Sochi has transformed from proletarian Soviet spa town to playground for Russia's rich and famous. Thanks to the investment of wealthy financiers, this up-and-coming coastal retreat is quickly becoming a prime destination for the jet set.
With two new yacht ports scheduled to open this year, the vibrant city of Sochi leading the transformation of the Black Sea coastline into an equal of the French and Italian Rivieras. Today on the Radisson Blu blog, our Radisson Blu Paradise Resort & Spa Sochi explains just what all the fuss is about.
Sporting legacy in the making
Much of the recent investment in Sochi has focused on the development of modern, world-class athletic facilities. A series of impressive venues now punctuate the city and in the distance, the Caucasus Mountains are crisscrossed with ambitious new trails. Tucked away in the same mountain range, tennis superstar Maria Sharapova hosts an elite tennis camp training the best and brightest up-and-comers in her sport. With more high tech sporting facilities in the works, Sochi's future as an athletic stronghold looks promising. 2014 sees the city making its first appearance on the Formula 1 calendar with the Russian Grand Prix - a race last held in 1914 - returning in October. Sochi is also set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
Kinotavr Film Festival
The stars of the athletic world aren't the only elites making their way to Sochi. It's also a popular destination for Russia’s cultural high fliers, who arrive in droves for the annual film festival. Kinotavr draws the most notable names of the Russian silver screen to walk the red carpet and schmooze with the city's most well heeled inhabitants at invitation-only beach parties. During film festival season in Russia, there’s enough glamour, wealth and sunshine to rival Cannes.
Fine wining and dining
Culinary greats of the Cote D'Azur draw on rustic Provencal fare, while Genoa is known for its classic pesto. Sochi similarly stays true to its Caucasian roots, with local specialties like lyulya kebabs made with ground lamb. The ones served at Shalet, a cafe on the boardwalk, are among the best - sprinkled with pomegranate, parsley, and chopped white onion, and accompanied by plenty of delicious Armenian flat bread. No visit is complete without dining at Belive Nochi, where the Georgian meat dumplings are rumoured to be the best in Russia. These juicy packets of ground meat are wrapped in delicate dough and served boiled or fried, with a variety of sauces like sour cream and garlic and sour pomegranate.
Despite Sochi's dramatic metamorphosis, the city keeps history in its sights. At Riviera Park, the "Glade of Friendship" is a patch of magnolia trees planted by Soviet cosmonauts and Sochi's most honoured guests throughout the ages. The park is also home to the "Alley of Writers." Like the French and Italian Rivieras, Sochi historically provided solace and inspiration to great authors; they are memorialised here by a series of statues.