Belgian Photographer Documents Soviet Spas in Georgia

Belgian empty-space photographer Reginald Van de Velde travelled through Georgia to document the Soviet vacation towns, such as Tskaltubo, in its current state, abandoned and ready to renovated for future tourist groups. His photography captures in an eerie and spooky way the remains of a town considered to be at the heart of Soviet vacation policies.

During communist times, citizens weren’t just workers, but a valuable means of labor, meaning they were in need of regular rest and recuperation. Tskaltubo grew out of its rich natural resources, which enabled direct access to thermal water. The Mediterranean climate in the summer drove hordes of Soviets to choose this town for their vacation, often even being assigned the town by their manager.

Van de Velde, whose photographic passion lies in decaying and empty spaces, took on the task to look inside many former spas. Today, a vast number of these old buildings are used as homes by refuges of the 1990s Abkhazian War.

A new renovation program places the Tskaltubo at the heart of recent tourism promotion campaigns. One of the most famous tourists in Tskaltubo was Joseph Stalin, whose bath house is one of the few renovated and operational today. The recent increases in tourism figures in Georgia hitting the 7 million mark this year generates momentum for many places to scale up their infrastructure in hopes of getting a piece of the tourism pie.

Other places, such as Sokhumi or Gagra, both located on the Black Sea, also have ruined spa houses scattered throughout. Often well concealed by fauna covering them in a green blanket, Van de Velde photographed them in their natural vegetating metamorphosis.

Van de Velde’s photography will remain a reminder of a period when spas and thermal baths were briefly taken over by nature, before being reused for 21st century tourism purposes.

By Benjamin Music

16 May 2018 18:32