With all of my Russian “Big Ticket Items” ticked off, I had finally been able to slow down a bit through Astrakhan and Elista and was starting to feel more relaxed. It was not that Russia was unrelaxing, there was just a lot I had wanted to do in a limited time.
It was also time to decide what to do after Russia – or more importantly, how I was going to leave Russia before my three month visa expired! I am not great at decision making at the best of times, mainly (I think) because I am greedy and always want all options! But, after some chats with significant others and my Buddhist reality check, I finally chose a boat from Sochi across the Black Sea to Trabzon in Turkey!
With that sorted, all I had left to do was to enjoy my last week in Russia under the sun by the beach! What a change from the Murmansk weather! I felt lighter and lighter as I soaked up the warmth and finally arrived at the sea! It was time to ease off on the language study, cultural exploration and tourist activities and just enjoy the moment!
I spent a day in inland Krasnodor (original home of the Kuban Cossacks), two nights in Anapa on the sea (not far from the Ukrainian border – a cheaper and more laidback version of Sochi – it felt like Raglan in New Zealand for those that know it, albeit bigger) and then caught a 12 hour day bus down the coast to Sochi itself, Russia’s most popular seaside resort destination. Sochi will also host the Winter Olympics in February 2014.
After getting sand between my toes in Anapa and having a lovely room to myself with balcony, the bus ride was a dream. I had decided to travel by day for once to enjoy the sun and scenery. It did not disappoint. The usually (to me anyway) flat plains of Russia started to ease into real hills and then mountains appeared behind them, some capped with snow. The bus weaved its way along the coast road between the hills and sea with glorious views and a stunning sunset over the water. I could not stop smiling! I felt satisfied with my time and adventures in Russia and just so lucky and happy!
Sochi was an interesting place – mostly under repair and reconstruction ready for its big moment next year. I caught the train up to Krasnaya Polyana in the mountains where many of the Olympic Events will be based and just enjoyed a glass on wine on the dock amongst the gardens of palm trees and big hotels.
As I leaned back in my chair, breeze in my hair and sun on my skin, I decided that the next phase of my trip was to be some good old fashioned “Fun in the Sun” in Turkey to really wind down before deciding “what next”!