Memorable Visit to Sochi, Russia - The Missourian: Opinion

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Memorable Visit to Sochi, Russia

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Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 5:32 pm

t was in the summer of 2007 that we were on an Inland Press Association study mission to the countries along the Black Sea. One of the one-day stops was in Sochi, Russia.

We had never heard of Sochi until that trip. But we remember well how proud the people we met in Sochi were of the fact that their city had just been selected as the site for the Winter Olympics of 2014. The city won the competition among a number of other cities in the world. With the Winter Olympics beginning Friday, we couldn’t help but recall that trip.

Sochi had on its best look in competing for the Olympics. The city was clean, everything had been improved, and it was as neat as a German’s yard. There still were billboards proclaiming it as the “Gateway to the Future” in English. The parts of the city we visited had a fresh, newborn look. Fresh paint was obvious everywhere. Infrastructure was in good shape.

ochi has been a Black Sea resort for a long time. It has attractive beaches and its background is the Greater Caucasus Mountains, which will serve as locations for the winter games. The mountains are snowcapped year-round. Sochi is home to famous springs and spas, another reason it’s so popular as a resort. It has been called the Russian Riviera.

It is said that Sochi has attracted visitors since the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. Greek merchants made the city part of their Black Sea trade route. History also tells us that part of Russia has been under the control of many governments and ruling parties in the last 1,000 years, from Romans of the first century to the Ottoman Turks of the 15th century. It was in the 19th century that the Russians cemented their control on the northeast corner of the Black Sea. About a century later, the Russians promoted the region’s tourism value. The climax of those efforts is winning the Winter Games.

ussia over the years built hundreds of resort hotels. The tourists come for the warm sea waters, mineral springs and for the region’s scenic attractions. From what we’ve read, many hotels have been built for the Winter Olympics. Some aren’t ready and the Russians are rushing to complete them.

One interesting fact about Sochi that hasn’t received any publicity — at least we haven’t read or heard about it with all the information about Sochi because of the Olympics — is that it was where Josef Stalin spent his holidays. Perhaps that is because many members of the present generation don’t know that Stalin was the ruthless communist dictator who ruled Russia for decades, and who was their leader during World War II.

Stalin’s former villa is located in a park-like setting just outside of Sochi. When we visited, it really was a memorial to Stalin. Whether it still is there, we don’t know. The present dictator, Vladimir Putin, has purged some of the memorials of past dictators and leaders of the early communist movement. The villa actually is called the Green Castle at the Green Grove. It is a massive building. There was a small building attached to the main one where the Stalin tribute was displayed. It was his office/study. There were several waxed, full-size figures of Stalin, one at his desk. It was nothing fancy, but it was a cozy setting.

Stalin had working vacations in Sochi and many of his important state decisions were made there. After the end of World War II, and when in failing health, Stalin visited Sochi many times. Stalin died in 1953.

We wrote of our visit in 2007: After the war, “the place fell into disrepair before some restoration began. The part we visited certainly shows its age but is in pretty good shape. Tourists, especially those interested in history, do visit. You get a taste of Stalin since some of his furniture and other personal belongings are displayed.”

The day we visited, a movie was being filmed there. The young crew and actors were very friendly.

/opinion