One more year, one more breakaway republic – Abkhazia
A new spring came and so it was time to add a new destination to the list of my breakaway republics tour. This time we explore Ankhazia, or as its known in Abkhazian, “Apsny”.
Unlike my first two visits, this was an official tour with Young Pioneer Tours, so it was a little more challenging, but at the same time more interesting. The first group consisted of “battle tested” YPT’s repeat offenders, so as you can imagine, it was a lot of fun.
If you are not familiar with Abkhazia, it is a region that lies on the eastern shore of Black Sea, bordering Russia in the north near Sochi, and Georgia in the south. Although the Georgian government and those of the majority of the rest of the world consider Abkhazia a part of Georgia’s territory, Abkhazia considers itself to be an independent state, called Republic of Abkhazia or Apsny. It is recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, and also by the partially recognized states of South Ossetia, Transnistria (Pridniestrovie), and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The most common way to get to Abkhazia is overland, via Russia near Sochi or via Georgia. In the true spirit of YPT, we opted for a heavily fortified Georgian/Abkhaz border guarded by Russian military and dotted with concrete bunkers and electronic jamming towers. It was easy – all we had to do was to convince the Georgians that yes it is a “good idea” to go to Abkhazia, cross a kilometer-wide demilitarized zone on a horse carriage, prove to Russian soldiers that our paperwork was real, explain why we were there to FSB (Russian Federation Federal Security) and again convince them it is a “good idea” to go to Abkhazia, and pass passport and customs control. Simple.
Mild climate, beautiful beaches and mountains made Abkhazian region a prime tourist destination during Soviet times. The wars in the 1990’s and 2008 however changed that. On top of destruction caused by the wars, the economic isolation led to lack of funds for reconstruction and crumbling infrastructure. Tourists were gone and once crowded beaches became empty. Although money is starting to return, mainly from Russia, most of the cities and towns still show deep war scars. If you like urban exploration checking out abandoned buildings and factories etc., this place would be heaven for you.
Below is a photo assay of what we have seen. Click on any image to enlarge and begin a slideshow.