Welcome to our latest installment in our ongoing City Guide series, where your favorite artists give you the inside scoop on their hometowns, making you feel that much more of a local. This week, we travel to one of the more surprising cities on the planet, Sochi in Russia. Our tour guide, Yulia Niko, is one of tech house's rising stars, gives us the ins and outs on the city made famous for hosting the Olympics.
Not everyone knows that palm trees and beautiful sandy beach do exist in Russia. Perhaps maybe the people who are aware of country’s geography would have some idea, but Russia actually does have a couple of sub-tropical climate areas, which means - no winters, not really; snow is highly unusual and I would consider those parts to be close to San Francisco - type of nature.
I've been really lucky, after my parents moved me to Sochi City from North-West of the country where I was born, to grow up in this paradise. Definitely, worth checking it out, because it's one of the amazing and most picturesque places of the Euro-Asia mainland.
We all like a good drink, so where are the top spots to head to before a night out?
I highly recommend the Cocos Bar in the centre of the city. The venue specializes in exclusive cocktails and they only serve “the best of the best”. They have awesome food and professional staff. Plus - there’s always a DJ playing, and their musical policy is strictly deep house. It's a very nice bar to kick off your "night of debauchery" in Sochi!
Where can you find the best clubs / late night venues in town?
Sochi is home to one of the most unique clubs in Russia, it's called “Platforma”. I started my career there, in 2007. The club is built above the Black Sea, and to get inside you need to walk through a narrow bridge. When you get inside, you'll notice right away that the floor is see-through, made of thick glass, and the water is right beneath you. When they open the doors and the party starts, they have rafts floating under the club’s dance floor, with a crew of pretty swimmers, girls and boys, just chilling or having fun in the water while the crowd is dancing above them and enjoying the view. It's a pretty crazy place, and the direct opposite of any club I normally play at, but I love it. Never forget where you’re from, right?
Brunches are a weekend staple, which spots stand out for you?
Definitely the “Central Park”! It's a new place in the middle of … you’ve guessed it….a park! They have outstanding food and are open from 11 am onwards. At night the place at night turns into a very cool club with a super sound system, what’s not to like? But also, during the day they do some live events. Totally recommend it!
Best dirty late-night street food option?
Oh yeah, about that… Unfortunately, it's not easy to find proper food at night, and I don’t mean just in Sochi. You hope your hotel does 24/7 room service but that’s not always the case and often all you can get at the hotel at night are just snacks or pizza. For Sochi, I would say the best option would be McDonalds near Central Seaport, which is open 24/7. From what I hear, they use meat and veggies from local farmers and it's pretty decent. So, if you have a food emergency at night – that's your spot. Maybe after having one too many drinks, go get yourself a Big Mac - it should help a bit with the hangover!
Where can we shop for records and music memorabilia in Sochi?
Hmmm… you don't want to do it there, to be honest. Save record shopping for Berlin or Amsterdam. You won’t find any record stores in Sochi, but you will find plenty of knock-off luxury clothing brands from Turkey or even Italy everywhere you go.
Your Sunday escape plan when you need to get away from it all?
Easy! To Krasnaya Polyana. You ever been to Courchevel France? So, in my humble opinion, Krasnaya Polyana is just as pretty, if not better. Just one hour drive up to the mountains and you'll arrive at the ski resort, Olympic park of Sochi Olympic Games 2014. Really well built and well-organized ski resort. Nature over there is just incredible. I would choose to go there, to escape from the city. Go snowboarding than after to banya (Russian sauna) and finish with dinner at a Georgian restaurant. If you try it once, you will want to go every year.
Something everyone should do when visiting Sochi, but probably hasn’t?
Did you know that you could surf in Sochi? I would say, it the best place to learn how to surf or kitesurf. It’s really cheap, to hire a good trainer, comparing to what it would cost you anywhere else, and the waves are not as big, so you are pretty safe. Perfect place for that.
A track that reminds you of your childhood in the city?
Madonna – ‘Music’. She was everywhere, and I remember I was “performing” it in our backyard for my parents and their friends. I’m a natural blonde, add a cowboy hat and red lipstick and a hairbrush for a mic …..et voila!! Young Madonna is here. I could never have thought back then, singing into a hairbrush, that someday I would be a musician, let alone that I would eventually meet her in New York Library at some fashion show (true story!)
How do you survive the long Russian Winters?
The same as one survives them in Berlin or New York! It’s a bit of a stereotype, really - “Russian winters are cold, they all drink vodka all day and have bears as pets” (well - the part about vodka is partially true, I must say ha ha ha). Have you been to New York in the winter? I dare you! The temperature in Sochi during the winter months doesn't go lower than +8 C and it's mostly sunny. People buy winter jackets and just to go skiing up to the mountains. But if I’m being serious, in Siberia the air is very dry so when it's -25C you’ll have kids playing in the streets - business as usual. Whereas 0c in Berlin, with the humidity and wind, feels like the end of the world. So what can I tell ya? If you’re afraid to get cold, Russians will just give you some vodka and everything will be alright.
A gift you can’t leave Sochi without taking home for friends?
Maybe some memorabilia from the 2014 Olympics, a pretty pebble stone from the sea or a set of matryoshka (Russian) dolls. They make a good little storage for your jewelry or small trinkets. But the best souvenir would be the memories, for sure.
Yulia’s ‘Acid Meow’ EP on Get Physical is out on the 26 November. Pre-order here.