Sergey Bobylev/ТАSS

The thick foliage of an orchard almost completely conceals this dacha, which used to belong to the world-renowned opera diva Valeriya Barsova, close to the seafront. After retiring from the Bolshoy Theatre in 1947, Barsova aka. “Russian Nightingale,” came to live in Sochi. She had this dacha built with the intention of opening an opera singing studio here. The architects Igor Liublinsky and Nikolai Trishkin helped Barsova design and build this two-story mansion with an annex, and her dream came true. For twenty years, the singer would spend a few months out of every year in her Sochi estate, teaching and hosting vocal evenings and other events. Among the people she received were ballerina Galina Ulanova, singers Leonid Utyosov and Ivan Kozlovsky, composer Dmitry Kabalevsky and singer Maria Bieshu.

Valeriya Barsova sold a part of her house and orchard in 1955. When she died in 1967, the city inherited her estate, opening an art school for children on the premises. Nearly twenty years later Barsova’s mansion, a recognized historic and cultural landmark, became a museum in her honour. It is currently a meeting place for local artists and intellectuals, as well as a landmark often visited by tourists.

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Tucked away amid an orchard alongside the private homes on Ulitsa Pavla Korchagina stands the house where the Soviet writer Nikolai Ostrovsky used to live. It is now a literary memorial complex. Ostrovsky’s novel How the Steel was Tempered is a Soviet Realism classic. Ostrovsky, who had fought in the Civil War of 1918-1922, was immensely popular in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet government had this single-story house built for Nikolai Ostrovsky in 1935. The writer, bedridden and terminally ill at the age of 24, had only about six months to live in his new home. The museum was founded in 1937, after his death. The museum staff have preserved intact both the furnishings and the feel of that epoch in Ostrovsky’s memorial home. A new two-story building, housing the literary part of the museum, was erected next to the memorial home in 1956.

The Ostrovsky Museum is a venue for all kinds of exhibitions nowadays: literary, art, and folk arts and crafts. The museum offers one of the best programmes in town for the Museum Night international festival.

Sergey Bobylev/ТАSS

Sochi’s most recent museum, the Museum of Sporting Glory was inaugurated prior to the Olympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi. The 2010 inaugural ceremony was attended by then-IOC President Jacques Rogge.

The museum, commonly known simply as “Olympic Museum,” is housed in a small building annexed to Sochi State University. On display are more than 300 exhibits illustrating the achievements of Sochi-born athletes. The exhibits include the personal belongings of Soviet volleyball player, Olympic champion Vladimir Kondra, those of one of the most glorified Russian tennis players, Olympic champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and those of Olympic bobsleigh champion and world arm-wrestling champion Aleksey Voyevoda.

The pride of place in the museum belongs to the Olympic and Paralympic flags, Olympic torches and other paraphernalia of the Sochi Olympics. The Museum of Sporting Glory hosts meetings with famous athletes and cultural figures.

Aleksander Demyanchuk/ТАSS

The dacha for Joseph Stalin, who led the Soviet Union between the years 1922 and 1953, was built in Sochi in 1937 to the design of Miron Merzhanov, the creator of the Bocharov Ruchey Dacha and the Voroshilov resort centre in Sochi. Stalin’s family spent summers here, but Stalin himself preferred to visit in autumn. He would also receive foreign heads of state here. In memory of the visit of Mao Tse-tung, the founder and ideological leader of the People’s Republic of China, the silver stationary set he gave Stalin is on display at Stalin’s Dacha. Both the dacha’s exterior and interior have been kept intact, complete with the interior finishing of fine wood, the chandeliers, leather couches, Stalin’s custom-made writing table, and his family photographs. The first thing visitors see on entering the ground floor is Stalin’s wax figure at his writing table.

Tea Houses is a sprawling excursion site, devoted to Sochi’s tea-growing industry, consisting of several log-houses and a tea plantation on a hillside. In the 1970s, this was the tea industry “showcase” designed to impress visiting foreign dignitaries.

The main log-house of the complex, built by Huzul craftsmen, is decorated with carved ornaments and folk artefacts, created by eminent Russian craftsmen. When you have learned about the history of what is probably the world’s northernmost tea, you can take a stroll amid the tea plantations and harvest some tealeaves to take home.

At the end of the excursion everyone sits down around a samovar to have some tea, fresh-baked pies, jam made from local fruits, and locally harvested honey and hazelnuts. The best time to visit is between May and October, when tea is harvested. The plantation offers a breathtaking view of the Caucasus Mountains.

It is believed that Sochi was the place where Russia once began to grow its own tea in the village of Solokh-Aul. A certain peasant by the name of Judas Koshman, having worked at the tea plantations in Georgia and learned the trade, decided to start his own tea patch. He and a few other settlers came to the mountain village of Solokh-Aul near Sochi in 1901, bringing a supply of seeds. His new neighbours, the local villagers, grew mostly corn and potatoes. Judas Koshman with his outlandish tea plants really stood out. His undertaking looked hapless: many a farmer had tried and failed to grow tea in the Sochi area before him as the plants could not survive the winter. However, five years later Koshman would ask his neighbours over for tea – the tea had harvested on his patch. And in another few years he began to pack and sell his tea across the region. People loved Solokh-Aul tea so much that the vendors of Georgian, Turkish, Indian and Chinese teas were soon up in arms against Koshman and even tried to bribe the police to get the pesky tea farmer framed.

Ten years went by, and tea from Sochi gained notoriety outside the Sochi region. More tea plantations would be started in different parts of the Sochi area over time. They grow black, green, red, yellow and white teas here nowadays. The house of Russia’s pioneer tea-grower is still extant, and has been converted to a small museum. It is surrounded by his tea plantations. The graves of Koshman and his wife are on the estate. Tealeaves continue to be harvested here. Visitors to the memorial home are offered local tea with pancakes, and can also buy packaged tea to take home.

Artur Lebedev/ТАSS

The modest yellow structure next to the shiny glass edifice of the Adler Railway Station is the original station from not-too-remote history. This was the station before Sochi became targeted by the “pre-Olympic overhaul.” While the new station was being built, local authorities decided to conserve and restore the old building and open it to the public. The old station is now a VIP waiting room for passengers, which includes a cafeteria and a small museum of Russian rail transport history. Of interest here are not only the exhibits, of which there are more than a hundred on display, telling the history of railways and rail vehicles in Russia from the 19th century to the present. The building itself is pleasant to behold with its majestic white columns with gilded mouldings, its arches, and its marble-encrusted light beige walls with monochrome pictures and photographs.

Artur Lebedev/ТАSS

Uch-Dere, a small community in the Lazarevsky District of Sochi, boasts not one, not two, but three moderately sized museums. One traces the history of the Krasnodar Region and the local tea growing industry, the other displays a collection of rare samovars and old Russian household objects, and the third museum offers a retrospect on the history of the automotive industry in the 20th century, in Russia and beyond. The automotive museum has over 50 specimens of Russian and foreign historical automobiles and lorries on display, including old and antique automobiles, motorcycles, military lorries and buses. Connoisseurs will love to take a close look at the Soviet car legends: GAZ-A, Emku, Moskvich, ZIS-5, Pobeda and Volga. The guide will tell you about the history of car manufacturing overall, as well as the stories behind the individual car makes. There will be free tea for all after your tour.

The Matryoshka, or stacking dolls, are a prime Russian symbol, which is well loved worldwide. Sochi is one of those places where a unique collection of beautiful wooden Matryoshkas is enshrined as a museum. The collection was crafted by applied artists Vladimir and Evgenia Bedrak. This museum is also their work studio. There are more than a thousand Matryoshkas on display of varying shapes and sizes, painted in many different genres and styles. The Matryoshka sets reflect a variety of historical, religious and folk scenes and motifs. The stacking “families” range from three to as many as fifty pieces. Other wooden artefacts can also be found here, such as roly-poly toys, Easter eggs, lacquer boxes and brooches. There is also a highly diverse collection of watercolours, oil paintings and drawings on display.