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The main roads and boulevards of Sochi have been plastered over with Olympic Games posters, slogans in Cyrillic and billboards welcoming sports fans to the Russian Black Sea resort. But for most visitors, the real Sochi will be what they find when they travel off the beaten path of the Winter Olympics, which run from Feb. 7-23, to soak up the sounds, flavors and even the waters of this Soviet-era spa city. From its open-air markets to the mineral baths that made it the playground of the Soviet communist elite for much of the 20th century, Sochi will offer a glimpse of Russia that few visitors usually have a chance to see. For the small price of a ticket, visitors can tour the villa built for Stalin on the grounds of the Green Grove spa where a billiards table still stands, with his favorite cue on display.The Green Grove, where the buildings are actually green, is just one of many of the stately stone spa resorts built for those in Soviet times who had the privilege of vacationing at Sochi and using its mineral baths and curative springs.Both gay and straight visitors will be welcome at Mayak, a nondescript building behind one of the city's main streets.
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