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The breadbasket of Russia, the Krasnodar Krai is almost the size of Ireland. It's a region where the banks of the Kuban River gave a name (not to mention freedom) to the famous Kuban Cossacks; it is also a land where wheat fields and vineyards chase the horizon and the high Caucasus Mountains meet the sunlit shores of the Black Sea. The region became part of Russia in 1829. Sochi, often called the "Pearl of the Black Sea," includes four districts and stretches for about 90 miles along Russia's southern coast. This area enjoys the northernmost subtropical climate in the world.

Nature has been generous to Sochi by creating a unique location where in 40 minutes you can travel between the sunny beaches of the Black Sea and the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains. Since Sochi is Russia's premier summer resort destination, the announcement that it would host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games was seen as ironic, but the winter sports in these parts are also legendary.

Sochi is surrounded by striking natural beauty: the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; many caves, which were dwellings of prehistoric people; megalithic tombs (called dolmens); and curative mineral springs. And don't forget all those new luxury hotels and spa complexes underway, set to open in time for the Olympics.

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