I spent the night in front of an abandoned house in the hills. An old man had suggested I go there to sleep, so I had no way of backing out. But I felt spooked. Some of the windows were busted in, and the doors had been locked and then blocked from the outside.
As if something wasn’t supposed to come out.
I wondered who had lived here, and where they had gone. What had it felt like to lock the doors one last time and then leave the place to slowly turn into a ruin?
The ground was too hard for my tent nails, so I decided to try sleeping in the hammock. There were some dogs barking in the distance, and some jackals were laughing at them. Stupid jackals, I had almost missed them. Almost.
When it dawns and I finally have an excuse to get up, I feel relieved. And so I start making my way down the hills. It is easy walking. A bus driver who has seen me the night before waves at me with an expression of disbelief.
One house has a Stalin bust on the balcony. I ask two ladies further down the road about it, and they tell me it has been there for ages. But wasn’t Stalin a horrible dictator, I want to know. One of the ladies, an old woman dressed in black and leaning on a cane, has an answer to that: “For us, everyone is a dictator.”
Stalin or no Stalin, I can’t stay. I continue walking, and I cross Batumi, which is crowded and architecturally eclectic, to put it politely. It reminds me of Azerbaijan or China in the way that city planners seem to have no idea what to do with all that money floating around.
What will become of places like these? Hitler had a concept called “ruin value”, which meant that the buildings he commissioned would have to look good once they supposedly lay in ruins a thousand years later. Does Batumi have ruin value?
I don’t stay long enough to find out.
Instead I make my way further south to the village of Gonio. There is a large fortress there that originally dates back to Roman times. When I arrive it is already closed, but the old gatekeeper lets me in.
And so, in the evening light, I find myself, once again, looking at ruins.