Abkhazia

abkhazia

When God was handing out countries the Abkhazians turned up late. ‘We’re sorry,’ they said, ‘but we had guests, and we had to give them food and drink.’ To punish the tardy Abkhazians, God gave them a harsh, dark, and cold piece of earth. Later, an angel went to check up on them. He was warmly welcomed, and treated to a feast. Word got back to God, who called a meeting with the Abkhazians. ‘I will give you the most beautiful piece of land I know,’ he said. ‘Just remember, like a beautiful woman, it will be coveted. You must protect this land.’

Abkhazia is a self-proclaimed country wedged between Georgia and Russia. It’s officially recognised by just 5 other countries. Though just a few kilometres from Sochi, Abkhazia feels more Causasian than Russian. The climate is subtropical by the sea and surrounded by snowy mountains. Nature-wise, Abkhazia might be the most beautiful place on the planet.

The region was once home to about 500,000 people, but wars with Georgia and Russia in the 1990s have driven away at least half the population. (Think Bosnia without the UN.) Bullet holes riddle buildings in Sukhum, Abkhazia’s capital city. In abandoned towns, trees grow out of houses. The country has no postal service.

Adventure travellers will have a ball in Abkhazia. The people live up to their legendary hospitality. They’re fun, and like to sing while drinking. The mountains, lakes and rivers leading to the sea are breathtaking. Sukhum is home to legendary sanitoria, the original all-inclusive holiday package.

Just getting into the country is an adventure, as Abkhazia’s only civilian airport closed more than 20 years ago and the only way to enter the territory is on foot across border crossings staffed by unsmiling Russian officials.

Keep in mind that any country that doesn’t have a functioning post office probably doesn’t have the best hospital system, and insure yourself appropriately. Get a good travel medical insurance policy that can get you out of the country if something goes wrong. Once that’s sorted, you can join in on a chanson, take pictures of Sukhum’s amazing town, or hit the slopes.

New Athos monastery. Artem Topchiy/CC BY 3.0 /File:Novoafonsky_monastyr.jpg

New Athos monastery. Artem Topchiy/CC BY 3.0 /File:Novoafonsky_monastyr.jpg