Monday, 12 September 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Abhazia

At a time when I'm getting a little bit miffed about not getting out and about,  I've decided to crack on with one of my more meaty  'To Do' list items and let the world come to me.  Item 102 is a pledge to myself to find out something about every country on this planet.  Now,  you may realise that there could be some argy bargy about how my list should be compiled.  I could spend a whole host of time trying to placate as many people as possible given that there are disputes about whether certain regions constitute nations in their own right.  But, merely for simplicity and to avoid producing an academic essay on the subject.  I'm going with the list of sovereign states shown in Wikipedia.   Sorry neighbouring Kernow (although I might give you a mention anyway)!

And it is with utter delight that I begin my alphabetical journey with  a place I've never even heard of - that travel hotspot, Abhazia!  I'm not being funny here.  Wikipedia says that this tiny temperate state really is a tourist destination, for lots of Russians at least.  And it looks stunning.  Lakes, mountains, a beautiful coastline and tantilising must-see destinations.  Stalin's summer dacha,   loads of archaelogical and ecclesiastical sites and the most impressive of all, New Athos, a cathedral sitting on top of a cave system that can be visited by train.  How cool is that!  There's extreme sports, snowboarding and for the speologists amongst you, the state is home to the deepest cave in the world, Krubera-Voronja which is so fathomless, cavers aren't really sure that the bottom has yet been reached.

Have I sold this to you as a place to visit? Absolutely-dutely, I hear some of you saying.  So why are the UK tour operators marketing the nuts off this place.  Well - there are a couple of catches.  Although there is a pristine airport, it's non operational at the moment.  So, there is  merely a myseterious, untimetabled train that arrives in the capital, Sukhum, daily from Sochi and a recently introduced. boat link from the same Russian city.   There are also more important security reasons that might put some off a visit.  'Neighbouring' Georgia  accuse the Abhazs of ethnic cleansing by massacre and enforced displacement in the 1990s, a claim supported by the UN mandated Organisation for  Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Georgia still maintains that Abhazia is part of its own country but in spite of this it has a separate government that is not officially recognised by most countries.  By now, you may have gathered that Russia is the notable exception.  Travellers are warned of travelling in the Eastern region as there are two tetchy 'nations' on either side of the border.  There are unmapped minefields there as well. Having said this, travel in the main areas where tourism flourishes does not seem to warrant any more care than someone would take in many of the places in the world where beaches, ancients sites and questionnable regimes go hand in hand.  Oh! and because of economic sanctions, credit cards don't work here.

Should you stay or should you go?  I'll leave it up to the most intrepid travellers to decide on logistical and ethical grounds!

2 comments:

  1. I think that it is a bloody marvellous idea to visit every country! Are you thinking of physically jumping on a plane and physically visiting some of them? Let me know if you do - I'm up for it!! ;-)

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