February 27th, 2014

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American Journey to Sochi, Part 2: Train Ride from Moscow to Adler

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After a quick night's sleep in Moscow, it was time to head to Kazansky Rail Station to continue my journey to the Olympics. The original plan was to take the new double-decker train to Sochi, but after arriving at the station I was informed the train was full. So, I waited for the standard train which wasn't scheduled to depart for about three hours. What to do in the meantime? I wanted to take photos of the station, but a guard immediately approached when he saw the camera and informed me no photography is allowed. I was able to speak to the Chief of the station, a very nice guy who spoke decent English. Because the station is undergoing a lot of construction, the Chief preferred that no photos be taken. However, he offered to give me rare access to the rooftop of Kazansky Rail Station and from there I saw some amazing views shortly before sunrise!Collapse )
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American Impressions from Sochi Olympics

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I've expressed many controversial viewpoints about Russia and its people in previous posts. After three visits in one year, the world's largest country remains a huge puzzle in my mind, with many pieces missing such that an entire frame or understanding will likely never be achieved. In the lead up to the Sochi Olympics, I had huge doubts. How could a nation with virtually no tourist infrastructure host a global event, welcoming visitors from around the world? After the Volgograd bombings, American and other Western press went into a feeding frenzy, focusing only on the strong probability of terrorist attacks. U.S. Senators, and even some athletes, went on major news networks and proclaimed they wouldn't send their families to the Games. "It's too dangerous"..."Russian security forces can't handle the threats," and other strong words of caution penetrated Western airwaves to the point many tourists became so frightened that they canceled plans to attend. In my mind, absence was never an option. Every day, I sit in the heart of Washington, DC, a few blocks from the White House, perhaps the largest terrorist target in the world. Such tragic bombings can occur anywhere, including right here on my beloved American soil, and they have.

When foreign journalist arrived shortly before the start of the Games, the Internet immediately exploded with pictures of dirty water, stray dogs, weird signs and hotel horror stories. It looked like Russia would become a joke on the world stage. And then the Games began...
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