|arriving in Sochi, passport control|
For the next 17 days the media will be bombarding us with news and information on the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, the popular Russian resort on the Black Sea which for more than a century has been known as the Russian Riviera thanks to its almost Mediterranean climate, landscapes, beaches, parks and mineral springs.
|Russian schoolchildren on the sea promenade|
|teenagers practice military routines at war monument|
The Botanic gardens stretch along the seaside promenade with mimosas, oleander, magnolia and palms line the streets. Expensive new high rise residential buildings give the seaside city the air of a Caucasian Monte Carlo.
|Botanic Gardens, Sochi|
When I visited Sochi a few years ago the city was buzzing with activity in view of the upcoming Olympics: new buildings , horrendous traffic and a sense of expectancy. Already then Sochi annually attracted nearly two million visitors who came to enjoy the beaches and curative powers of the mineral springs, especially those of Matsesta, or “fiery water”.
|hot springs near Sochi|
During the Soviet period there were 223 health resorts, sanatoria, sort of all inclusive resorts, along the 140 kms of Sochi coast making it the "longest " city after Los Angeles .
Joseph Stalin , who suffered from arthritis, found relief at these hot baths and built his summer residence at Zelenaya Roscha, a highly guarded compound camoflagued within a pine forest .
|Stalin's green dacha|
It was a no-flight zone overlooked by guard towers on the nearby hilltop since the psychopathic leader lived in dread of assassination.
|inside Stalin's villa|
Even the fountain in the central courtyard was turned off at night so any intruder could be heard. Stalin slept only during the day on a cot in his office and his leather divan is provided with bullet proof sides .
|Fulvio tries out Stalin's bullet proof divan , billiards room in the background|
|Stalin's wax figure|
The wax figure seated in the study reminds us that the Georgian leader was only 5ft. 2 inches tall . This was another reason why photos with Churchill and Roosevelt at the conference held in nearby Yalta in 1945 show them all seated.
Sochi was one of the many ports visited over the years as a cruise enrichment lecturer aboard luxury liners plying the Mediterranean, Black, Adriatic, Baltic and Atlantic. For a list see my website and let me know if you have questions about any of these ports.
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