Georgians believe Abkhazia is part of Georgia. Abkhazians think they are independent. But in fact – Russians, Russians everywhere. My Georgian sim didn’t work (and I didn’t expect it would) and IP address was Russian when I finally found some internet. Phone prefix for local numbers? +7 (940). But no internet domain for them. Catalonia is not yet a country but has it’s own domain for ages. Money? Russian too.
Getting to Abkhazia was interesting. I hitched all the way from Batumi to Zugdidi, was chatting with drivers and didn’t wanna tell where I’m heading to. Georgians are kind of not allowed to enter Abkhazia (that’s another story), but foreigners can go. Met a few that have land there or used to have a house or flat. Probably nothing left from the Georgian houses and flats or they might be taken over by Russians and Abkhazs.
At Zugdidi I found marshrutka that went right to the bridge. It was one of the smallest marshrutkas I’ve seen, still from ancient times, we were 20+ people smashed inside and lady next to me had a box of alive chickens. I think last time this happened was somewhere in real Asia. So we went to the border – “tsib, tsib, tsib”, chickens all the way 🙂
The border between Georgia and Abkhazia goes in the middle of the river, on both sides they are huge flags – this is ours, right? Big Abkhazian on one side and Georgian and EU flag on another. Georgia loves EU flags for some reason. In between the checkpoints there were horse carriages. (Yes it’s 2017). I swear I seen a CCCP passport while I was told to “sit and wait” that they can do whatever they need with my documents. “Russkiy niet” is always the best answer in places like this.
Marshrutka on Abkhazian side had one window missing and they actually duct taped it all with almost transparent tape. Local guys were bored and were looking at phone’s navigation and tracking the speed. The driver was constantly pushing over 100+ on the road that was most likely repaired for the last time when Abkhazia was still part of USSR or under Georgian control. Marshrutkas literally fly over all this shit.
F* my life.
Sokhumi was as expected. Full of Russian tourists, bunch of people selling “excursions” at the promenade, loads of abandoned buildings and blocks, most of the roads without asphalt and brand new shiny “Belorusskiy magazin” (Belorusian supermarket). Abandoned train stations were amazing. Still visible bullets on the buildings. The wanna be “parliament” (huge abandoned building) with Abkhazian flag on the top, even better. Best thing is that all those building are open and you can just have a look around. There are some nice piers (probably built in ’80, but never ever been maintained) with bars and restaurants just next to the promenade. With exception of few modern buildings pretty much all other stuff must had been build in Soviet time and never maintained after.
I stayed in friendly guesthouse ran by two Moskovian ladies, the neighbors had a specialized shop with tractor parts. Yes, I like idea that my neighbors had an interesting business. Not to mention all those small shops where you can buy literally everything what you need. To be fair, they are not only in Abkhazia, but pretty much everywhere around Caucasus. Need a superglue? Yes, we have it. Fresh tomatoes and watermelon? Yes, we have that too. Some oats and nuts, pasta and other basic groceries. Some screwdrivers too! In case you need to fix something and a very necessary item for your household – they have that too. And caviar. Because everyone likes caviar and you should be able to find it in pretty much any 2 by 2 meters shop. CAVIAR.
International = Russian.
Local food = mostly bad copy of Georgian dishes. Well, I’m pretty sure there must be some really abkhazian things. Abkhazian wine – made in claypots like Georgian. Khachapuri – is Georgian, right? Churchkhela too! Khinkhali also! Don’t sell me this as Abkhazian stuff, I’ve been in Caucasus for awhile.
On Friday I was heading to the visa office (yes, you enter Abkhazia with special permit and need to get visa in Sokhumi) and realized that is a holiday. Not sure if they would be happy and let me exit without visa in my passport so I decided to stay until Monday. Btw, they accept credit card payments there.
Nature wise Abkhazia is unique. You can see banana palms pretty much everywhere, persimon trees, figs and other mediterranean plants, eucalyptus and palms as climate here is actually subtropical. All good until I smashed three tiger mosquitos on my arm. Tiger mosquitos
= tropical diseases; and indeed they recorded malaria and dengue fever in the area! Not much is known though – health care here is on the minimum and no international aid is welcomed to work with awareness of HIV or tropical diseases that definitely are here. I just need to count another six months for any weird symptoms that might be malaria. 🙂 Don’t worry mum, I still have a two boxes of my antimalarics treatment pills that doctors in Spain gave.
In Georgia you can find people with monkey, parrots and eagles at bigger tourist attractions, to take selfies with. In Abkhazia they went even a step further. Baby lions. Yes, LIONS on a leash that you can take a selfie with them. I thought … I don’t know what I thought …
Well .. however it is, independent, occupied or part of another country or not, in terms of travel – Abkhazia is a country. You need a visa and cross the border. Abkhazians have their own passports, although they can’t travel really far with them – Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru (that got $50 million to recognize them), South Ossetia, Transnistria and Karabakh. To visit other countries, they can get a Russian or a special version of Georgian passport.
Not sure if I ever explained what marshrutka is. Last year I wrote something about the Georgian marshrukas as their drivers are the craziest.
Marshrutka is modified van used for public transport. Mostly with approximate timetable and in 90% they leave when they’re full.
In Europe, van fits 8+1 people and have bunch of space for the luggage. In Caucasus (and post USSR countries) the same van is modified to fit 15+1 people or even 18+1 in some editions! All the luggage is included – sometimes it goes on the roof. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fit 22+ people, because in addition to the mini seats already in marshrutka, there might be a plastic/wooden mini chair or two, and you can put three people on two chairs too.
Don’t forget about all the relics (especially the Georgian and Armenian marshrutkas), crosses and saints pictures, because God will protect you when you’re driving 100+ km/h (with cigarette in hand) on a shitty shitty road.
I sincerely hope that that marshrutka line that I spotted in Novy Afon – I misunderstood. Abkhazia to Tashkent?? Like really?? This is like a double suicide attempt!
Edit: Hahaha, got so into the mood of ours, yours and theirs .. can’t believe!!