New East Digital Archive

Photo of the week: a view of Georgia’s hidden gem, before its “Sharm El Sheikh” makeover

Photo of the week: a view of Georgia’s hidden gem, before its “Sharm El Sheikh” makeover

17 February 2017

Dia Takácsová, from the series <em>Sakartvelo</em> (2014-ongoing) ” src=”” style=“width: 1000px; height: 664px;” /></p>

<p>Our photo of the week by Slovak photographer <a href=Dia Takácsová gives a taste of summertime in Georgia. The beach is located in Anaklia, a town that is undergoing a major transformation into the “Sharm El Sheikh of the Black Sea coast” initiated by former president Mikhail Saakashvili.

“I’m often on the road and Georgia was one of the countries I was curious about, as the country is becoming a popular and accessible destination. However our route was quite off the beaten path, so much so that the first foreigners we met only after a week,” Takácsová describes her first trip there in the summer of 2014. She returned that same winter, when the country was barely recognisable under the layer of snow.

Takácsová is drawn to unusual, isolated and forgotten places, and Anaklia formed the first leg of her Georgia trip. Around two hours from the most popular resort town of Batumi, Anaklia lies on the northern end of Georgia’s Black Sea coast, close to the border of the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Just a few years before, this place was on the frontline of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, as conflict spread from South Ossetia to Abkhazia. After the controversial transformation of Batumi, which involved populating the promenade with flashy high-rises and casinos, Saakashvili sought Anaklia as his next extreme makeover project. In addition to luxury hotels, cafes and restaurants, it was announced that this was also to be the home of a deep sea port — the “new Silk route” as it has been referred to in the media, for serving as the vital link between Europe and China.

Yet in 2014, “Anaklia was nothing like from the videos about ‘The future of Georgia’,” Takácsová recalls her visit, a year after Saakashvili left office. “I remember arriving there around noon. We saw several large hotels with palms and some work in progress which seemed to be interrupted. The combination of the Enguri flowing to the Black sea, a closed aqua-park and Europe’s longest pedestrian wooden bridge was fascinating, almost surreal for me,” the photographer continues.

However, it was the hospitality and warmth of the locals, rather than the ambitious scale of the constructions, that she took away from her brief time there. “The seaside became crowded in late afternoon and we met many locals, families who had a picnic on the beaches and swam in the sea — many of them came from Zugdidi — and they were very welcoming. This is when I took the picture,” Takácsová divulges.

To make the most of Wizzair’s direct flights to Kutaisi and see Anaklia in full unadulterated glory, you can party at The Georgian Electronic Music Festival, which happens each year over a weekend in August. Yet it is these quiet pockets, away from the futuristic constructions, which should not be missed.

You can find more photos from Takácsová‘s journey around Georgia here.