“Nyet, nyet! No, no!”
The caretaker of Stalin’s Dacha in Sochi reacted to my request for a tour like I had released bees in her office. She seemed in a rage and I couldn’t figure it out. She shooed me out and stood to watch me leave the compound.
I had just taken a bus for half an hour, roasting in the sun since air conditioning or open windows are not acceptable on transport in the region. Then a 20-minute slog up the slippery mountain path with my heavy backpack, so I was not going to give up easily.
I walked to the hotel next door and the young lady at reception spoke some English and called over to inquire about the situation. She was told that the Dacha is open Mon-Fri only, the opposite of what my guidebook said. I asked if I could pay if they would just let me in. “Nyet” and “no.”
I sulked back past the dacha about ready to go back down the mountain when I saw a Russian father and son head into the compound. Maybe they could sweet talk the woman, so I observed from a distance. Sure enough they succeeded and were soon heading inside. I took this opportunity to casually stroll by and feign surprise to see them inside.
Now there was man in Russian standard-issue track suit who came out of the office, he had not been there before. He spoke a little English and asked if I wanted an ‘excursion.’ I said yes but he expressed concern that neither he nor the woman could do it in English. It took some convincing to allow me to tag alone. It turned out all the hysteria was just an animated way to say she didn’t speak English and I couldn’t possibly want a non-English tour. With all due respect to the guides, I had come that far to see the diminutive fittings for the short in stature dictator, not to hear a guide.
Once that was cleared up the women was all smiles and laughs and could have been a dear relative that I had not seen in years.
The lesson here is there is often a way to overcome the knee-jerk “nyet.” Be friendly and persistent.
For those planning to visit, the dacha is between Sochi downtown and Adler which has the airport and Olympics Coastal Cluster, about 5 km from Sochi and 20 km from Adler, along M27. Buses 105 and 125 shuttle that route, get off at Zelenaya Roscha. Bus 105 continues through Alder to the airport and sometimes up to the Olympics Mountain Cluster at Krasnaya Polyana. Bus 125 stays along the coast to the Georgia (Abkhaz) border at Psou.
In winter prepare for a slippery climb up the trails or road, or visit by taxi.
Admission is 300 rubles (about US$9.50).
Best to visit Mon-Fri.