The Tskaltubo Spa Resort (or Legends Tskaltubo Spa Resort as it is officially called) is the only original sanatorium currently in use, having reopened in 2011 after an extensive renovation of two of the three grand buildings. Walking distance from Bathhouse number 6, it wouldn’t have come onto our radar screen had we not met two Australian guys who were staying there. We got talking and they told us that one of the hotel wings was abandoned and remained in a time warp, circa the 1950s. Stalin stayed at the hotel and had his own suite of rooms there.
Rich soil, rivers like the Rioni, Chorokhi and Mtkvari (Kura) filled with fish, and besides a ready source for irrigation, helped the early settlers to raise grains. The most successful farming settlements had grown into powerful clans.
Crafts and trade flourished across wide areas. In the early centuries of the 2nd millennium BCE two principal economic systems were created.
Later they will be called Colchis and Kartli. The Georgian clans are best known in history for their mastery of bronze and iron. The Bronze Age civilizations, which endured and developed over two millennia, gave place to Iron Age communities c. 1000 BCE.
Bathhouse Number 6
Sometimes referred to as ‘Stalin’s Bathhouse’, this is Tskaltubo’s main bathhouse and is situated directly on the mineral source. It’s still in use and well maintained. The facade is classic Stalinist Empire style, which is lucky given this wellness centre was a particular favourite of the ‘Boss’, and specially built for the man himself. He had his own private pools featuring ornate mosaic work and the reception staff were quite happy to show it to us when we asked.*
* We guess at the moment that Tskaltubo doesn’t get that many tourists as both the receptionist at Bathhouse Number 6 and the staff at the Tskaltubo Spa Hotel (see above) were willing to give us a short, guided tour. If Tskaltubo grows in popularity (it truly is a fantastic day trip/overnight excursion from Kutaisi) then the attitude of these employees (and restraints on their time) may change and visits may no longer be possible.
Rumour has it there are plans to renovate Stalin’s personal pool and open it up for public use. No doubt there will be a market for such an ‘attraction’, particularly among die hard fans of Sovietism and those still delusional enough to think Uncle Joe was a great man. But, for us personally, even though the novelty of spending time in a sanatorium is quite appealing, the thought of spending time in a bath used by one of the world’s most appalling dictators is a bit too warped.
The main entrance hall of the bathhouse is also worth seeing. It’s very grand and the old bus arrival/departure board above the door hints at how popular Tskaltubo was during the times of the Soviet Union. Take a look at the huge urn featuring images of the former sanatoriums and also the frieze above the exterior entrance which features Stalin greeting bathhouse visitors.
Other Places of Interest in Tskaltubo
Stalin’s Dacha (Holiday Cottage)
This was a fascinating find, which we would never have known about had it not been for the helpful and enthusiastic young woman at the Tskaltubo Tourist Information Centre.
It was a little tricky to find but once we’d located it we had free rein to wander around the entire premises. The first building we came across used to serve as a guardhouse, and from there a single track led up to the main building. The house seemed fairly modest, considering it was designed for the leader of the Soviet Union, and the interior was gutted and bare save for a bit of peeling wallpaper and some wall murals that wouldn’t look out of place in a child’s nursery. There were still signs of grandeur, however, especially above the veranda at the front entrance, and it took us quite a while to explore the whole place.
We also found what we assumed was a small bunker in the garden and a workshop that housed some strange-looking electrical getup that Mark’s over-active imagination thought looked like some sort of torture apparatus, but was more likely used for mechanical purposes.
As an aside, we were accompanied to the dacha by one of the town’s numerous stray dogs. He came with us all the way from the railway station, scouted ahead and whimpered if he temporarily lost us inside the grounds of the building. The dog even took a crap inside in a room that, hopefully, was one of Stalin’s personal rooms! A fitting tribute to Georgia’s most evil Man of Steel.
The Fortress was a strategic stronghold. Conquering the fortress meant political influence on Shida Kartli. Gori fortress was attacked several times by invading armies and was rebuilt afterwards. The main part was restored in the 30s of XVII century by king Rostom. The last time the church was restored in 1774 by Erekle II. After the Treaty of Georgievsk (until 1801) Gori fortress still had a function. The Russian army battalion Grenadier stood there. Later Gori fortress lost its practical importance.
Gori Fortress Shida Kartli, Georgia
Gori Fortress is a historical building on a hill above the city of Gori, Shida Kartli. From here all the roads are seen well so gaolers could easily see when enemy appeared. Located on the main highway connecting eastern and western parts of Georgia the fortress was of strategic importance for many centuries.
Tskaltubo the city of the destroyed sanatoriums
Wat se nalatenskap het kommunisme maar veral die vernietigende magsbeheptheid en oorloë vir hierdie land en sy mense ingehou
Georgia’s abandoned sanatoriums (Russia)