Sochi is famous not only by mountains and the seaside but also by its rich history, including its space-related locations. After the legendary flight, Yuri Gagarin, the first astronaut (called ‘a cosmonaut’ in Russia) of the planet spent his vacation in Sochi. Space-related traditions in Sochi are still preserved, the Russian pioneers of the universe undergo their rehabilitation courses in the health centres of the resort city. Especially for the readers of EcoTourism Expert, we are going to visit several space places in Sochi that they can visit easily and walk around them to get to know something new.
So, in May 1961, the first cosmonaut of the planet, Yuri Gagarin, came to Sochi to have some rest. The entire first group of cosmonauts came together with him. By the way, the space explorers were in the resort city not for the first time. Earlier, they had a rest in the Chemitokvadzhe boarding house (where other vacationers had no access to) in the Lazarevsky District, although at that time, they were just ordinary pilots and a few people knew about their secret training.
The arrival of the first cosmonaut of the planet, Yuri Gagarin, to the Soviet resort city aroused unprecedented interest. The cosmonaut had a rest, went water skiing, and also took part in a number of official events. One of them happened on Orekhovaya Street. Located along the Sochi River, it was founded in the 1950s at the place of the old Sochi airport. Yuri Gagarin was asked to plant a Himalayan cedar tree in the new residential neighbourhood (microdistrict) where the cosmonaut was brought to. The cedar tree was not chosen by chance, as the word “Kedr” (cedar) was Yuri Gagarin’s call-sign during his space flight. It was immediately suggested to rename Orekhovaya Street to Gagarin Street, to the great surprise of the cosmonaut. Both the Gagarin Street and the cedar tree still exist. On April 12, 1975, a portrait sculpture of Yuri Gagarin was placed next to the cedar tree.
The Himalayan cedar is not the only ‘green signature’ that the first cosmonaut left in Sochi. In 1960, an unusual symbol of friendship appeared in the resort city. In many cities of the USSR, monuments were made as a symbol of friendship, but in Sochi, they made an avenue of trees in the Riviera Park. Famous representatives of different countries were invited to plant green magnolias on this avenue. The first magnolia was planted on April 27, 1960 by Otto Grotewohl, a well-known GDR statesman of that time. Then the tradition was continued by other political and cultural figures as a symbol of peace and friendship between peoples. Yuri Gagarin was offered to plant his own tree on this avenue and the cosmonaut planted the tree with pleasure. In the Riviera Park, magnolias were planted by German Titov, Alexei Leonov, Vladimir Komarov, Valentina Tereshkova, Alexei Leonov, Appolo-Soyuz flight participants - astronauts Thomas Stafford and Donald Slayton - and other space explorers. In total, there are more than 50 magnolias planted by space explorers. The trees planted by Valentina Tereshkova and German Titov are high and sprawling, but the magnolia planted by Yuri Gagarin is thin and fragile. How did it happen? Many Sochi tour guides tell that on the day of the death of the first cosmonaut, the cedar tree began to wither and disappeared. Reality is not so symbolic. Every visitor was eager to touch Gagarin’s cedar tree, take a leaf or piece of bark. The Gagarin’s magnolia could not withstand such pressure and withered. In 1996, in its place, cosmonauts Musa Manarov and Sergey Krikalev planted a new tree in memory of Gagarin.
But Yuri Gagarin left the most unusual gift at the Garden-Museum of the Tree of Friendship. This is a unique plant, it consists of 45 species of citrus fruit trees. Sprigs of oranges, lemons, kinkans, grapefruits were grafted to a wild lemon tree by representatives of 167 countries of the world. Among them, there is also a sprig grafted by the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
Addresses: Cedar tree and bust of Gagarin - Sochi, 24, Gagarin Street
Cosmonauts’ Avenue of Trees in the Riviera Park - Sochi, 1, Egorova Street
Garden-Museum of the Tree of Friendship - Sochi, 2/5 A, Jan Fabricius Street. Open daily from 09:00 to 18:00.
Flying into space ‘via Mount Akhun’
One of the most famous viewing platforms in Sochi is the tower on Mount Akhun. It was built in 1936 by order of Joseph Stalin. From a height of 700 metres above sea level, a beautiful view of Sochi opens up there, they say that on a clear day, you can even see Turkey. In 1937, a luxurious restaurant was built near the tower. This is where a funny incident happened.
While Yuri Gagarin and the future space explorers spent their vacations in Sochi, the city authorities decided to entertain their important guests to dinner and arranged the dinner at a restaurant on Mount Akhun, there were white tablecloths, starched napkins, a silver-served table. But the driver of the bus taking the cosmonauts to the restaurant was not properly instructed, he was just told: “Take them to Akhun!” So, the driver took his passengers not to the restaurant, but directly to the tower on Mount Akhun. Yuri Gagarin and his friends approached the tower where a kebab house was on the ground floor.
- Are you meeting us? Gagarin asked timidly.
- Of course? We are meeting you, Yuri Alekseyevich! - Nikolai Dorokhov, the manager of the kebab house, answered quickly. - Girls, bring wine and meat!
None of the guests clarified the details, they were promised to be met by someone, and they were really met. Moreover, it was very beautiful at the kebab house, torches were burning on the walls, roast meat smelled delicious on the platter, red dry wine was sparkling in glasses. The guests set at the tables and enjoyed the kebabs.
Meanwhile, a commotion arose at the Akhun restaurant - Yuri Gagarin had disappeared. Sochi officials hastily began calling the health centre.
- They left a long time ago!
Someone guessed, maybe, the pilots went to the tower? When high-ranking authorities ran to the tower, the first cosmonaut and his friends - in fact, ordinary guys who had been ordinary pilots just yesterday - were already in a good mood. They had taken off their uniform jackets and loosened their ties.
Many officials were punished that day in Sochi. But the cosmonauts remembered this funny incident. Since then, they began to regularly come to visit the Nikolai Dorokhov’s place. Even such a tradition appeared, before flying to Baikonur, they visited their favorite kebab house in Sochi. They used to say, “We fly to space via Akhun.” It is worth saying that the kebab house has received guests until recently, but it was destroyed by a fire a couple of years ago. The tower is still under reconstruction. And the infamous restaurant, where Yuri Gagarin never got to the dinner party, is considered one of the most popular derelict buildings in Sochi.
Address: Sochi, road to Great Akhun. The easiest way to get to the tower is by taxi, public transport does not go there.
Cosmonaut from Sochi
One of the most precious things displayed at the Museum of the History of Sochi is not a Greek amphora or a cannon ball from the times of Tsarist Russia, but a real descent module of the Soyuz-9 spacecraft. Special chairs, spacesuits and tubes of ‘space’ food are also exhibited there. All this appeared in the museum thanks to cosmonaut Vitaly Sevastyanov, twice Hero of the Soviet Union.
If you think that the success of a guy from an ordinary family is just a movie trick, you are mistaken. This is the story of Vitaly Sevastyanov. He was born in the Ural area in 1935. His mother was a dressmaker, his father was a driver. After the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the family moved to Sochi. Vitaly Sevastyanov grew up by the sea, after the seventh grade he decided to enter a nautical school. The more practical father slammed fist on the table.
- You will finish high school, by all means! And to have less romance of youth - you will be a sailor for the whole summer and sail from Sochi to Khosta.
At high school, Vitaly became interested in physics and began to dream about the ‘ocean of air’. He was a student of the Moscow Aviation Institute and had long disputes with friends. In February 1958, student Sevastyanov published an article “The Return Apparatus” in the Propeller newspaper. At that time, the people did not think about the return of satellites to the Earth. But he gave calculations. The guy’s efforts were duly appreciated by Professor Yuri Pobedonostsev who worked together with the Designer General Sergei Korolev and he persuaded the Designer General to hire a graduate student - Vitaly Sevastyanov - to the design bureau. Vitaly Sevastyanov was the youngest teacher who gave lectures on rocket technology to cosmonauts of the Gagarin’s team. When engineers began to travel into orbit, he joined the cosmonaut team.
He made two flights. The first one was in 1970 with Andrian Nikolayev. The second flight was in five years with Pyotr Klimuk. The first flight was supposed to answer the question whether people can stay in orbit for more than five to six days. The flight made by Andriyan Nikolaev and Vitaly Sevastyanov lasted 18 days. The tape showing their return was immediately classified as the cosmonauts could not get out of the spaceship on their own, they felt bad. According to their recommendations, exercises for crews were developed, suits were used to prevent muscle atrophy. But the general conclusion was made that people can work in orbit for a long time.
For the second time, Pyotr Klimuk and Vitaly Sevastyanov again broke the record as they stayed in space for two months. They turned out to be the only space witnesses of the docking of the American Apollo with our Soyuz. For each of the flights, Vitaly Sevastyanov was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. These Gold Stars of the Hero were very useful to the cosmonaut on the Earth. He did a lot of good things for his native city of Sochi. Among them is a gift to the Museum of History - the Soyuz-9 descent module - displayed at the Museum now.
Address: Museum of the History of the Resort City of Sochi, 54/11, Vorovsky Street. Opening hours 09:00-17:30. Day off - Monday.
And some more information:
During the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the Olympic Torch Relay passed through the space orbit. The Olympic Torch was delivered to the International Space Station (ISS), cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky went out into outer space with it. Now, an exact copy of such a torch is presented at the Sochi Sports Glory Museum, everyone can see it.
The Museum’s address is: 26A, Sovetskaya Street. Opening hours 09:00-17:30. Day off - Monday.