Last summer, photographer Reginald van de Velde was able to explore places that most will never see in their lifetime: the disputed territory of Abkhazia, in northwestern Georgia.
Tskaltubo, a town van de Velde visited during his travels in Georgia, used to be bustling. People would flock there for their annual two-week vacations and spend time in one of their many sanatoriums, where they could relax in the thermal water. But with the collapse of the USSR, the town crumbled. Most of the sanatoriums have closed, some decaying and some used as shelters for refugees from the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict, which still remains unresolved today.
Traveling through these parts is no easy feat. “There’s only one way to travel into Abkhazia via Georgia, and that’s via the famous Enguri Bridge. No vehicles are allowed to cross, so you need to walk the bridge by foot or make use of one of the horse carriages. The Georgian police held us at the border for three hours for no apparent reason. Once you cross the other side, you bump into a Russian border operated by the military, doing a proper check-up as well,” van de Velde tells AtlasObscura.
Still, van de Velde found something captivating while standing on the terrace of an abandoned sanatorium in Abkhazia overlooking the sea. “Abkhazia suffered severely from the war. But there’s still so much grandeur and beauty to be found,” he muses.
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Photo: Liam Andrew via Unsplash