Ștefan Cândea
One of the town’s characteristics is that one can find accommodation with locals for about 10 Euros per bed. We experiment this type of accommodation for one night. There aren’t many locals who can afford to put up tourists and, therefore, the town centre is faced with a serious crisis of habitable space. In the days of the Soviet Union, old houses were taken possession of in a very comradely manner: everybody huddled together. Every room of former bourgeois houses would be inhabited by one family or another. Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, every family was returned its rightful property over its living space by the new Georgian state. The privileged ones who used to wallow in several rooms have retained their status of privilege. In Georgia there haven’t been any retrocession suits.

We put up at Nasi - former teacher of German - an old lady belonging to the class of the privileged. She owns the ground floor of a one-story house which is over one century old. It has five rooms and a veranda giving onto a patio. Two identical wings of this former mansion give onto the same patio. The rest of the building houses nine families altogether; the patio also serves as parking lot and as space for socializing. Nasi enlightens me: ‘My husband was a very wise man, a researcher. That’s why the state gave us a bigger house.’ Inside the house, not much has changed since the times of the Soviet Union. Not even the mattresses (a thing our backs have thoroughly experienced).

Only two rooms are available to tourists. We choose the biggest. The framed Ph.D. diploma belonging to one of the children holds the place of honour among other family pictures. A Chinese family of five lives in the former living-room - a passage way to our own room. They have improvised a partition wall by means of a rope on which several sheets are hanging. They also have a direct exit to the veranda which they’ve extended by a brick wall – their kitchen. Their personal belongings live in harmony with the old woman’s Soviet knick-knacks.

Nasi is very optimistic. Her address is listed in guides such as Lonely Planet and she has developed her own network of partner pensions around the country. They recommend one another to tourists. She believes life has changed for the best and that hard times are far behind. In her opinion, the wars Georgia has been through are to blame for the lack of financial resources for any means of development – but she also believes that there will be no more wars. She breaks off her speech in German and concludes dryly: ‘Putin must go’.