I had really looked forward to an excursion to the Algeti National Park just an hour outside of Tbilisi today. But, it wasn’t meant to be – the car’s cooler broke down halfway. Which is how we ended up in Tskneti.
There’s really not much to see in Tskneti and I doubt we’d usually have stopped there. In which case I might have never found out what more well-off Tbilisians nowadays consider a ‘country cottage’ (a ‘dacha’).
The one on the photo was one of the smaller ones and unlike others not surrounded by high walls. I was told that the price of land in these lovely green hills so very close to town is quite high nowadays; and a few of the people who own houses include former and now imprisoned ministers.
I should say that one finds also much more modest houses up here (though none that reminded me of a cottage). But I was still surprised to learn that refugees from Abkhasia were still living right next door, in older buildings which used to be small sanatoriums for families of government officials in Sowiet times.
Of the 4.3 million people living in Georgia, more than 250’000 people are counted as Internally Displaced People (IDP). A lot of them were displaced as far back as the early 1990s because of conflicts in Abkhazia and Ossetia. Even twenty years later many live in badly maintained collective centers or other sub-standard housing. A friend from Tbilisi works with a small charity that visits IPD communities to provide medical check-ups because they don’t have access to health services.
Fortunately, it seems that some good progress has been made in improving the situation of IDPs in Georgia in recent years (Source: IDMC). But, for the time being, there’s still many places here where locals will point to a building, often a particularly dilapidated one, and tell you that “refugees live here”.