I just got back at 0345 this morning from the Black Sea city of Sochi.
If you look on a map, Sochi is about 45 kms from Georgia. This means that it is 36 hrs by train from Vladimir.
What do you do on a train for 36 hrs? Not very much. Reading, sleeping and playing cards is probably very high on the list of what there is to do.
Sochi is a relatively new city (less than a hundred years old) and is the premier beach spot for Russians. The weather in Sochi while we were there was mostly rainy, but even in the rain it was a neat town.
There are a tremendous number of natural wonders to see (i.e. mountains, waterfalls and lakes) ... None of which are too fun to visit in the rain.
The people are a lot more laid back than the ones in Vladimir... Cars even yield to pedestrians!
I met a lady in Sochi who runs a Russian-American dating service (i.e. "buy-a-bride-online"). This proved to be one of the most interesting people that I have encountered in Russia.
In short, she said that not all of the American men were strange... Many were "normal" but just too preoccupied with work to be able to date. Whereas the Russian women were not "desperately seeking to leave Russia", rather they were interested in "trying something new" or interested in the "opportunities of a foreign husband".
Sochi is really everything that Vladimir is not. Sochi is like Berkley, CA, whereas Vladimir is more like Little Rock, Ar.
If I could do my year again, I would go to Sochi. It is such a beautiful place. Tropic weather and vegitation, etc. Intellectual (atleast moreso than Vladimir) people. It is a (new) resort town, so there is all of the things you would expect to see in such a place. Including a disordinantly high number of Russians who speak English.... So perhaps it is better that I am in Vladimir!
I will finally be leaving Russia on May 17, so I am planning on 3-4 more posts. One of which will be from DC, on the trip back. My next post will likely be on my regrets/lessons learned of: What I should have brought/left, books I should have read before coming, etc AND whether I would advice students to go to Vladimir, or to Moscow, St Pete (that seems to be the most common question that I get from students now).