize in rose garden, hide from friends behind sequoias, declare of love in the shadow of chestnuts, have a snack of cold Sochi okroshka (traditional cold summer soup) at the height of 130 meters. One more free entertainment for the sentimental ones: try to find in the family photo albums the photographs, where your young mother and father with enlightened faces hug the first in their lives palm tree; and set yourself a task if not to find this exact tree, but to make the same kind of photo with enlightened face and exotic flora.
Sea port will most likely save from the vacation blues attack those who are already tired from wandering along the alleys: it is always crowdy in the port. Moreover, since not long time ago it is considered to be a trendy surf spot in Sochi, and locals think that Olympic games of 2014 is the reason for that: right before the Olympics the new terminal was built, and its construction forced the waves forming. So even if you don’t really strive to catch the waves yourself, you can always watch the surfers riding their waves at lingering hoots of leaving ships. And those who love soviet comedies can find here a monument to film family of Semen Gorbunkov: the scenes of “The Diamond Arm”, when character of actor Yuriy Nikulin is leaving for a cruise, were shot in Sochi sea port.
It is recommended to start the walk along this very cozy park with no name from the Chernomorskaya street. Here the contrast between the old, Soviet and the new, post Olympic Sochi is more evident than anywhere in the city. From one side the park is surrounded by fancy new buildings with palm trees and ideally cut grass in the yards. Sometimes you even feel you are not in Russia but somewhere in the south of Spain and the ice-cream seller with moustache is about to shout "Helado! Helado!". From the other side, right away when you buy this ice cream and sit on the bench to enjoy the amazing sea view, you will be interrupted by an old lady in colorful hat who will ask you to make a photo of her with lilac on the background, complaining on the side that at Brezhnev’s time girls didn’t wear such short skirts. In case the lady turns out to be too talkative, you can escape from her using one of the stairs hollowed in the rock to the embankment.
Inconspicuous signpost with “Iveria” written on it hides on the embankment near the hotel “Zhemchuzhina”. Coming down the stairs you find yourself on spacious terrace made from dark wood, where even during summer heat it is nice and cool, and during spring it becomes the perfect place for dinner with a view on sunset and faraway flashing lights of ships. The most delicious dish in the menu is tender baked trout, which doesn’t concede to Mediterranean fish delicacies: in “Iveria” it is stuffed with thin slices of tomatoes and baked with Caucasian spices. The second place belongs to barbeque – mutton, pork, poultry – sweet, lean, with savory Georgian sauces. The waiters are worth mentioning – so friendly and polite that you want to kiss them all when leaving “Iveria”. For example, almost the half of the reviews on Foursquare is deservedly devoted to the waiter Albert.
The Sochi surf spot “Hosta-Rica”, located in Hosta region, gained its popularity after 2010 when the first Surf Yoga Festival – roaring festival that connected yoga with extreme sports – was held here. Since then “Hosta-Rica” has become the center of Sochi surfers’ meeting point – people surf here even in winter when the water is so cold that even diving suit hardly helps. However, the weather in spring is much milder, that’s why all the advantages of “Hosta-Rica” can be estimated in May not only by experienced surfers, but newcomers as well. And in case you will have to wait for the right waves for a couple of days (yes, such things also happen), you will always find another “lucky” pal there who will gladly share some surfers’ stories with you: for example, how Elena Shevchuk, founder of surf school at Bali, came to Sochi and broke her surfboard right on the first time in the water.
Since you have reached Sochi, it would be a crime not to experience the local skiing tracks – you don’t even have to bring all sports equipment with you – skis, snowboards, and even sleighs can be rented at Rosa Khutor Resort. There, by the way, the spring snowboard camp Bonus Spring Session will take place on May 1-9 in the first Russian hotel for riders - Riders’ Lodge, with uts own rental station, cinema and eco-friendly restaurant with vegetarian menu. Riding - in the morning, walking along the Olympic village that reminds tiny Copenhagen - during the day, and partying with riders who got their noses a bit sunburned – at night. This is the best way to make a one-day vacation from sea, seagulls and khinkali.
Pioneers of Sochi gastro movement and founders of “Old boys” wanted to create a non-typical cuisine, which would follow the world trends for locality and special vision, and step by step they are coming to it. But the way to the interesting dishes is thorny and not for the cowards. The wooden house with gastropub is situated on the territory of Caucasian national park and stands on the top of the mountain, that is why the guests are driven “up” by preliminary request only by off-road vehicle – a car with sweet name “bukhanka” (“loaf”); a passenger car, regardless the skills of the driver, will not be able to reach the place. Around the guesthouse you will see horses pasturing, mountain river flowing, apple tree garden flourishing and the connection with the exterior world being quite limited. So, in case you want to escape for a while from vanity, work and city, head here, try home made tinctures, watch the southern stars ripe as grapes.
There are plenty of nature wonders in Sochi region and for sure two weeks’ vacation will not be enough to see them all, not even talking about May days-off. But in case you would like to leave the city anyway, it is highly recommended to see Zmeykovskiye waterfalls, that are located at the river Dikarka, first. The water there is dull blue – seems like someone has put a thick lay of turquoise on the bottom of the river. And the waterfalls with their lulling hum of breaking over the stones spread such splendor and pristine tranquility that it makes all bad and vain thoughts disappear from your head. Zmeykovskiye waterfalls are quite easy to reach – at Sochi railway station take the bus number 120 and the whole trip will be around 45 minutes. Special camping equipment is not required, there are roads leading to the waterfalls, but comfortable shoes and some sandwiches in the backpack are more than welcome.