• Ralf Steinberger

Soviet impressions from Georgia (country)

Updated: Mar 24

While traveling with Gabi through the formerly Soviet country Georgia, starting mid-March 2022, I am creating this photo diary on the fly. I intend to add photos below while traveling, so come back regularly. After four days in the capital Tbilisi, we shall join a one-week photo tour on abandoned buildings, especially Soviet architecture with photographer James Kerwin. James is an excellent photographer, a good teacher and he knows how to find and access abandoned buildings. He loves Georgia and he loves the buildings we visit. Have a look at James' site. I highly recommend doing a tour with him.


Palace of Culture, Tbilisi, Georgia


Our photographic tour has started in Tbilisi. It will take us to Kutaisi, Tskaltubo, Adjara/Guria, Senaki, Batumi, Chiatura and Gori, with further smaller places in between.

Map of Georgia (yellow) with Abchasia and South Ossetia (green and red), occupied by the Russian army.

Georgia is on the East side of the Black Sea. It borders Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The country has a tumultuous history, which is also interesting in the view of current events in Ukraine. Its per capita income is around 4300 USD/pear. Compare this with Italy (31.700) and Germany (46.200). People we have met are very friendly and open. We enjoy Georgian food a lot. The outstanding modern architecture, as well as left-over Soviet buildings and ruins are a treasure trove for photographers.



First day: Arrival in Tbilisi the capital of Georgia. First impressions were strong. Our hotel (Writer's Residence) is a beautiful historical building with generous rooms, sitting above a museum, in the Sololaki quarter, in the old town. Old (and often run-down) buildings are found near outstanding modern architecture. There are many 'free' dogs in town, which have tags on their ears. I find it humbling not to understand a word of the local language, and not even to be able to read the letters of the alphabet. Food has been very good so far. If I had to summarise the day with one word, this word would be 'architecture'. See the photos of the first day - ideally on a PC and in full-screen view.



Room in Writer's House in Tbilisi, which used to be David Sarajishvili's private residence.

Second day in Tbilisi: We were given an extended private tour through the beautiful museum under Writer's Residence, which was the house of brandy producer and benefactor David Sarajishvili. We visited the flee market Dry Bridge Market, where we found many Russian and Georgian items. We walked to Fabrika, an old Soviet sewing factory that is now a hip hub for creatives with cafés, shops and graffiti. We visited a chique part of town that was originally founded by the German speaking community and that was called Neu-Tiflis. All along Rustaveli Avenue is so much fancier than the old town as the beautiful buildings have been restored and painted. You find the pictures in the gallery on Tbilisi, under yesterday's photos.



Supermarket clients in Tbilisi buy pasta and flower by weight, by filling their own bags.

Third day: More adventures on our own in Tbilisi. Photos and description will follow later.



Entrance of the abandoned archaeological museum in Tbilisi.

Fourth day in Tbilisi: We have started our photo workshop with James Kerwin, focusing on abandoned buildings, Soviet architectures and other (mostly architectural) jewels in Georgia. Today, we visited the monument Chronicle of Georgia ("Georgian Stonehenge"), we took photos in the abandoned Apollo cinema (built in 1905) and in an abandoned music school. We tried to make our way around 9 wild dogs who were protecting their puppies so that we could visit the derilict Archaeological Museum, and we stopped at various other sites we passed on our way. We had plenty of snow in the morning, and rain later. We are told that snow in Tbilisi in March is unheard of. Enjoy the latest photos.



Abandoned cable car (teleferic) in the manganese mining city Chiatura. Background: a derilict building of the mining company, which still operates today.

Fifth day: Today, we left the capital to drive 2.5 hours to the mining town Chiatura, which used to be the largest producer of manganese world-wide. . Chiatura gives the impression of being an abandoned and derilict industrial complex, but the mines are actually still active 24/7. The most picturesque feature of the town are its Soviet area cable cars. Starting in 1954, a system of 17 lines were built to bring the workers from their living quarters to the mines. For me, this Soviet industrial town was a highlight. On the way to Georgia's second largest city Kutaisi, we stopped at the Katskhi pillar, an eye-catching 40 meter tall limestone rock with a monastery on top. Enjoy the photos.



Abandoned sanatorium in the spa town Tsqaltubo

Sixth day: We had very pleasant interactions with some people at Kutaisi market and then drove to Tskaltubo Health Resort. Due to its s radon-carbonate mineral springs, there are a large number of sanatoriums, many of which in disuse and some of which derilict. We also visited Stalin's bath in Legends Sanatorium. Market pictures here, photos of abandoned sanatoriums will follow.



Former Spa hotel in Tsqaltubo, now in habited by internally displaced persons (refugees) from Abchasia.

Sixth and seventh day: We spent yesterday and today taking photos of abandoned or derilict buildings in Tsqaltubo (Tskaltubo), a spa town that was thriving during the existence of the Soviet Union. After its breakup in 1991, fewer rich Russians came and many of the sanatoriums had to close down. Here are some photos.



Tragic Love: Moving metal figures Ali and Nino at Batumi's Black Sea shore. Background: the Caucasus mountains.

9th day: Last night, we arrived in Georgia's second largest city, Batumi, at the border of the Black Sea. It is a modern city with over 170,000 inhabitants. The old town is relatively small. A long promenade along the Black Sea coast features many statues and other interesting pieces of art. Batumi's modern architecture is noteworthy, as the photos show. We alsofollowed a course by James Kerwin on editing architectural photos and we visited a wonderful abandoned villa outside the city.


 

Photos taken in Georgia's capital Tbilisi during the first days of our trip. (Click on one photo to see them full-screen) and to see their captions.




We have started our photo workshop with James Kerwin focusing on abandoned buildings and Soviet architecture in Georgia, including the abandoned Apollo cinema, an old music school and the former Museum of Archaeology. Here are some of the photos. Today's photos are all from Tbilisi.




Photos of day 5. We visited the impressive mining town Chiatura with its Soviet area cable cars , as well as the natural 40 meter tall Katskhi Pillar with a monastery on top.





Photos of day 6: Kutaisi market and heart-warming contact with the people.




Photos taken on day 7 in abandoned sanatoriums in the spa town Sqaltubo:




Photos taken on day 9 in Georgia's second largest city, Batumi, bordering the Black Sea:





Be patient. More photos will be coming soon! :-)

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