Thursday, 20 February 2020

Discovering abandoned villas at Mtsvane-Kontskhi in Georgia

It had been a long rainy week since I first heard about an abandoned villa near the Botanical Gardens close to Batumi. So as soon as the weather improved, we made our way to the lush, green hills of Mtsvane-Kontskhi which overlook the Black Sea. The bus took us on a narrow winding road which snaked upwards along hillsides until it deposited us near the top entrance of the Botanical Gardens where this lovely decoration greeted us.

After wandering around the area for a while, we spotted the old villa. Four levels of crumbling history just waiting to be admired and photographed.

Nature had taken over. Creepers spilling through window openings, weeds flourishing on decaying verandas and moss growing in cracks.

The place was big. The patina was magnificent. But sadly it was falling apart.

We were able to move around the old structure but could not find access to the interior. Staircases had been removed and entrances blocked off. This was probably done as a safety precaution.

Yet, I could not believe my luck. Every surface and every crevice was covered in its own, unique and exquisite patina. 

We knew nothing of its past, but flaking paint revealed a history of colours that once adorned this old beauty. I could imagine what a splendid place it must have been in its glory days.

Around the back of the villa, the walls were predominantly shades of terracotta and showed very few traces of blue paint. This was probably the weather side.

The view from here was spectacular. The Black Sea lay spread in front of us and to one side, a view of Batumi in the distance.

It was from there that we got a glimpse of a second ruin close by.

Of course, we wanted to get a closer look and while we were wandering around, trying to find access to the grounds of this beauty, I couldn't help thinking of one of my favourite childhood fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty.

I remembered Prince Charming discovering the overgrown castle. On horseback and sword in hand, he fought his way through the brambles and climbers.

Sadly, we did not have a horse or sword. It seemed the only way to get closer would mean trespassing on other neighbouring properties. So we had to be satisfied with admiring it from afar and through the camera lens. Any patina treasures that lay within, were not to be admired by us. Feeling defeated, we decided to move along.

Our disappointment was short-lived. Following a footpath that seemed to connect some of the large properties, we came across another patina gem.

This one was not quite as overgrown, but it certainly was derelict. It no longer had a roof and seemed to have been stripped of many of its decorations.

The scenes that met me were beautiful, yet sad. I just kept thinking: "Why? What happened here?" 

The bonus here was there were no restrictions. We could move around freely, weaving "in" and "out" through doorways. 

Again, the view from this place was amazing. I could imagine having drinks on the beautifully tiled patio and watch the sun setting over the Black Sea.

It's been months since our visit to Mtsvane Kontskhi, and you may wonder why it's taken me this long to write this post. Two reasons. Sifting through all the images taken that day proved to be a massive task and I have spent endless hours on the internet trying to find info on the history of these abandoned beauties. Not being able to understand the Georgian language or alphabet can be very frustrating.

Apparently, this was a soviet spa resort, originally consisting of three buildings. One, of which, has completely been destroyed and the remaining two (the first two we saw), in this derelict state. There were many such spa complexes known as sanatoriums, in Georgia, which date back to the early 1900s. They were built on, and around, natural springs, and people were sent there annually for health treatments and rest. They were two-week mandatory spa vacations known as "putevki", earned by hardworking soviet citizens.

After the fall of the USSR, these sanatoriums lay abandoned for a while until 1992 when, during the war in Abkhazia, many Georgians were forced from their homes in that region. These IDP's (Internally Displaced Persons) fled to other areas in Georgia, seeking refuge in discarded sanatoriums. It would appear some of these refugees stayed in the decaying Mtsvane Kontskhi sanatorium buildings until 2007. 

I was unable to find any info on the third villa, or whether it was part of the sanatorium complex, but I do have a feeling there was a connection.

Neglected and in disrepair, their glory days have long gone and nature is fast claiming the little that has remained. I feel truly fortunate to have spent a few hours in these glorious old ruins, photographing that which may no longer be tomorrow.  I think this day will remain etched on my memory forever.

My search for exquisite examples of authentic patina continues in the country of Georgia and next time I'll share some of the beautiful old doors I've come across. Until then ...

... Happy Painting!

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