So, we’re holidaying, as in last article I promised we would be, in this place on the Black Sea, less than five hours’ drive from home. Ureki is a smallish town whose numbers swell, actually multiply, dramatically during the summer season, and then ebb away like the tide to quiet, rather sad normality. Almost all of its commerce seems to be tied to these busy warm months. The sand is nearly black, apparently a bit magnetic and reputed to be quite therapeutic to be buried in up to your neck.

Is there even a bank here? No. Hairdresser? You’ll have to look hard, but there is one. Shoe repair kiosk? Nope, despite the prevalence of Armenians: they’re almost all visitors like we are and, although this is a trade at which they excel, they left their kit at home because they’re vacationing, of course!

Russians too are everywhere: We (Georgians) only hate your government, not you, it’s nothing personal and we are such a hospitable people, so come on over and we’ll not discuss the politics. Native English speakers are as rare here as the white peacock strutting around Kolkhida Spa’s complex like it owns the place. Although we do run into my editor and have a nice long, slow lunch together.

Infrastructure? Hmpf! Sidewalks? What for? Have some roadside sand to walk on from shop to shop: souvenirs, ice cream, cafes, beachwear, shawarmas, fruit and veg stands. There’s not enough room for two lanes of cars and two of pedestrians, we know, but we’ll dodge each other and move slowly and all will be OK. Patience, please! That sinkhole which opened in the road? Eventually, once the local drama of pipes bursting, shops flooding with wet sand, men standing around and women screaming at them to get a plan going is over, they’ll dig it so deep a 5-a-side team could get lost in there, replace the pipes, refill it with sand and life will go on. New asphalt? Let’s not get hasty now!

An exotic mix of angular new shiny glass and steel hotel architecture, dark asbestos-roofed wooden homes in which one could imagine murder mysteries being filmed, and abandoned concrete half-built hotels line the streets, along with the odd tenting site. A budget for everyone, even for the guy who came to sell sweets from Tbilisi, can’t make ends meet, and is living on the streets.

My wife asks me to stay put while she investigates a place for our own stay. The Kolkhida, in which we’ve done large group stays for reasonable prices, is now beyond reach: we were getting a group price, off season, when the Lari was much stronger. But without me to raise prices as the obvious foreigner, she does quickly find a cheap place with meals available if you want them, free unlimited Wi-Fi and ensuite bathrooms. Perfect!

Well, except for the booming karaoke until midnight nearby. We complain, and there seems to be a result: next night it ends at 11 pm, for which we must thank them.

The wind stirs up large waves on the sea, and swimming more than about 10 m out seems to be prohibited: undercurrents could drag you away, and there you’d be, lost at sea until the lifeguards could get you. There’s even a strong sideways pull taking you far from your little pile of towels and clothes on the shore, although not out. It’s a mix of cloudy and sunny with the odd shower, so not blazingly hot, which is fine. Strangely, no mosquitoes! Nearby Poti brings memories of hordes of them competing with frogs’ incessant mating croaks for Most Annoying Animal. Here, neither.

The main thing is, we’re On Holiday while our dear Canadian friends run the guest house in Etseri, as they’d promised they would. Winding down, sleeping an hour or two more than usual, not planning much at all, being really lazy for a week or so. Just what the doctor ordered. Ureki will definitely do.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

22 August 2019 17:05