Sochi (Russia)

The city of Sochi is technically 147 km (92 mi) long, but the port, best beaches and grooviest facilities are contained within the 12 km (7.5 mi) of Sochi proper. The city, at the heart of the 'Russian Riviera', is an oddity in many different ways. Oddest of all is that a city famous as a summer playground for the Russian elite should be hosting the Winter Olympics of 2014. Politics aside, there are good geographical and historical reasons why Sochi has reached this pinnacle of resort aspiration. Because it faces south, with the Caucasus Mountains rising immediately behind, it benefits from a microclimate that, in turn, has for a hundred years attracted interest from the most powerful people in Russia.
Russia's leaders, before and since the Revolution, invested heavily in the area, building homes for themselves, and ensuring that public funds maintained the quality of the city's facilities for all comers. Simultaneously, heavy industry was not allowed to infect the region, and even the international freight terminals are segregated. Visitors arriving by cruise liner are brought ashore at a quay full of sleek, ocean-going private yachts, moored in front of a series of cafes and restaurants whose colourful umbrellas and toned clientele have more in common with St Tropez than Stalin might have wished. The terminal building itself looks like a classical church, complete with steeple and spire - a very Russian touch. Aside from the winter sports available an hour away, Sochi's tree-lined avenues are full of wooded parks, good museums and galleries, and a non-stop, ubiquitous, cafe and club-culture to amuse visitors drawn to a year-round sequence of festivals - of fashion, music, art, and anything quirky that might come along. There are 250 spas in the area, 30 botanical gardens of real interest, and the Russian National Wildlife Sanctuary and Caucasian Biosphere Reserve up the road are within the (teclmical) city limits. Sochi boasts that it can keep anyone amused, anytime, and it's true. Hotels in Sochi

Hiroshima (Japan)

Destined to be known forever as the first city to be attacked with an atomic bomb, Hiroshima has rebuilt itself as a modern, vibrant city: withtin ten years of the end of World War II, the population had reached pre-war levels again. The city had been important during the Shogun, Edo and Meiji periods, and the rebuilt castle has a museum dedicated to life during the Edo period, while the Hiroshima Museum of Art has one of the best collections of French Renaissance art in Asia. The beautiful gardens of Shukkei-en are not far from Ground Zero, and highlights include the Rainbow Bridge and the tranquil pond. Mitaki-dera is a beautiful shrine set within grounds that include three waterfalls whose waters are used during the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. The Tahoto Pagoda was brought from Hirogawa in 1951 as a memorial to the victims of the bombing.
The contents of the Peace Memorial Museum are harrowing, as is the Peace Memorial (also known as the A-Bomb Dome), the remains of the former Prefecturallndustrial Promotional Hall which is thought to have been directly under the blast. The park also has a memorial dedicated to the children who died, the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall. Elsewhere, Hijiyama-koen is a large park with both manicured gardens as well as some forest areas. The Manga Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art are within its boundaries. While it is impossible to forget the tragic events of 1945, Hiroshima's people have rebuilt their city and their lives and created a welcoming, modern city unique in Japan, famed for the quality of its restaurants, offering a wide variety of cuisines. Miyajima Island is a beautiful island home to the Tahoto Pagoda. Don't miss the Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Hotels in Hiroshima