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Sukhumi does not have Monday rush hour. This capital of a self-declared republic seems empty. In companion piece Getting to Abkhazia from Sochi, Russia, I recounted that the arbitrary border closing by the Russians cost my afternoon.
I arrived at 10 pm to the deserted square in front of Sukhumi Train Station. No taxis, no people, no businesses open. I was off-map and wandered along the main road until I found a downward-sloping road that I hoped would lead to the coast and downtown core. A few cars passed but I felt safer on my feet, walking with a purpose, than flagging what might not be a safe taxi. I walked for nearly an hour before finding the main streets of the city. The few hotel listings I had turned out to be shuttered.
At one intersection I was accosted by a large drunk who grabbed at me and demanded my passport. I read hesitation on his companion’s face and a taxi happened to be rolling up the street so I pulled away and dashed in front of the taxi. A lesson learned from my father and his childhood in Brooklyn is when accosted, attempt to pull out into traffic rather than be pushed inside an alley. The drunk’s friend led him off.
I was now on Lakoba Street and far down its western end I found the relocated Intourist Hotel in a compound hidden by two blocks of crumbling buildings. The reception was warm and English-speaking. I would have paid anything they asked. The room was simple with the greatest luxury in winter: warmth. Breakfast the next morning was a tour of local breakfast items like fermented dairy drink kefir.
I set out at 8 to obtain my visa and do a quick walking tour of the city. I had no reamining buffer in my schedule so covered as much ground as I could. The city is a mix of remnants of elegant pre-Soviet and Soviet past as a Black Sea resort town, and stark, bullet-riddled remains and memorials of the 1993 war. The city is dominated by the banner-adorned hull of the Government Building.
Everyone I encountered was friendly and welcoming. I wanted to linger.