The Olympic Flame is now heading due south. The Olympic Torch Relay is essentially just outside Sochi – the Olympic Train is now traversing the regions and republics of the North Caucasus, whereas Sochi lies on the Western slopes of the Caucasus mountain range. Read a report about the reception the Torch Relay is getting here in today’s Journey

January 23 Pyatigorsk

In Pyatigorsk, one of the earliest Russian cities to be founded in the Caucasus, the Olympic Flame took a ride on Russia’s oldest streetcar, which is still running in the streets of this picturesque resort city. Torchbearers could not possibly leave out yet another local landmark – the Proval (“sinkhole”) Lake made famous by Ilf and Petrov in their The Twelve Chairs novel (also translated into English as Diamonds to Sit On). Torch Relay participants also honored the spot of great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov’s last duel, just outside Pyatigorsk, in which he was killed in 1841. Celebrities who carried the Olympic Flame through Pyatigorsk included, among others, famous journalist, Deputy General Director of ITAR-TASS newswire Mikhail Guzman.

January 24 Stavropol

Cossacks greeted the Olympic Train in Stavropol, the regional capital of Stavropol Krai, and Olympic weightlifting champion Andrei Chemerkin lit the first Olympic Torch in the city. Trampolining world champion Alexey Kryzhanovsky passed along the Olymipc Torch to his son Alexey Kryzhanovsky Jr. Many popular athletes carried the Olympic Flame in Stavropol, including Olympic diving silver medalist Evgeny Kuznetsov and Olympic handball champion Igor Lavrov, who also had the honor of lighting the Olympic Cauldron in the final ceremony.

January 25 Kalmykia

On Day 110 of the Olympic Torch Relay, the participants reached the boundaries of one of the three “Buddhist” autonomous republics within Russia, Kalmykia. Kalmyk steppe favor was given free reign here: a drove of wild horses accompanied the Torch Relay procession while in transit between Elista and Yashkul, Torchbearers visited the Golden Temple of Shakyamuni Buddha, where both spectators and Torchbearers received a greeting from the Senior Lama of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche, who also was deighted to carry the Olympic Flame on a tour of the temple.

January 26 Astrakhan

One of the Astrakhan segments of the Torch Relay used the local variety of sleigh – chunkis – to carry the Olympic Flame. Torchbearers ran within the limits of the local kremlin (citadel), and, as usual, one of the highlights of the Relay was the Presenting Partner the Coca-Cola Company’s stop. Torchbearers in Astrakhan included well-known actress Anastasia Zavorotnyuk and Children’s Rights Commissioner for the Russian President Pavel Astakhov.

January 27 Cherkessk and Makhachkala

Residents of Karachay–Circassian Republic and Dagestan welcomed the Olympic Flame yesterday. The Torch Relay got under way in Cherkessk from the Nart sports arena, and the last torchbearer here was belt-wrestling champion of the 2013 Kazan Universiade Alibek Khapaev. Karachay–Circassian President Rashid Temrezov participated in the final celebration of the Olympic Flame in the city, which brought together thousands of Cherkessk residents.

Also yesterday, hot-shot horsemen of the Caucasus welcomed the Olympic Torch Relay in Makhachkala, the capital city of Dagestan. Among those who carried the Olympic Flame through the city were well-known athletes: 1972 Olympic freestyle wrestling champion Zagalav Abdulbekov and wrestler Khajimurad Magomedov.

Journey continues tracking the progress of the Olympic Train, with little more than a week remaining until the start of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi! Vlivaisya!