Our trip to Khosta

Other stories December 13th, 2009

This is a guest post about a trip to Khosta – district in Sochi and my home town – from Robert MacDonald, an American living in Russia since 2000. You can read another article about this trip on his blog: An October Summer in Sochi… 10 days away from St Petersburg rain and snow!

The other day I put on my many zippered vest as I was going on errands for my wife and needed many pockets for instructions, cell phone, roubles and kopeks change, and well as paper money and metro tokens!  It was then I found my lucky stone from the beaches of Khosta…around 5 cm across, black with green highlights, with white algae and cracks.  It is an ideal worry stone, that you can massage with your thumb when thinking.

Well, since then I have carried it with me, as I love collecting, cleaning, and examining stones, pebbles, and rocks.  Also, having a momento in my pocket takes me back to one of the very special trips of my life.  I’ve seen the New Jersey shore,Florida palms, the ideal climate of southern California, Mexico’s Acapulco, the Riviera, and Italy’s Amalfi Coast… but in my mind nothing can compare with Sochi!

So, what is so special about Sochi?  We’ll in America we talk about a New York state of mind.  I guess there is a Sochi state of mind at least for me.  Having spent nine years in St Petersburg, I really miss hills and mountains, and Sochi has these in spades.

Also the beach is loaded with amazingly beautiful stones.  Sure you need beach shoes, but for a rock-a-holic such as me, you are in heaven.  I brought back an oatmeal box full of  stones and pebbles I collected.  Unlike the Jersey shore, we were there in the second half of this October and had warm weather and water.

It’s in my nature to love to be somehow geographically connected to far away places.  Our country cabin in next to an extension of the Volga, which wends its way throughout the north.  Sochi is on the Black Sea… the Chorney Morey… with connections to other fascinating lands and a fabulous history.  My family has had connections to the sea for many years, and I continued these connections by serving in the US Navy when I was in my 20’s.

Our trip was so unexpected.  We had returned from three months at our dacha near Pena in Tverskaya Oblisk. I was looking forward to a life of leisure reading novels and the internet, with an occasional walk in the park.  But a phone call from my wife’s friend Galla changed all that.  My wife said words to the effect, “Why can’t we hop the train to Sochi in the next week or so, and stay at the same inexpensive room rental?  I had no effective answer, so soon we were lugging bags through the wind and snow and metro and arrived at Moskovy train station with time to spare.

Your trip from Murmansk, or St Petersburg to Sochi (stops in Sochi city, Xhosta, or Adler) takes you through a different part of Russia, further east, a little hilly, and more prosperous than what I had seen in Tverskaya Oblisk.  Houses are often painted and well maintained, graveyards often had blue painted stones, the big cities (looking from the train at night) seemed futuristic and silent.  After a night, a day, and a night, we arrived in Khosta.  The train time had gone by quickly.

If you use your imagination when you travel and a little initiative, it’s possible to spend very little on accomodation and food.  Larissa and I have a tradition of saving money for transportation costs by economizing on where to stay and eat.

We rented one room from a lady in her apartment, right next to the main shopping street in town.  We only had our breakfast there… just tea, porridge, and toast… and ate most of our meals at stolovaya.  The best one was just down a walkway from where we stayed, the Lotus.

Everyday we walked from our street, 50 Let CCCP, past two bridges, bent to the left, and passed the sanatorium/pensionat for Gasprom and a few others, and stopped at a beach that had free cold showers, changing stalls, water fountain, and bathrooms (women had to pay 10 rubles).  This was post season so many of the facilities we used may not be available, or may cost, during the regular season.

I collected rocks, stayed in the shade, while Larissa rented a platform to sunbathe on.  She loves to swim. while for me at my stage in life, it was enough to just get wet, and talk to other men collecting rocks and enjoying the water.

Then, we would walk back to the Lotus stolovaya, have a good lunch, and return to our room.  Larissa would swim again in the afternoon while I enjoyed the excellent air by sleeping an hour or two.  Luxury!

In the evenings we would walk in the touristy part of town, and stop at a stolovaya or cafeteria restaurant for supper.  We also would have ice cream cocktails, what Americans call sundaes.

The weather for these ten days was perfect… everyday we could go in the water… just one interesting stormy day where it was restricted… everyday sunshine… everyday warm weather.  If you are from St Petersburg, you know how special such a run of weather must be, coming from the cold, windy, and polluted Northern Capital.

I often end my column with a little advice, so here goes…  Get thee hither to Sochi!  It’s a wonderful place for a vacation and you will be happy there and come back in a good mood, too!

American Russia Observations

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