late sunlight illuminates one of the abandoned sanatoria in Tskaltubo

Tskaltubo is partly a ghost town with old Soviet senatoriums and bathhouses, one of which is still kind of operating. In the spirit of Stalin, who also stayed here.

We have booked ourselves a night in the Tskaltubo spa resort. One of the very few – if not the only one – of the health spa facilities in Tskaltubo that remains from a rich and famous past.

the dining room of the Tskaltubo Spa Resort

and the pool, with the usual suspects

The big attraction of the hotel is the very large pool, from the photos on Booking.com. In reality, the pool is much smaller, and also much fuller than on the photos – fuller with people, not water. The pool rules are clearly signposted. We are supposed to shower before entering, but the showers are nowhere to be seen. Dogs are not allowed, yet one of the guests brought his, tied behind the poolside bar, and two other dogs, belonging to the hotel, are happily drinking from the pool. Oh, and the pool is a non-smoking area, although, just in case, there are several ashtrays on the bar. But the water is fine, apparently mildly radioactive – which has healing properties. Albeit not enough to cure me from my persisting cold.

But of course we are not here for the pool, but for the hotel itself. Not easy to get into, obviously very exclusive: turning up at the gate, the guard first calls the hotel reception to ensure we are allowed in, then reluctantly opens the barrier.

not all of the corridors of the Spa Resort are being mintained equally well

neither are the stairs to Stalin’s private quarters

the desk, allegedly Stalin’s

and the rest of the building is also pretty abandoned

Driving through the park we manage to find the right building, amongst several on the complex. Already in the reception, we immediately feel the former glory. From here on it goes on, impressive staircases – and, luckily, a modern lift -, parquetted corridors and rooms, and a huge, circular dining room – complete with chandeliers -, connected to the main building by the pride of the place, a stone bridge. Never mind that not everything works that the showers are lukewarm at best, and the food in the restaurant mediocre. I can just imagine Stalin going through the same experience. Because the fame of the hotel is linked to the fact that the great man spent his vacation here, in the lovely, wooden area where the hotel is located.

Because we are curious to find out where Stalin actually stayed in the hotel, and where his private quarters where, we book a tour, next morning 10 o’clock. It is not exactly busy at the assembly point, in the reception area – it is just the two of us. When I ask about the tour, the receptionists is going to call the guide. When I ask ten minutes later again, any progress, perhaps?, she tells me he doesn’t answer the phone. Ah, but maybe the guard can take us. The guard – not the same who let us in the previous day – actually takes us to another building, pretty derelict, to the third floor, and this was Stalin’s bedroom and workroom. Right. He then told us, after a short telephone call, that the real tour guide was on his way, “just stay here”, and disappeared. Patience not being a real strength of both of us, after five minutes (or was it less?) we decided to explore the building on our own –indeed, the tour guide never showed up anymore. And after another 15 minutes, or so, through more delipidated rooms and corridors, we ended up outside again. Hmmm.

Some homework then revealed that the health and spa complex in Tskaltubo was initiated in 1950-51. Initiated, not immediately finished, mind you. Given that Stalin died in 1953, he hasn’t been here that often, I suppose. But it is a great tourist attraction, of course, even we fell for it!

this building is still being occupied

grandiose stairs to whichever derelict sanatorium

sign of abandonment, but much more recent than that of the buildings

inside the Senatorium Imereti

and another view of the Senatorium Imereti

and the stairs, past glory

this looks like an abandoned theatre, also in Senatorium Imereti

Stalin or not, Tskaltubo has much more to offer than a struggling hotel and an overfull swimming pool. The town – the complex I should say – has been planned vintage Soviet approach around a park with several bath houses, where the spring waters could be enjoyed. Surrounding the park, a ring of sanatoria and hotels was built, which at one stage was even specifically reserved for army personnel. All of which has not survived Georgia’s independence: each and every of these ostentatious buildings have been left to rot from 1991 onwards.

yet, it looks like the Senatorium Imereti does have some inhabitants, still

We went to see a few of them, but we could have spent a week here. Incredible, the capital destruction. We have observed this so many times before, in former Soviet republics, also earlier in Georgia, and in Eastern European countries – in the form of derelict factories. Here we have tens of grandiose buildings – admittedly, pretty low-cost built, marble look-alike concrete, – that with a bit of maintenance could have served any useful purpose But left to rot, they have for a while provided housing for refugees (Georgians expulsed from Abkazia during the 2008 war), and now they are just wasting away. Parquet floors are losing ever more of their wood planks, wall paper is peeling off, from walls and from the ceiling. Bathroom tiles have cracked, or are gone, all the water pipes have been removed anyhow and sold for scrap. Part of stairwells have collapsed, trees are growing through the roofs, and through the windows. Former glory. Fun to wander through, for a while, but then, they are actually cheaply constructed, and not particularly beautiful. Although fascinating enough to include lots of pictures!

Luckily, there are also some traces of old Soviet culture in town, the park and the cinema, for instance. Scroll all the way down!

the overgrown outside of official Bathhouse nr. 5

and its inside, pretty abandoned

but some of the bath tubs are still there

the outside of the Senatorium Iveria in Tskaltubo

and looking inside out

long corridors, same Senatorium Iveria

the once grandiose interior of the Senatorium

another view of past glory, Senatorium Iveria

impressive concrete stairs

and a decorated balcony

perhaps the grandewst of all, Senatorium Medea

with an impressive entrance gallery

complete with columns, high ceiling, and nowadays a door to facilitate entrance to the building

stairs to the multiple floors of the Senatorium Medea

outside corridor, equally overgrown

and yet, there are traces of people living here

more signs of inhabitants, in the form of closed of balconies

and a sculpture at the fountain, woman in bathing suit

the Soviet style entrance to the park in Tskaltubo

with an impressive, if dated, sculpture

a Soviet frieze, still surviving on one of the buildings in town

and the cinema – say no more!

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One Response to 09. Tskaltubo

  1. Thea Oudmaijer says:

    Very Nice to visit this place!
    I agree you can spend much more time over here. Nice pictures.

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