The room inside Tskaltubo, Georgia. safetywing
Asia,  Destinations,  Georgia

A “Crazy Lady’s” Story of Love and Kindness in Tskaltubo, Georgia

Why do we travel? Obviously, that is a very broad and difficult question, but I always have one answer to say. I travel to find love. While it might sound weird, it is actually true.

After having visited more than 25 countries, I have found that the best experiences do not come from the historical sights or the luxurious amenities. They come from the little stories of love and kindness you get when you engage with the locals. It is there where you’ll get the most genuine impression of a country, and a good trip always includes a moment where you feel something that can only be explained by the word “love”.

One of the places that I felt it the most was my trip to the abandoned Soviet ghost town of Tskaltubo, in Georgia. You can find more about this amazing place in my separate guide

Introduction – Travel Insurance as a Means of Self-Love

But before I start with the story, I’d like to write about another kind of love, self-love. There is no better way of showing self-love than caring about your health.

Exploring places like the abandoned Sanatoriums in Tskaltubo isn’t the safest thing in the world. That’s why you need good insurance to make sure you are always safe and protected.

Safetywing’s Nomad insurance is the perfect way of showing love and caring about yourself during your travels, especially if you are a long-term traveler or a digital nomad. You can find more about their budget-friendly and (always) trustworthy services here.

Me in Tskaltubo, Georgia

A Little Backstory

Tskaltubo’s history dates back to ancient times. The “Waters of Immortality”  were probably known already in the 7th-9th centuries when the oldest historical records are dated. These springs were believed to have medicinal and curative properties, and they attracted people seeking relief from various illnesses

However, it was not until the Soviet era that Tskaltubo’s transformation into a major spa and resort town concluded. In the early 20th century, it became a beloved destination among Soviet citizens, including party officials and workers, who came for rest and recuperation. Workers were sent there free of charge or with a generous subsidy from the government. 

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tskaltubo faced economic challenges, and its prominence as a spa destination declined. Many of the once-grand sanatoriums fell into disrepair.

During the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, around 8000 people decided to flee their homes and find shelter in the abandoned Sanatoriums. Many people had their families there, and the new generations grew up in Tskaltubo. Families are still living there, in horrible conditions and in absolute poverty. 

When the plans to revitalize Tskaltubo were announced, it was promised that the families who lived there would be relocated to new (and better) homes. While this was partly achieved, many people still call the Sanatoriums home. Even in the buildings that were sold to investors, not all families were able to get to new homes.

The story of The “Crazy Lady”

Before getting to Tskaltubo, we had come across the story online about a “crazy lady” who demanded cash to let anyone inside Sanatorium Metalurgi and provided a “guided tour” (not a real one). There had been a small outrage online due to this, with many people calling out to skip Metalurgi. 

When we approached Sanatorium Metalurgi, there was, indeed, an elderly woman who demanded 5 GEL (approx. $2-3) to let us inside. She wasn’t rude, but she wouldn’t let us enter otherwise. A little bit disappointed, we decided to pay and get into the sanatorium.

She showed us a few things with her broken English, took us a photo, and then let us leave. However, we really enjoyed our time in the Sanatorium, and we let the “cost” issue go. We, then, proceeded to the next sanatorium, the famous “Medea”.

We had a great time there too and after an hour started walking our way back. However, at this point, it started to rain heavily. The rainfall was so bad and the fog so dense, that we couldn’t even see in front of us. Many cars passed by, but none of them offered to help us. We were very wet and had started to feel hopeless. 

After about 20 minutes of walking in the rainfall, we passed outside Sanatorium Metalurgi. We found cover under a tree for a while, but it didn’t help much. But then, we hear the sound of a familiar voice.

“Grecia, Grecia” (That’s how the old lady called us because of our nationality). We looked up, and the old lady was showing us the way to the entrance of her apartment. We found out that she was inviting us in. We went up and went into the apartment.

She waited for us, greeted us, and told us to stay in a room for as long as we needed to dry and be ready to continue. She made us hot coffee and also asked if we needed anything to eat. The apartment itself was in very bad shape, and it really showed that those people were, indeed, alone and helpless.

For the next hour (and with the help of some good old Google translate), the lady told us stories about her, her family, and a few things about life in Tskaltubo. She pointed out how the families that live there are always helping each other and have nothing but each other. The lady herself was living with two other people from her broader family. 

After the rain had stopped and we got dry, we got up and she hugged and kissed us both before we left to continue our trip. We had really run out of words, there was nothing we could say that could be enough to show how thankful we were. And, for us, that was the purest expression of love.

Final Thoughts

This day I felt some of the most genuine feelings of love that I have ever had in my life. And I did it from a person who had almost nothing in her life. A woman that everyone thought the worst of, but nobody seemed to care enough to ask about her life, or even try to get to know her. But, when the hard part came, she welcomed two strangers with open arms and a smile. And that meant the world to us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *