2012 - Russia
This short visit formed part of our cruise on Discovery to the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea taking in 10 countries: Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Italy, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine.
have visited Russia twice before, both times under our own steam and not as
docked at Sochi where we were the only ship.
The weather was now much cooler.
port is a city of 400,000 but is very green with much woodland covering the
hills which lie close to the water. It
was established as a fortress in 1828 following a peace treaty between
Russia and Turkey when it was ceded to Russia.
was interesting to be told that the attractive Grecian-style Winter Theatre
was designed by the same man who developed the typical “workers”
sculptures of the communist era.
had a short coach ride to the promenade where we had a guided walk.
Formerly marshland the area was developed into a botanical garden.
In all honesty there was not a lot to see but the city honours Pushkin
who once lived here. His former
house is a museum and there are various statues of him.
also visited Mathesta Spa or “Majesta”.
The name apparently means “fiery water” aptly named as it is very
sulphurous. The Greeks
came here in the 6th-4th centuries BC but it has been
known since pre-historic times. .
the spa there is a palace style building from the 1930s but we did not visit
this. It was constructed to give
workers a holiday destination. In
similar fashion (perhaps!) the city is now to be a Winter Olympics venue in
2014 and we saw in Sochi much development of high rise buildings to make
this suitable for the number of visitors expected.
Unfortunately, as our guide freely commented, the people are not used
to giving a friendly smile of welcome! They
appeared stereotypically Russian. Apparently
it is quite unusual for Britons to visit Sochi although Australians do,
probably as part of their visits to Sebastopol.
also visited Stalin’s Dacha which was given to him in the 1930s.
It was later converted to use by holidaying workers and is now run as
a quiet hotel. The building was
painted green to merge with the trees so as not be a target from the sea.
told it is an attractive green city but without huge other attractions and
definitely in need of some
training in public relations.
We spent this on the moored ship as we could not go ashore without a visa. We had not arranged a personal one and could only go out on a group one if we had booked a tour. We did not book one for today.
docked at Novorossysk, next to the battle cruiser Mikhail Kutuzov.
The morning was bright but extremely cold.
The place seemed equally bleak as we encountered our first location,
adjacent to where the ship was berthed.
It is a huge square/promenade with military statues and buildings.
The city had been Italian but was seized by the Turks in the 16th
century and then ceded to the Russians in 1828.
It remains a Russian naval base and is the largest and warmest of
Russia’s sea-ports. It has 300,000 people.
announcement was made over the tannoy as we walked around the square. The
two of us were close to Martin Sixsmith (our ex-BBC Moscow correspondent and
our Discovery lecturer) who told us that this was announcing a curfew
for young people and giving the rules of the city.
We later noticed both that the city is relatively poor but also has a
large number of police.
noticed very many Lada cars but there were also some newer Asian cars and a
tour took us to the Valley of Death Monument where Breshnev had fought.
It was he who gave the city the title of “City of Heroes”.
noticed both the usual endless drab blocks of Soviet flats but also a large
area of newish large luxury houses with gates and high walls.
Tree lined roads did help to obscure some of the blocks of flats.
next stop was the “V” monument. The
Germans wanted the port as access to the south of Russia and so fighting was
intense with 13,000 of the inhabitants killed in what the Russians term
“The Great Patriotic War”. This
modern, black and brutalist style monument has a stairway up one arm of the
V where photos of heroes are displayed and military solemn music is played.
We then descended stairs on the other arm with more photos.
Our impression was that this sought to portray the glory of the
battles rather than mourn the waste of life and the destruction of 96% of
to our general comments
a stall holder lady (who sold us Babushka dolls for the grandchildren) was
bright, smiling and friendly.
moved into the city where we saw very little in English except the odd part
in a shop sign. Our next stop was the “Eternal Flame Monument” where
some volunteers from Discovery laid a wreath.
day ended with a visit to the battle cruiser we had seen next to our ship.
This was built in 1954 and was definitely showing its age, with much
rust but little “health and safety”!
It had been the chief ship of the Black Sea fleet but had been moored
in its present position since 2001. It
is now a Unesco listed museum ship.
were very conscious of a culture so different from our own and redolent of
the Cold War era. Definitely
Russian and definitely not worth a second visit!
However it is always interesting to see places that are so different
from our own country and to have a little more understanding of what the
people believe and why.