Sightseeing in Abkhazia: our impressions
Русская версия In the previous post , we have already told how to get and where to stay in Abkhazia. This time we will tell you what you can see in this country, apart from its wonderful sea.
Let’s start from New Athos, the town where we were staying in Abkhazia. The main attraction here is Anakopia fortress. Anakopia was the center of the Abkhazian Kingdom, so the fortress was built on the top of mountain Izverskaya, which was then impregnable for a long time. In the VIII century, a 40000-soldier army of Arabs, who had previously conquered the Caucasus were beaten here. You also have to be ready for some struggling and difficulties of climbing. In the beginning, there is as asphalt road going up. Then after entering the territory, you have to work harder, as the ascension will become much steeper and the asphalt will disappear.
The entrance fee includes the guide service, and this will make your ascent more interesting and informative, as from time to time you will stop to listen to a variety of stories and legends. Vitya, for example, remembered the following strategy. The path leading to the gate was designed so that the wall and tower with shooters were located to the right side. What is the reason? If you come to the town with a sword, then you need to keep it in your left hand as your right hand has to keep the shield defending from the arrows. It seems that only left-handed people can win such a battle.
However, in 1032, the fortress fell to the Byzantines, and after almost 50 years again returned to their Abkhazians. The legend sounds very similar to the story of the Trojan horse, but, instead of the animal, with the dowry of Anakuapia-pha Scharifa were put boxes into a fortress. This woman convinced one of the Byzantine that she was very rich and he married her. In the boxes, she then brought hidden soldiers.
When you reach the top, you can refresh yourself with the icy water from the inexhaustible saint source,
enjoy the views of New Athos,
and, perhaps, leave a reminder about you.
New Athos is famous for its monasteries and churches, as well as the path of sinners. According to legend, those who crawl on their knees all through the stone path, leading to the monastery of Simon the Zealot, receive absolution. We decided not to attend this landmark, as well as the New Athos cave and waterfalls, as we had seen something like that before.
Instead, we decided to take a walk to the “three coppers”. This are the karst baths formed by a river. The road is almost the same as to Anakopia fortress, it is necessary to go a little further and perhaps there still is a sign.
On the way, we enjoyed the views and nature,
but then were disappointed. At some point the road was closed, and the improvised sign demanded money from the visitor.
When we asked what we pay for, the boy standing near the improvised checkpoint could not find an answer. He also did not have any tickets, but insisted that it is a private territory, and the free entrance was prohibited. The weather that day was not so good and it was raining. On the road, we met a woman with a girl who had slipped into the river and injured her leg. They told that the route along the river was not safe. After all, we decided not to go further. It was unclear and unpleasant situation, when you have to pay for nothing. As it turned out, it was not the only case where you have to pay to some cheaters or nothing. For example, if you want to take a picture of a beautiful stone, or with a nice lake background, you have to pay for it. We did not.
In New Athos you can also find a park with a pond, where you can ride a boat or feed the swans, Stalin’s summer house, which was closed for the renovation, as well as the echo of the recent war.
From New Athos, one day we got to Sukhumi and just wandered around the city. We also took the trolleybus, with the driver smoking inside. By the way, the price was also unusual – only three rubles.
Generally, Sukhumi looked more developed. A large park where you can sit in the shade on a bench, the food (khinkali) is better, an internet is faster, and you should not pay extra charge for using Skype. However, the sea is a little worse. In general, we recommend to visit Sukhumi.
Ritsa Lake is considered to be the pearl of Abkhazia is. We decided to visit it, but after reading reviews, we realized that such a simple way as hitchhiking does not work here, at least, during the tourist season. Therefore, we decided to break our rules and turned to the travel agency. Unfortunately, we do not remember the name, as we are going to “advertise” them a little. We bought the tickets at the usual office – a tent, the day before. The next day minibus picked up us from the street with a group of typical tourists. The trip started with a puncture. As it turned out, in New Athos there is only one place to change a tire. The worker was either at a feast, or a funeral, nobody new exactly. However, an hour later, he came and honestly did his job. And then it started …
On the way to the lake, we were delivered to the apiary, where the employees were telling us about the uniqueness of Abkhazian honey and friendliness of Abkhazian bees for more than an hour. Those, indeed, are very nice and do not bite without the reason. In fact, the whole thing was was just a very expensive honey shopping.
Finally, we moved to the Lake. But on the way we stopped in a scenic valley to be able to take pictures on the stone and to pay for it. As we have mentioned, we decided not to follow this wonderful tradition and took pictures for free.
Again, we moved forward to the lake, but then our guide came with a brilliant idea. Let’s go to the Milk waterfall! It will cost you extra 200 rubles ( $ 5). We had less and less time for visiting of the lake, and people kept paying for additional services without getting an actual thing (and the tour time, certainly, did not increase). We complained and got a support from another family, but the others expressed surprise and remembered our unwillingness to pay for the three wells and getting photos with stones for free. The guide also expressed his surprise, saying that this was the first time people rejected this additional service. Moreover, since we refused to pay, he said, we could not leave the car. Of course, we got out of the car and made a photo of this wonderful waterfall full of people.
In general, we wasted 20 minutes to the waterfall, 20 minutes for park, 20 minutes to the road. Finally, we got only 30 minutes to enjoy the views of Ritsa lake, which was a priority of our trip. It is even not enough time to rent a boat. When other tourists complained, some crazy colleagues of our guide at the lake began to shout and offend the family, our fellows.
The way back was even more intense: 5 minutes to pond, 5 minutes to waterfall, 25 minutes to a very poor lunch, but bungee (for extra fee too) – 30 minutes!!! We finished with the speed wine tasting: 3 glasses in 10 minutes.
Back to all, the tourists felt well-fed, drunk and happy. The guide sang songs about beautiful women, flirted with a girl in the front seat, told stories about the friendship and hospitality of the Abkhazians, and mentioned “the fact” that he paid from his own pocket for the neglectful guests who had refused to pay for the milk waterfall.
The next day, we were leaving Abkhazia. Sitting in the bus and listening to 1990s songs, we were thinking about Abkhazia and had very controversial feelings. The beautiful nature, but very poor and strange service is here. Our friend and traveler Roman Ustinov (we stayed at his place Adler) told us that the mountain Abkhazia is quite different, and the beach side becomes slightly different off the tourist season. His guide book about Abkhazia may be very useful for those who do not want to repeat our experience.
We stayed one day more in the crazy pre-Olympic Sochi and Adler, and then took a flight to Minsk. Thus, our adventures in Caucasus finished. You can find the route and all of our notes about this trip by clicking on this link .