Discover Georgia
National Geographic explores Georgia’s ex-Soviet spa resorts
20 April, 2018
National Geographic has recently visited Georgia’s crumbling ex-Soviet spa resorts. Author of the article is Elaina Zachos, the writer at National Geographic where she covers online science news.

The journalist of National Geographic explores Georgia’s abandoned spa resorts which look quite depressive nowadays. However, they used to be the main balneological resorts during Soviet times and attracted many locals and tourists who wanted to rest and improve their health conditions in perfect environment.

The author of the article starts her
journey with Tskaltubo, a spa resort in Georgia's Imereti Region, west-central Georgia.

As the foreign journalist informs the readers of National Geographic, “in a small town in west-central Georgia, green foliage infiltrates decaying buildings that are relics from another time.”
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This circular setup of individual tubs would allow many people to bathe at once in this spa in Tskaltubo, Georgia

It is worth mentioning that Tskaltubo holds the status of balneological resort until today and the place is famous for its radon-carbonate mineral springs, whose natural temperature enables the water to be used without preliminary heating.

According to the author, in the 1920s, Tskaltubo was a thriving spa town with an exclusively Soviet clientele.
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They used to be the main balneological resorts during Soviet times and attracted many locals and tourists

“Citizens would flock here as part of a state-funded health program on sanctioned vacations meant to reenergize them while they contemplated socialist ideals. If the workers were healthy, as the theory went, the workforce would be healthy and thus more productive to support the regime,” reads the article.
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Georgia’s abandoned spa resorts look quite depressive nowadays

“All these things are so big and these pillars reach so high, and you feel that it’s constructed with a lot of pride,” says Reginald Van de Velde, an urban explorer who visited the site in 2017. “You feel that Soviet pride in it.”
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The one can feel Soviet pride through these buildings

Although many of the buildings are abandoned and falling apart, sections of the spa complex are still in use as a resort today. The resort has a hotel, restaurant, winery, and still offers traditional sanatorium services, including radioactive semi-radon baths and balneotherapy in the form of therapeutic baths.
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Many of the buildings are abandoned and falling apart

The article stresses the state-funded program, called Putevki, quite popular during Soviet times, required citizens (high officials) to take mandatory spa vacations for at least two weeks each year.
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Within the frames of so-called Putevki, citizens of Soviet Union would travel to luxurious spa complexes

Within the frames of so-called Putevki, citizens of Soviet Union would travel to luxurious spa complexes and the doctors would conduct special healing procedures to them through series of strictly scheduled treatments, including things like mandatory time for sunbathing, spa and mud procedures, etc.

As it is absolutely expectable, the “vacationers” were not allowed to drink, dance, or make too much noise as it was unsuitable for “Soviet citizen.”
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The “vacationers” were not allowed to drink, dance, or make too much noise

Although some Communist-era health spas are still in use and the complexes Van de Velde visited appeared to be abandoned, some of the crumbling structures still have residents. However, these buildings are now occupied by the refugees.
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Some buildings are now occupied by the refugees

“After being expelled from their homes by conflict, Abkhazian (Abkhazia is a breakaway region of Georgia, where currently Russian troops are placed) refugees have made the sanatoria their own by building make-shift homes and vegetable gardens,” reads the article.
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This terrace looks out to the Black Sea in Gagra, Abkhazia

At the end of the article, the author concludes that although the Soviet sentiments are long-gone, the restorative spirit of the spa still remains at Georgia’s ex-Soviet resorts.

Photographs by Reginald Van de Velde

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