The spa town Georgia hopes to restore from ruins

Georgia hopes to restore what was once an opulent spa.

There is something majestic about a ruin. The splendour of buildings where nature has started to retake its hold is magical.

Imagine then an entire town full of the most exquisite wrecks, hollowed by time and the elements, into vast hulks, still just standing despite the ravages of the passing decades.

This is Tskaltubo in Georgia, once the prince of spa towns, the pride of the Soviet Union, where Georgian native and former Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin preferred to holiday.

The days, glory days to some, when workers from all over the Soviet Union would come to recuperate and take the naturally warmed waters, rich with radon gas, may have passed, but there are now plans to rejuvenate this resort

The former spa was a hugely popular.

There is one problem though: many of the 22 old sanatoriums are inhabited by those forced to flee fighting in Abkhazia, a restive region nearby.

Many have been here for 30 years, initially camping out in the buildings but now living in what they view as their homes.

Many have created cosy apartments in the crumbling surroundings. Meeting Nora, who is one of these displaced people, was a treat.

She greeted me like a long lost grandson, even though this was the first time I’d ever met her. Proffering a shot of the local firewater, called Cha Cha, it was a difficult not to be swept along on her tide of hospitality and warmth.

Nora welcomed me with a shot of a local type of brandy.

Ushering me into the modest apartment she’d made her home, she told me about her flight from Abkhazia and how she’d had to leave everything behind in 1992 and start again.

She knows she is very unlikely to ever return to the village of her birth and now faces more upheaval when she will be rehoused in Tskaltubo.

The Georgian President told me how they plan to rehouse all the internally displaced people living here, and restore the sanatoriums to their former glory.

You can get a glimpse of what they are aiming for at Bathhouse number 6 which was Stalin’s favourite and has never been allowed to fall into disrepair.

An opulent foyer gives a sense of the grandeur that this town must have enjoyed in its heyday. But I can’t help feeling that part of the allure of Tskaltubo is its dilapidation.

Driving around the avenues lined with crumbling palaces to health and wellbeing, is like being on the set of a Zombie apocalypse movie.

When the pandemic is over and travel is an option again, I’ll be recommending to my friends that they go and see this incredible place for themselves before it changes forever.

Watch Dan’s full report in this month’s edition of On Assignment, Tuesday 30 March at 10.45pm on ITV