I was getting worried over finding accommodation in Sochi until help came in unexpected ways.
Find Priyank a place!
As my train was nearing Sochi (a little town on Black Sea, 1400km south of Moscow and also the site of Winter Olympics 2014), I started making phone calls to the two hostels I found on the internet. Unfortunately, one of them never answered the phone and the other hostel was closed. I was getting a bit nervous since I wasn’t sure which station to get off (Sochi or Adler), and I wasn’t sure how much I’d have to spend to find accommodation.
My co-passengers heard me make phone calls and asked me if everything was okay. I told them that I didn’t have a place to stay and my budget was low. I told them that I also needed the hotel to register my visa (as per archaic Russian laws). I think they were a bit annoyed. For a while, the seats around me turned into a ‘put a roof over Priyank’s head’ mission headquarter, with them making phone calls (using their own phones) and writing all sorts of things on paper for me. Alas, they found nothing.
We got off at Sochi railway station. I was told not to worry and stay with the young girls while the man and the lady (unrelated to each other) arranged a place for me. Suddenly I felt like a 10-year old. When we went on trips, my parents always asked me and my sister to stay with the luggage while they ran errands such as getting food or buying tickets. I didn’t know what was happening, but it didn’t hurt to stay, so I did. Later, as we emerged from the station, a number of agents surrounded us – trying to sell us hotel rooms. Yes, exactly the sort of thing you’d expect in India. “Sir, I know the cheapest and most comfortable place!” I bet that’s what they were saying in Russian. They were even talking to me. Being in the region where people of Caucasian, Slavic and Mongol races lived, there was more mix here and an Indo-Aryan guy like me was not special anymore…lol
I knew what to tell them: the magic Russian phrase – “Spasiba, ne nada” (Спасибо, не надо / स्पासीबा, नी नाद) meaning “Thanks, no need.” That’s what you tell any taxi drivers or agents who
approach chase you. It worked! (Probably because they found from my accent that I was a foreigner and left me alone but I like to think otherwise.)
Sergei negotiated and found a room for me. It was a room in an apartment for RUR 500 (USD 25) per night – a good deal. I was delighted and thanked him profusely. I also thanked the mom and her two girls who hugged me bye bye. We swapped phone numbers and they all told me to contact them in case of emergency. I felt very embarrassed…
That was one of many experiences I had of the common Russian going out of their way to help a visitor.
Finally I have a room
Vladimir, the apartment owner, was a short and chubby man with a receding hairline. He wore shiny black boots and smelled like a tobaco factory sprayed with perfume. He spoke about 50 English words and Englishified many Russian words (kinda like Ruslish?). He seemed a bit uncomfortable with me and asked hundreds of questions. I joked that I knew another Vladimir in Russia – Mr. Putin. The laugh took away his skepticism suddenly and we became buddies. He took me through small winding streets away from the chaos outside Sochi train station, to the chaos of Sochi bazaar, to a quiet residential neighborhood. The whole thing happened so fast and in a confusing manner that I didn’t know what was happening, or was it a scam to trick me. I was already calculating my defenses and backup plans – thankfully nothing was required.
Finally, I had a roof over my head and the first thing I did was to take a nap for couple of hours. Oh wait, somewhere between the train station and the nap I ran into a girl who wanted to sleep with me. But that’s a story for next post. 🙂
Finding a place to stay in Sochi can be pretty difficult during the summer holidays when this little beach town gets full of tourists. Several agents usually linger outside the train station and if you can bargain well, this seems like a good way to find accommodation. Other than that, there are a number of mid-range and high-end hotels, easily found by google search. The only thing you won’t find is budget hostels, but apartments should be the next best bet – apparently renting an apartment is quite popular thing to do (in Russia). Lets hope that they build lots of hotels for the Olympics. 🙂