Nestled on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, between Russia and Georgia, Abkhazia is home to just under a quarter of a million people. The region is famed for its beach resorts, once known as the ‘Soviet Riviera’ – back when even Joseph Stalin had a holiday home here. Since the breakup of the USSR however, Abkhazia has seen numerous bloody conflicts. Georgia still claims this region as their own, while many of the locals, with Russian support, have continued to fight for independent status. As a result the so-called阿布哈兹共和国是无法识别的国家在该地区的少数之一;什么是有时被称为一个后苏联冻结冲突区。
阿布哈兹资本是苏忽米(拼写“苏呼米”the Georgians, but ‘Sukhum’ by most of the people who live there now), and in August 2017, myself and a couple of friends obtained Abkhaz e-visas online, then crossed the demilitarised zone from Georgia to spend a long weekend exploring Sukhum and its surroundings. Here’s what I found.
通过在早上八点半我们到达了边境检查站。这是安静 - 出租车司机在自己的汽车而睡的道路上有一只狗，通过缓慢移动的一群牛追逐，在他们俏皮的挑衅脚踝夹住。过去沉默的车和牛，在拐角处，只是超出的Ingur河大桥一英里，另一军事化检查点标记的入口处，阿布哈兹共和国无法识别。
We waited there for an hour before the man at the window waved us on through the checkpoint; the first checkpoint of three.
Abkhazia can be reached by road from Russia, but here, on the Georgian side at a river crossing just north of Zugdidi, visitors to Abkhazia must proceed on foot. It was almost a mile to the river, a strip of quiet tarmac hemmed in by trees. One of the stray dogs had followed us, and she kept our pace as far as the Monument to Peace: a metal gun with its barrel tied into a knot, the last built structure on Georgian-controlled territory.
The next checkpoint, just beyond the river, was controlled by Abkhaz authorities. Beyond that we’d meet a third and final checkpoint staffed by Russians. It was this middle one that got us, though.
It was clear the Abkhazians took the border more seriously than their Georgian counterparts did. We were met by soldiers, chainlink fences and barbed wire. A guard post was positioned before the fence and we stepped inside to show our paperwork.请稍候，we were told, as the border guard took our passports away once again. He puzzled briefly over our nationalities – one American, one Australian and a Briton – then made some calls. We waited.
By now the midday August sun was rising and outside the guard hut, sat on the dusty grass, there was nowhere to find shade. I ran out of water in the first hour and as the temperature rose to almost 40 degrees Celsius (100+ Fahrenheit) I was sure I could actually see my skin slowly burning. All the while, other visitors were arriving and passing on through, the groups getting bigger as the day went on. They were locals, and I wondered what their stories were – so many people had been displaced by the war, communities uprooted, families divided. My sunburn was probably pretty minor compared to whatever they were going through.
Three hours passed, sitting in that grassy no-man’s land. We became increasingly concerned… was this normal? My phone was still picking up Georgian internet, and as chance would have it, a friend had recently introduced me online to Abkhazia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; she’d met him in Sukhum, and now we were Twitter friends. I sent him a message, asking if a four-hour border wait was normal.不，这不对，he replied, and said he would look into it.
Twenty minutes later, the guard waved us through. Two checkpoints down, one more to go.
This last barrier was staffed by Russian soldiers. They looked so young – I guess many were still teenagers – but they were smartly uniformed, sharp, keen-eyed, and not altogether unfriendly. Reaching the gate, one soldier started asking us questions in Russian. I struggled my way through a few before he switched, with a half-smile, into surprisingly proficient English. The questions were predictable (What we were doing? Why did we have cameras? Did we work for press organisations?) and we kept our answers simple:Tourism. Tourism. Tourism.
We seemed to pass the test, and just before we passed the gate the soldier asked to take a quick look through our bags.Of course， 我们说。我们没有隐瞒什么......或者我们是这么认为。但是，我的美国朋友已购在第比利斯回来。他已经买了一堆的旧格鲁吉亚二战电影的DVD;现在这家俄罗斯士兵发现了装在覆盖格鲁吉亚脚本的情况下，历史，政治媒体的藏匿处。它可能没有看起来很不错。他举起他们伸开手臂，仿佛被污染，命令我们不要动，然后把他们带到他的上级军官。
I guess it wasn’t too bad in the end. Between three people we haggled from 2,500 down to 2,000 Russian Rubles (about €25), whereas the bus would have cost just one tenth of that. But this was the fastest we’d moved all day, we were finally on our way, and it felt fantastic.
Our driver – a mad, bombastic sort of man, his flatcap resting so far down his red, round nose that I wondered if he could actually see the road at all – made a first stop in Gali, just 10km north of the border. We pulled up on a market street near the train station, where he heaved a couple of sacks from the back of his car, and onto a nearby truck. He opened one and tossed us each a hazelnut for our troubles; then pocketed some cash from the truck driver and we were back on the road.
从加利我们遵循滨海北路，通过工厂和农田的勤劳绿化景观超速;散落着废墟，子弹孔小房子和最不寻常的马赛克瓷砖的公共汽车站。我们的司机看到我们享受的看法，他喊道：“照片！Pazhalsta！”因为他在美国做了个手势记录下来。因此，我们受伤在我们的窗户，镜头戳了车的两侧像一个战争帆船大炮。所有的鼓和手风琴 - - 同时，某种民族音乐通过车载音响炮轰当道路是空的，我们的司机会摇转方向盘，在时间上横跨两车道转弯到疯狂的节奏。
在2017年八月，BBC广播电台一个名为短纪录片Abkhazia: A Land Forgotten。“被遗忘”字样和“远程”频频出现在片断......因为他们在该地区的许多其他西方做帐。调用此区域“远程”，然而，掩盖了一定盎格鲁中心主义的幼稚。从索契 - 俄罗斯最大的度假城市和2014年冬季奥运会的东道主 - 你可以开车到俄罗斯 - 阿布哈兹边界在40分钟内。再过40分钟，你就已经达到了您的海滨酒店。这比伦敦布赖顿更快。
Meanwhile the heaving crowds of Russian tourists who flock each summer to Abkhazia’s seaside resorts (as many as167万一年) don’t appear to have “forgotten” this place… and the Georgians certainly haven’t forgotten Abkhazia either. Even before I published this article, it was already attracting attention. Back in November I received a polite-yet-firm email in response to a hidden photo gallery on my site, that read: “I would like to ask you to indicate Abkhazia as Georgia, as it is the part of the country currently under occupation.” A follow-up email made the same case again, adding, “I am happy to hear that Abkhazia is of interest to you, awaiting your story about one of the most beautiful parts of Georgia.”
During my trip through the Caucasus I spoke with a lot of Georgians, and a lot of Abkhaz people too. I got on well with almost all of them – but on the subject of Abkhazia, I heard opinions from either side that were simply irreconcilable. (Perhaps that’s why it has taken me 18 months to put this story into words… because I know that whatever I write, it’ll no doubt upset有人。) Look, I’m no expert. I’m a tourist with a travel blog. If you’re interested in this region then don’t take it from me, do your own research. But the problem, put simply, is this: Abkhazia is a distinct region with its own unique identity, and while there is precedent for it being independent, there is precedent too for it falling under Georgian jurisdiction.
这场辩论的双方都呼吁历史来证明自己的论点。从格鲁吉亚的角度来看，阿布哈兹一直是他们的世界大多数的30个世纪的一部分;和时代，当它不是他们来到这主要是由于外国干预的结果不受欢迎的（是拜占庭，俄罗斯，前苏联等）。但根据阿布哈兹，阿布哈兹人是历史，种族，文化和语言的不同，以便为其当代邻国 - 俄罗斯和格鲁吉亚 - 和他们的故事是一个失败者永远国家争取独立的一个。
在引入到1992-93战争阿布哈兹，格鲁吉亚企图重新被指控犯下文化灭绝Georgify该区域;对此，有报道称，（据说俄罗斯支持），阿布哈兹分离主义分子领导的野蛮种族清洗对格鲁吉亚族人谁再在该地区占大多数人口的活动。联合国特派团发现双方犯severe human rights abuses。
But like I said, don’t take my word for it. The history of the region is dense, complex and bloody; making sense of it is far beyond the remit of this 5,000-word article. What Ican告诉你有信心，但是，是什么样子的访问。
I have visited a handful of unrecognised republics now (see for example:Transnistria), and out of them all, Abkhazia was by far the most different from its ‘parent’ country. More than just a rebellious breakaway region, the Abkhaz people are ethnically unique. While Russian is widely spoken here Abkhazia has its own language (written now in an adapted 55-character Cyrillic alphabet), and while they accept the Russian ruble, for convenience, they also have their own currency – the apsar. They have their own government, flag, anthem, and all the other trappings of state. It doesn’t feel much like Georgia at all; and despite the presence of Russian flags and soldiers, it doesn’t feel an awful lot like Russia either.
The architecture is largely Soviet-classical, and in between the frequent ruined buildings (scars from the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict) stand lovingly (and often昂贵) renovated hotels. Someone is clearly pumping a lot of money into the region. The Soviet war memorials of Abkhazia are well maintained, not neglected and falling apartlike many of those in Georgia和站在旁边，你会看到纪念碑最近的战争的受害者 - 通常情况下，在设计风格相似的苏联人。我的神，是阿布哈兹人民的友好。我发现它经常与这些未获承认的共和国的方式：承认一个国家的主权国家较少，更多的欢迎，当地人对游客。我想这就像某种形式的验证。
虽然话说回来，不是每个人都加温到我们的时候了。谁在苏呼米跑我们宾馆的女人是彻头彻尾可疑，当我们到达 - 边把目光投向我们，她带领穿过花园，以弥补客人厕所的方式。家里养的狗是不太评判不过，当我们和他交上了朋友，她也回软。到第三天我们的主机是为我们服务的新鲜kompot做，并告诉我们关闭离开房子，没有太阳帽。
一旦入住,我们急忙把袋子headed out to get our bearings. Our accommodation was just off the main boulevard, and it led us straight to perhaps the most iconic building in modern Sukhum: the old parliament, former headquarters of the Council of Ministers. This 12-storey government building was a casualty of the war, and now it stands ruined at the city’s heart. Rather than ignore it though, or tear it down, it seems the Abkhaz government has recognised its power as a monument; the ruin stands defiant, its Abkhaz flag flying high over the streets of the capital.
The eye-catching Amra Pier, clearly built as a focal point for Sukhum seafront, looked almost abandoned from outside. We were delighted to find it open though, and what’s more to discover a wonderfully retro 1960s cafe inside. We had a beer in the shade then continued our walk along the promenade… past balloon sellers, toy guns, hot dog stalls and a man offering rides on child-sized electric cars shaped like Soviet tanks complete with Abkhaz flags.
Instinctively, we saidNo– and they shrugged off the rejection, now seemingly interested just to talk with some foreigners. We chatted a bit, as much as we were able (the state they were in, I don’t think their Russian was all that much better than mine), and then I gave them 100 Rubles anyway.
Have fun!I said, and the smaller man grabbed me suddenly, pulling on my lapels as he reached in to kiss me once on each cheek. “Russia Forever!” he shouted, in English. His colleague took up the chant, and together they tumbled off down the street, hooting and hollering.
Back at the border, we had anticipated a grilling from the guards – and so we’d memorised a list of legitimate reasons why we might want to visit Abkhazia: the 2nd century Anacopia Fortress; Stalin’s Summer Residence at Novy Afon, later frequented by Khrushchev and Brezhnev in turn, and now a museum; the extravagant domes of the Simoneau-Kananitsky Monastery; and the Veryovkina Cave, which at a depth of 2212 metres is the deepest known cave on Earth. But we didn’t visit any of them in the end. Instead we joined the crowds and spent a full day touring the resort towns of the riviera.
对于前一周我们已经通过汽车租赁围绕格鲁吉亚走过。在这里，我们对出租车的依赖是严格的，昂贵的...但也不知何故解放。很显然，和清晰的时候，我们已经不允许足够的时间来正确地看到阿布哈兹。四天三夜只给我们时间，让我们的脚趾湿;但这样做出租车，从一个海滩度假胜地跳跃到下一个，至少给了一些经验真实性。我们会看到阿布哈兹海岸的方式同苏联的游客有，在旧时代 - 和同样的方式，数百万俄罗斯游客现在仍然如此。
First we stopped in Novy Afon (‘New Athos’), then at the northern end of the Abkhaz coast we spent a while exploring Gagra: with its abandoned hotels, some extraordinary Soviet-era bus stops, and a long walk down the beach with ice creams. We took another taxi to Pitsunda where resort hotels spilled out into a beachside plaza with bouncy castles, fountains and bronze monuments.
My general impression though, on exploring Abkhazia’s former ‘Soviet Riviera,’ was that this was as pleasant and peaceful a holiday destination as any I can name. The scars of war are still visible, of course – we’d pass fire damaged buildings like the ruined Gagarin Mall in Gagra, or see bullet holes sprayed across backstreet residential blocks – but the scars of former conflict were off-set by a lot of new investment. Boutique hotels and trendy cocktail bars line much of the Abkhaz coast, while the mood in the resorts was one of lazy contentment. Getting into Abkhazia (at least, from the Georgian side) had been a headache, all guns, barbed wire and bureaucracy… but once inside, it’s exactly the sort of place you might want to bring your family for the holidays.
近Bzipi我村要求他停在路旁的一处苏联时期二战纪念碑。他同意耸耸肩，然后当我们把他的车等了照片。两分钟后，他再次拉不过，这一次向我们展示了一个当代纪念碑格鲁吉亚 - 阿布哈兹战争的受害者。报偿。老人走近这块碑就好像它是一些神圣的祭坛;低着头，手放在胸前。我想知道谁他已经失去了。
On the morning we left Sukhum, our hosts’ dog followed us all the way down to the waterfront. We tried sending it home but it would retreat crestfallen, watch us from a distance for a while and then come trotting after us again. When we sat down for breakfast in a cafe on the main promenade, the dog curled up outside to guard the doorway. The woman who worked in the cafe was Syrian, and we talked for a while as she delivered our lattes, eggs and avocado toast (the menu in this place would have looked perfectly at home – save for its Cyrillic script – in any hipster coffeeshop from Brooklyn to Shoreditch). At some point during our meal, the dog got bored and went home.
There was one last thing for us to do: Western tourists visiting Abkhazia must have their visas approved at the ministry of immigration in Sukhum. We didn’t get around to it until our last morning.
Finding the building was easy enough, but then we had to wait an hour or so in queues, squatting in a cramped hallway alongside crowds of locals waiting on paperwork. Thankfully, by the time we finally got into the office the process itself was refreshingly simple: a couple of quick stamps and our e-visas were validated.欢迎到阿布哈兹said the man at the desk, we thanked him, then hopped in a taxi to the border.
On the way to the border we stopped in Gali again, this time to pick up a man in a freshly pressed border guard uniform. I presume he was hitching a ride to work. As we squeezed in, now six of us in the car, the driver turned to the newcomer and said in Russian, “Maybe spies.” The border guard furrowed his brow and nodded sagely.
We got a grilling from Russian soldiers at the border: “What were you doing in Abkhazia? Where did you visit? Where did you stay? Where will you go next? What is your profession? Are you a journalist? Do you have friends in Abkhazia? Do you have friends in Georgia? Are you sure you’re not a journalist?”
We were across the river, just passing the knotted gun sculpture, when we were stopped by researchers working for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. They weren’t allowed inside Abkhazia, they told us, so they waited by the border and quizzed tourists on their way out. “What were you doing in Abkhazia?” they asked. “Where did you visit? Where did you stay?” It was almost the same script the Russian soldiers had used.
And just like that, we were back in Georgia. Or perhaps we never left? I’ll let you be the judge of that, though I can tell you that crossing the Ingur River really does feel like walking into a different country. Abkhazia is objectively different – culturally, socially, politically – to Georgia, but when you consider that such differences result (at least in part) from an organised campaign of ethnic cleansing… well, it did somewhat sour my otherwise positive impressions of the place.
当然，#NotAllAbkhazians应的答案进行了这些罪行，就像#NotAllGeorgians支持的“狠劲，基于种族的掠夺，抢劫，殴打和谋杀”于1992年在苏呼米侵犯阿布哈兹民族的人（我）回来（详见P85这个人权观察的报告）。但似乎 - 至少对这个旅游 - 即现在阿布哈兹存在的相对和平，但政治化，但不完美，肯定是比来之前好。
Thanks for reading – I know this was a long one. If you’re thinking of visiting Abkhazia for yourself, then I recommend you take a look at这个guide by Megan Starr。这当然非常宝贵，而我规划我的行程。祝好运！
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