Sukhum returned to me a piece of my heart lost in childhood when my family was forced to urgently leave Baku, where we were all born.
In all my travels around the world, I was looking for a city that would remind me of the city in which I spent my childhood and which I desperately missed.
I found its “fragments” in Istanbul, where the jasmine on the embankments, fragrant, mixed with the smell of the Bosphorus, the old men drank tea from “Armuda” cups in the teahouse and weighed passers-by on street scales, and the old women sold millet for pigeons; in Yerevan, where “pulpulyak” fountains filled the streets with clean water, and people were just as hospitable and warm and went to visit with boxes of custard eclairs; in Tel Aviv, where friends walked and met every evening along the long promenade along the sea; in other cities and countries where smells, flowers and traditions reminded me of the city of my childhood. And every time I discovered with delight pieces of the mosaic of my native city, I joyfully exclaimed: “Like in Baku!”
I collected the City of Childhood puzzle all over the world, but these were only pieces. The whole picture was not available to me.
Sukhum was able to combine everything in himself! And the amazing atmosphere of internationalism, which was once in Baku, the atmosphere of unity and equality of people of all nationalities and religions; and a three-kilometer promenade along the sea, with old people banging on dominoes and backgammon at the legendary Brekhalovka cafe (formerly U Akop cafe), where each regular has his own cup and where coffee is brewed daily on the sand, replacing each other, Armenian Lekha and Azerbaijani Azer; palm trees and fragrant jasmine; squares with sprawling trees and fountains; tea in armuda cups; coffee, ice cream in metal bowls and custard eclairs at Penguin Cafe; cozy courtyards-wells with creaking stairs; fishermen forever fishing on the dams and the shore; people walking back and forth along the embankment every evening and greeting each other; children on bicycles, scooters and strollers; the smells of the southern spring that I inhaled, imbibed with them and quenched my 29-year long nostalgia for Baku. And even wandering gypsies with budgerigars in their hands, pulling out papers with a prediction! The day before departure, I got a piece of paper “Someone will delay your trip.”
And so it happened: having left for Sochi, thinking that I would fly from there to Moscow, two days later I returned back to Abkhazia, because I simply could not part with it. Sukhum himself delayed my trip.
I could not escape so quickly from the green embrace of tropical nature. From being able to pick oranges and medlar from trees. Go to the market for mulberries and cherry plums, homemade wine and smoked sulguni. From the charm of snowy ridges and huge eucalyptus trees. From New Athos and Mount Anakopia. From Lake Ritsa, murmuring blue rivers and waterfalls, like gray-haired mountains descending from the peaks.
From the peaks of firs and seaside pines. From red cows forever wandering along the roads and thoroughbred dogs sleeping at the gate. From forget-me-nots in forest clearings and fern, which has already begun to spin up its tight leaves-balls. From the foam-whipped acacia mountains. From the air that is drunk like wine, which is served here everywhere.
All these days I lived in a real oasis 10 minutes drive from Sukhum – a small resort “Aqua resort”, right on the seashore. Already in the first minutes of my stay here, I realized: I am in the right place. As soon as I got out of the car and plunged into a wonderful cacophony of sounds and aromas – a real symphony of nature: the chirping of cicadas, the croaking of frogs, the chirping of night birds and this heady aroma of tropical nature. And when in the morning from my bungalow I saw the black fins of dolphins in the sea of all colors of azure, I realized that it would be almost impossible to leave here.
For 2 weeks here, the first week I lived in a bungalow right on the seashore, and the second – in the building. Both options, harmoniously integrated into the environment, were perfect from and to. From the stylish decoration of comfortable and spacious rooms with everything you need to ivy-covered trees that cast deep shade on the balcony, where it is so pleasant to sit and write your book, and in the evening to watch the nightly miracle of the flight of fireflies, which have mating season in May, and dense evening the southern darkness now and then flares up with their green stars.
In the morning – the beach, dolphins chasing a school of fish, Hemingway dialogues with fishermen on the beach, swimming in the sea that is no longer cold.
During the day – creativity to the singing of birds and watching how an acacia drops the white snow of its petals. Walk along the abandoned sleepers to the nearest restaurant for a glass of homemade white and grilled fish.
In the evening – contemplation of the sunset on the shore, strawberries for dinner, tea and a walk through the meadow of fireflies – my daily “Aqua Resort” must be done!
All this, as well as a swimming pool, a cafe with delicious Abkhazian and European cuisine and a spring with clean water right on the territory, sun loungers and hammocks on the shore and the most pleasant owners of the resort in all respects, made my stay comfortable and really cozy.
And when I wanted civilization, I went to Sukhum.
What to do in Sukhum?
A walk along the promenade. Enjoy sunsets with dolphins. Go to the monkey nursery in a picturesque place on the mountain. Go to the theater – Russian Dramatic, which, with the advent of a new director, they say, was reborn like a Phoenix bird. Or in Abkhazian, next to the famous fountain with griffins, shining in the night with green eyes. The theater was built by captured Germans in neo-classical style. In general, half of Abkhazia is “owed” to the Germans: in Tkuarchal, for example, where you should definitely go to radon springs and waterfalls surrounded by purple rhododendrons, there is a whole city of Akarmara built by their hands. Now, however, the city is abandoned, and trees live and manage instead of people, and the city itself resembles a ghost. However, several families and a couple of cows still live here. Before the Georgian-Abkhaz war, the city was considered an elite district of Tkuarchal and had all the infrastructure necessary for life. Despite the fact that there were only about a dozen residential buildings in the town, it had its own hotel, as well as a school, a hospital, a restaurant, a small market and even a cultural center.
You can also have lunch, dinner or just a snack in Sukhum with feeling, really, with arrangement:
Akyafurt offers excellent Abkhazian cuisine and delicious homemade desserts. Nut cake, for example.
In “Nartaa” – Abkhazian cuisine. Khachapuri “Boat” is the best in the city.
In a Turkish barbeque on the waterfront. The owner is a Batumi Turk, so there is no alcohol here, but the kebabs are the most delicious in the city and tea is served in “armuda” glasses.
In “Leon” – the most delicious sushi in Sukhum. There is also a hotel of the same name.
A-Burger has homemade burgers and lemonade.
Penguin has coffee, ice cream and excellent desserts.
In “Brekhalovka” – coffee on the sand from Lehi or Azer and a pie stuffed with feijoa.
I also recommend taking a ride around the neighborhood and visiting temples of amazing beauty, silence and energy: the 6th century Dranda Cathedral with myrrh-streaming icons, the Mokva Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, erected in the second half of the 10th century by order of the Abkhazian king Leon III, and – the pearl of Abkhazia – the majestic Bedia temple, located on a very beautiful mountain plateau with a magnificent view of the Black Sea coast and the peaks of the Main Caucasian Range. It was erected at the end of the 10th century under King Bagrat III in honor of the Blachernae Icon of the Mother of God.
Sukhum and the Country of the Soul (this is how Abkhazia is translated) returned to me a part of my soul that was once lost.
My great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother lived here at the end of the 19th century – black and white photographs of which I periodically look at in the family album. Svan Nikolai Georgobiani and half-Polish-half-Swede Antonina Garshtrem, brought to this land by God knows what wind. They probably drank coffee on the embankment of the Sukhumi Bay, went on dates to the Botanical Garden, perhaps kissed under the 350-year-old linden tree – the Patriarch of the Garden and whispered their wishes to the mysterious dolmen in the city center.
Now the story of their love has become much closer and clearer to me. And I also became closer to myself in Sukhum. I realized what my life could be like if there were no Karabakh conflict and if I stayed in Baku for the rest of my life.
But history does not know the subjunctive mood, and I am who I am. Having absorbed the energies of 50 countries I visited and giving a lecture about it “Life is like a Journey. Stories of the way” in the fashionable cultural space of Sukhum – SKLAD, where interesting events and film screenings are regularly held.
The 50th country I visited was just Abkhazia.
At least mine.