100 resorts of Georgia
Georgia is a small mountainous country located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, South from the Kavkasioni range, between Black and Caspian Seas. Its history rises along with the history of mankind. In Dmanisi, on the territory of Georgia, was uncovered a lower jaw of an ancient hominid – Homo Erectus who lived 1 800 000 years ago. In the early Bronze Age the region saw emergence of the Kura-Araxes ancient culture centered on the basin of Kura and Araxes that existed around 1 000 years; comparatively higher stage of development was middle Bronze Age, or period of brilliant burial mound (tumulus) culture of Trialeti followed by ‘Gold-rich Colchis’ culture – those are the words ancient Greeks mentioned the Georgian kingdom located on the Kolkheti lowland. In the IV c. BC in Eastern Georgia was founded Kartli (Iberia) kingdom with the capital in Mtskheta. In the IV c. AD in Mtskheta king Mirian supported by the preaching of St. Nino proclaimed Christianity a state religion of Georgia. On the brink of X-XI cc. separate kingdoms and principalities of Georgia merged and the first king of the United Georgia became Bagrat III.
Transit backbone linking Europe and Asia – Old Silk Road which was the most important transit road in the old world ran across the territory of the country. Magnificent scenery and convenient strategic location could not keep external enemies quiet. Nation lived in situation of non-stop invasions and hostilities. That is why administrative and political boundaries of the state changed in the course of centuries.
Today Georgia covers the territory of 69,700 sq. km. There are eleven climatic belts on this small area shaping up diverse nature and landscape. On the other hand, manifold landscapes and surfeit of climatic belts, high-flying snowy peaks and glaciers, warm subtropical seaside of the Black Sea, vast lowlands of Eastern Georgia, mountains, lakes, rivers and thousands of mineral water springs flowing out of the ground make up rich supply of resorts: there are 103 resorts and 340 resort areas registered in the nation; more than 2000 mineral water outlets have been uncovered with the total discharge in day-and-night amounting to hundreds of million liters per day. Among mineral waters are springs of such precious physical and chemical property mineral waters as Borjomi and Nabeghlavi (Vichy-kind water in France), Zvare, Pasanauri (Essentuki-kind water), unique Lugela chloride-calcium water; high therapeutic properties have sulfide, radon, nitrogen, silicon mineral waters applied for treatment of musculoskeletal, peripheral nervous system, skin and gynecological diseases. These types of waters are used for treatment in Tsqaltubo, Tbilisi, Nunisi, Tkvarcheli, Gagra, Sokhumi, Makhinjauri, Zekari, Aspindza resorts. Part of the discharge goes to warm and hot mineral waters, 40% of the total discharge is carbonic, and more than 25% – hydro-carbonic water.
Due to diversity of landscapes and climate Georgia is rich with mountain climatic resorts where spectrum of the sun, especially high activity of its ultraviolet rays, mineral water springs, sound air and moderate temperature in summer shape up the most favorable background for treatment and vacationing.
The most important zone of holiday-making industry development is Black Sea coastline with its wonderful beaches and micro-climatic specifics. Climate therapy in Sokhumi, Batumi, Kobuleti, Makhinjauri, Sarpi and Chakvi is highly effective the whole year. Sea climate makes a positive impact either on circulation of blood and respiratory tract diseases, or functional disorders of nervous system. On the Black Sea coast of Georgia (in Ureki, Grigoleti and Maltakva) unique magnetite sand is frequently used for curing and disease preventive purposes.
In addition to the abovementioned major health-care factors of resorts, cure-mud is extracted in Georgia (Akhtala, Kumisi); specific microclimate of karst caves available in the country is the best means of healing respiratory organ diseases. To get therapeutic effect in the natural conditions of Georgia is also possible within the frames of eco-tourism. Vivid examples of the abovementioned is fusion of speleo-tourism and speleotherapy, horse riding and ride-therapy, wine tourism and wine therapy (enotherapy), spa-tourism and balneotherapy.
History of resort towns in Georgia starts from the middle of XIX century, namely, from discovery of Borjomi mineral waters. However, in 1913 during implementation of captation works around Catherine spring, seven baths made of cut stones dating to the beginning of AD were unearthed. As it looks, our far-off ancestors detected outstanding properties of water and took baths for curing various diseases. One of discoveries of boiling mineral waters is connected with the legend on foundation of the capital of Georgia – Tbilisi.
Georgian geographer and historian, Vakhushti Batonishvili (Bagrationi) who lived and worked in the first half of XVIII century, shares with us findings that, as it seems to be the case, that time there were “six baths and… free flowing sulphuric hot water” in Tbilisi. The same author whom we check with a lot of times in this book describes location of various therapeutic water springs and their properties in different corners of Georgia: on Didgori mount, near Kojori, it seems to have existed a spring of water “that those caught with cold should drink and wash face and will cure immediately”; in Ateni (Gori) “flows warm water healing pimples”; a spring happens to be in Dmanisi “which cures pimples” and another one “which can break bladder stone and help drive it out”; in Otskhe (today’s Abastumani) was a full-scale bath arranged: here “big and hot boiling water current flows” healing “wind-deprived, stale spots from pimples difficult to cure”. Definitely, there were many such bathhouses in Georgia but it is difficult to say how they were arranged and whether there was any kind of infrastructure.
Genuine development of resorts in the country started on the brink of XIX-XX centuries. Sanatoria and health-improving centers were built this time in Borjomi and Abastumani; attention was paid also to the opportunities existing on the seaside resort areas of Abkhazia and Adjara, however quality of potential resource development was negligible while social base of vacationers limited. After establishment of the Soviet rule, in 1926, existing guest houses and sanatoria were nationalized and Georgia was announced the kernel of holiday making industry of the Soviet Union. As per official data, 102 resorts of diverse categories were operated in this period, among them: 6 (Borjomi, Gagra, Kobuleti, Akhali Atoni, Bichvinta, Tsqaltubo) were assigned Federal (Union) category, 85 of all-Georgian (Republican) category and 61 of local category. 394 sanatoria which had been operated in Georgian resorts by 1986 rendered services to 2 million holiday makers. However, due to political developments which happened in the end of XX century, resort infrastructure in the nation was nearly crumbled altogether: the Georgian population ousted from the lands of its forbears during hostilities in the conflict zones of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region found shelter in peaceful regions and arranged temporary abodes in the existing sanatoria and boarding houses. Many people from internally displaced persons even today live in former hospitals and health centers.
Nowadays when we see the comeback of tourism industry in the nation, special attention is given to resuscitation of resort towns, restoration of old and construction of new infrastructure. Unfortunately, the biggest part of potential opportunities of resorts remains unclaimed. Hundreds of curing springs are not used and this great gift of nature flowing from the ground is squandered back into the ground. Also Georgian jurisdiction does not cover Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region where there are many resorts and important resort zones. In spite of this, we decided to provide narratives about them as well, as Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region belong to historical Georgia and, sooner or later, both these corners will return back to their motherland.
We tried to go beyond balneology and deliver to the readership history of foundation of each and every resort, legends and rumors circulating among people about miraculous effect of therapeutic springs, list of sights and their description which would be interesting for holiday makers to visit.
Other than immediately therapeutic factors, a lot of things attract attention of a visitor at Georgia’s resorts. Among points of interest are karst caves, prolific rivers, lakes, waterfalls. There are 14 State Preserves, 11 National Parks, 19 Managed Preserve Territories, 41 Natural Monuments and 2 Preserved Landscapes in Georgia. Those should be added by numerous historical and cultural monuments and memorials. Until today these ‘sideline’ factors of resorts were less practicable, but a patient at the resort needs not only climate, therapeutic factors and comfortable living conditions but also information about tourist attractions on the surrounding territory. These second-row data is also as necessary as the first-row details, because memorial sightseeing of antiquities through walking is pleasant and useful workout needed for a vacationer for sheer therapeutic purposes.
Fortunately, every year more and more investors get interested with natural medicinal resources of Georgia. May our book stir this interest much more and remind them on many spots rich with unique recreational properties left in neglect.
We wish good holidays and wonderful health to all who having read this book will think up of the benefits of health-improving tourism and will decide to spend holidays in one of Georgian resorts.