[please note the date vs the date – I had no Internet Access during the cruise for uploading pictures. Notes still went out via the mailing list so that I am adding them here simply to have everything accessible in one place…..0-H-0 ]
Some things about the Russians have not changed from the time of the Soviet Union. If you are an American, you have to get your Visa ahead of time. If you live in Germany – this involves a trip to Berlin. In the UK, a trip to London and infinite questions on why you are not applying for the Visa from the US (like I don’t live there nor want the expense of traveling to DC or New York to visit your embassy in pursuit of a visa).
To be fair, the US puts all Russians and associated countries through a similar goat rope. Meaning if you live in Sochi and want to travel to the US, first you have to make a trip to the US Embassy in Moscow. In person of course.
The end result of all of this is that you have to be on a tour (group visa) if you want to get off the ship unless you have organized all of this ahead of time. I will not bore you with tales of the people who were told this multiple times, yet chose to try and argue first with the ships’ personnel and then with the Russian immigration people. Would you believe they were really astonished to find that the rules really did apply to them.
We decided to go for it, and signed up for an all day tour. The morning saw us to the top of this mountain with a view from the tower that extended from the post all the way to the Caucasus. It was clear when we started with rain just beginning as we arrived at Stalin’s Dacha.
This is Stalin (wax) by candle light as the storm also took out the power to this section of the city.
And then it really started raining. We got soaked between one building and the next. I skipped the wine at the wine tasting, but can assure you that the mineral water was of adequate vintage.
Where are my umbrellas? In Heidelberg, in Camberley; remembered in the taxi on the way to Heathrow, fat lot of good that did.
Sochi might ring a bell for you. It has been accepted as the sight of the 2014 winter Olympics. It is a long, rather narrow city hugging the edge of the shore line. There is one main road consisting of two lanes each way on a good day. Add torrential a downpour to a serious accident and traffic comes to a standstill for hours. I didn’t notice the passage of time, my Zune was functioning and I had my knitting.
Everyone else was not exactly pleased that we made it back to the ship at 1500 with the afternoon portion of the tour completely cancelled.