On Thursday L. drove with me to a place that was a holiday resort for KGB employees in the past – holidays for spies. Nowadays it’s a ghost town so I was very excited.
When we came back we drove through a part of Sukhumi where damages of the war were still clearly visible and I couldn’t believe that people live tehre.
The next day we went to a small reserve and passed a cage with a bear that was super small (maybe 4m² only) and the bear look really sad. In addition I bought a bottle of nice mulberry chacha for family and friends.
Since L. wanted to get on the Ministry building we went there in the late afternoon again.
After dinner I enjoy a nice bath in Black Sea for the last time on this journey.
Day 32-34, August 8th-10th, Sat-Mon, Abkhasia-Kutaisi-Kiev-Warsaw-Berlin
Because I flew on August 9th from Kutaisi via Kiev to Warsaw and then hitchhiked to Berlin, I said good-bye to L. and hit the road back to Georgia. At the border my visa was stamped on its backside and the police officer in Georgia just registered me again – no hassle at all. Then slowly slowly I went to cozy Kutaisi airport. My flight was heading to Warsaw but I had an 8 hour layover in Kiev so of course I went into town.
From Warsaw hitchhiking went pretty bad. I arrived at 3.30pm at the airport and at home at 6am next day – but at least with fresh rolls.
This day I was going to the second breakaway Caucasus Republicx after Nagorno-Karabakh: Abkhazia. Abkhazia is a bit more famous than Artsakh, but only because of war. And its history is quite similar: After the downfall of Soviet Union Abkhazian people and Ossetian people wanted their independence from Georgia, who didn’t want to accept. So from 1992 to 1993 there was a war and most Georgians were expulsed from Abkhazia and in 1994 it declared its independence. In August 2008 war between South Ossetia and Georgia broke out again, Abkhazia played a strategic role and was recognized by Russia after the war. That led to an increasing tourism industry and the currency became Ruble.
I was told that Georgian citizens are not allowed to enter Abkhazia. Though people who I met were angry or sad and often envious that I could go. Because the mountains are near Black Sea and therefore it’s really a nice destination for people who like to stay in hotels or travellers like me.
First I had to go to Zugdidi, where some Germans that I met on the camping ground were going. From there I walked more or less to the border.
You have to show your passport at a Georgian checkpoint although Akhazia is officially still part of Georgia. To enter Abkhazia you need to have a visa that you can apply for online at the MFA and you’ll receive an entrance permit. It took 9 days until I received it.
After the checking of your passport you have to go on foot (or you can take a horse-drawn carriage, but it’s slower) through a demilitarized zone and over a brige over Inguri to Abkhazia. There your passport and the entrance permit is checked and you’re in.
But hitchhiking wasn’t easy although on hitchwiki was written that it was super easy. In fact I made the worst experience. On the one hand I always had to wait a long time and if cars stopped they wanted money and were rude, when it was mentioned that hitchhiking is not about money.
Especially the south of Abkhazia is not sparsely populated and buildings are in a kind of bad state; you can see many destroyed houses at the roadside. I pitched my tent at a river where a drunk ex-police officer who was drunk drove me to. He lurched all the time on the opposite lane but traffic policemen just greeted him friendly when he passed…
Day 24, July 31st, Fri, Lake Ritsa
That day I went to Lake Ritsa that is not only popular for its nice location but also for Stalin’s dacha (Russian summer house).
But before I had to go to Sukhumi, the capital of the Republic of Abkhazia. There I had to change my entrance permission to the visa. Initially I applied for a one month visa, but I could get a 10-day visa, too which was cheaper. This visa is not stuck into the passport.
From Sukhumi a crazy driver from Dagestan (Russian region, Muslim characterized); his driving style was insane like of most Akhazians. He drove fast, at least 100km/h no matter if inside town or not. Then in front of us, a car was overtaken. But the overtaker drove to slow for my driver so he overtook the car that was overtaking the other car. In the end three car were driving next to each other on this two lane road and of course on the opposite lane cars were approaching as well – it was crazy.
On the way to lake Ritsa I then had my worst hitchhiking experience when a typical fat-muscular driver wanted a blow-job in return for a ride. Fortunately some time later a nice Russian family from 4200km far Surgut near Khanty-Mansiysk took me with them. We visited the summer residence of Stalin together and in the evening we went to Pitsunda for dinner and pitching our tents at the beach.
In the morning I tried to get to Svaneti that had been recommended to me by 90% of the people I met. But they also said it was impossible to hitchhike there. But I mean honestly it doesn’t mean anything, since none of them tried – and who would believe it? It worked of course…partly. Till Lentechi it went ok. I met two cool Polish hitchhikers who went in the same direction. They had smaller backpacks so they were walking. But I was more in the mood to sit under a tree and read until a car would pass. Cars from the other direction came from time to time and the after some hours a jeep in my direction as well. A Russian girl and her boyfriend from Oman were sitting inside and some 30 minutes later we the two Polish fellows. Since people cruise through the mountains in Oman as well, it was an awesome ride. The road was even less a road then the one to Shatili and the landscape – just amazing once again. After sunset we arrived in Ushguli, the Russian and her bf went to some hotel and of course the Polish and me pitched our tent on a mountain and ate a small dinner in their tent, because it was quite cold outside.
Day 22, July 29th, Wed, Ushguli-Mestia
I got up early to watch the sunrise, but it was too early the sun didn’t hurry. But by the time I shot about a hundred photos.
Then we were waiting for the Russian and the Omani because initially we wanted to go with them especially because I forgot my map in their car. But they didn’t show up and I didn’t see the car in the village. Other cars weren’t going as well so we decided to go by taxi. But we didn’t pay the normal price, but a third. We went to Mestia to a dirty cheap camping ground, enjoyed a fresh shower, ate together and played cards. It was a nice change to the daily travel.
I didn’t know the reason why I wanted to go to Shatili or how I got to know that special village. But it was fantastic and I haven’t seen something like this before. Georgia can be a really magical country. The street from Chargali to Shatili is more or less just a dirt road that curls over the 2676m high Datvisjvari Pass. I was super lucky to hitch a ride by a truck that even went further to deliver wood. Till the pass we had the Kazbeg in our backs, surrounded by dark clouds. After the pass the rainy clouds caught us and we were surrounded my hundreds of sheep crossing the road for several times, Due to the rain the road because from dirty to very dirty and a bit slippery and the truck was wide whereas the road was narrow. At some points there were slopes to a river on one side and on the other side sharp rubble from above. One time I had to pilot the truck through the rubble – in sandals that I was wearing cleverly.
At some point we bended and there was Shatili. Ich didn’t know how it would look like and was speechless. On the photos that I posted one can imagine a bit. It was raining and I tried to get onto the mountain apartments in sandals. After some minutes a man whose name I forgot shouted at me I should come to his place. He was coach of a box club that is meeting once a year there for some kind of camp. There was no running water, well actually there nothing – just a space on the floor under a roof, but it was enough for me, I was very happy. We drank wine and beer and ate bread with cheese.
Day 20, July 27th, Mon, Shatili-Tskaltubo
In the morning the weather was better. While the boxers were sleeping and strolled through the village, enjoyed the beautiful landscape and then started to go to Svaneti. I thought that it would take long time, to get out of Shatili, but only after like 30 minutes I got a ride to Tbilisi and from there I went to Kutaisi. In one town I could finally get some money as well after having spent four whole days without any money. Two times I caught rides with drunk people, of whom the last ones missed the exit to Kutaisi permanently which made me quite angry. In the end a grandfather with his granddaughter, who is going to Germany for school, took me to Tskaltubo where I slept in the yard of an abandoned school camp building.
Day 16, July 23rd, Thu, Noyemberyan – Sno (Georgia)
On Thursday it was time to go to Georgia. To the border it went smooth but then slower.
Alex gave me some hints where I should go in Georgia: the region north of Tbilisi (at the border to North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Chechnya) and Svaneti.
My first stop should be the village Juta in Greater Caucasus, near Kazbeg and Stepantsminda.
I caught a ride from the border to Tbilisi where I had to walk and wait but finally after some detours I was on the Georgian Military Road that leads to the Russian border. Multiple times I was told that especially Svaneti is a stunning region and features the best landscape in Georgia. At 11pm I arrived in Sno where the way to Juta starts. I wanted to walk but two times the very friendly police came and told me not to go, but stay in my tent for the night, because of wolves. There was a church nearby and they told me to sleep on its ground.
Day 17, July 24th, Fri, Sno-Juta
I was hit when I got up in the morning. The view, that I couldn’t enjoy during night-time – apart from the crystal clear sky – was gigantic. Few clouds covered the sky, in the background of the church the more than 5000m snow-covered Kazbeg grew into the sky and the air was refreshingly cold.
I didn’t take long time and a food delivery guy took me to Juta where I met with U. and her boyfriend Gela. He was building a hut that is finished by now: Fifth Season Juta.
Since I arrived in the morning I got rid of my stuff, was invited for breakfast with Gela and his co-worker and went for a hike. When I came back four other friends of U. have arrived and the evening was filled with chacha. We were sitting on the table, cheering without breaks and refill happened from 5 litre bottles. Poems have been read and it was discussed about the unity of Georgia (in reference to South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Due to my stay in Iran I was not used to these amounts of alcohol and since we were only sitting I kind of didn’t feel the effect until I had to go to toilet (at that time it was the slope behind the hut).
Day 18, July 25th, Sat, Juta-Chargali
Fortunately I was fine the next morning. But I couldn’t join them when they started to drink for breakfast again. I couldn’t believe how they were able to continue after such a night.
However at noon we got back to the Georgian Military road with about 10 other travellers. Our ride was a truck that brought animals and its bed look literally like shit, but it was funny.
One of the four friends of U. wanted to visit other friends in Chargali and I just decided to go with her. But it wasn’t that funny as before, but I could wash myself in the stream next to the bonfire we made. In the evening we were sitting around it, singing, eating and of course drinking. The village of Chargali is the birth place of the famous Georgian poet Vazha Pshavela. He is a very important person for the Georgians.