I had an entire resort almost completely to myself in Anaklia, but the place is developing fast.
A pig on the loose with people chasing it is always funny. Everywhere. A group of men and a big bellied peasant woman gave chase. They were all laughing. A Georgian tourist tried to kick it. The pig dodged and ran right into the windowed wall of the restaurant I was watching from. His wrinkly head smashed right up against the glass by my feet. Although the next time I saw that pig the head was no longer attached. The peasant woman got him.
I ordered a coffee at the restaurant and pointed to the full barista rig. The waitress heated up a kettle and sneakliy gave me instant coffee instead. She had a bag of decent coffee open but when she thought I wasn’t looking reach under the counter and produced a jar of instant coffee and hastily heaped a spoonful into my cup.
I caught her and pointed to the barista machine and asked if I could have my coffee from there. She shook her head no. She wasn’t going to fire it up just for me.
It was the same as the draft beer I tried to order the day before. I pointed to the tap and she reached down into the deep cavity of the near empty fridge behind her and revealed a bottle. There was no keg attached to the tap because there is nobody here to drink from it.
I was in the restaurant of what I believe to be a four star hotel in Anaklia, one of Georgia’s Black Sea resorts.
It’s still the off season, with about a week or two before the crowds start coming in. I’m one of the only visitors here, and pretty much have an entire resort town to myself.
But preparations are being made for the incoming deluge. Half-finished construction projects line the streets, as hotel owners slap together new buildings and add on extra rooms to scale their potential profits. Everybody reassures me about all the people that will soon be there and of the giant electronic music fest they have there where hundreds of thousands of people from all over Europe pour in.
I came here to check out the lay of the land for the location where a major New Silk Road deep sea port should be getting built and decided to stay on for an extra day or two to enjoy the beach.
Besides being a more than adequate place to sit and drink a beer while watching incredible sunsets, Anaklia has one of the most interesting development stories I’ve ever experienced. The place is the location of the idea deep sea port on the Black Sea but is also right on the border of the break away region of Abkhazia — which is pretty much an independent/ vassal state of Russia that few other countries beyond Russia acknowledge as existing. As late as 2008 Russian tanks were rolling through the streets here in Anaklia and people were being expelled from their homes en masse and being killed in fighting. The place was a war zone.
I met with the town’s director of development, who took be for a ride around in his truck to look at some development projects as well as the impending port. He was younger that I expected and seemed passionate about his work — which consisted of not only providing adequate infrastructure for a world-class port but also to provide the people who lived there with the bare basics of development: roads, water, electricity, etc. Until very recently, this place was a genuine backwater, now it’s an emerging resort town.
“Five years ago this place was nothing. There was really nothing here but some houses and cows,” I was told repeatedly.
This rapid development is partly due to being the site of GEM Fest — a massive electronic music festival that attracts the top DJs and hundreds of thousands of people from 160 something countries. The idea was hatched by the director of development and two other guys in the hotel lobby that we began our interview in. Last year was the first time they tried this, and it seemed to have been a success.
What’s interesting about this festival was that it wasn’t just something for outsiders that only the established business elite would benefit from but an event that the entire town mobilizes around. It’s organizers did a massive amount of outreach to bring the local people into providing needed infrastructure for the event. Many converted their homes into guesthouses — there are now over 400 in the region — and shops. And they profited big.
“That place last year was nothing,” the director of development pointed to the guesthouse I was staying in. “Now, the owner is building it up. Last year during GEM Fest he made 60,000 (around $30,000), now he is expanding.”