At the Tbilisi airport the passport control officer looks carefully through my documents. She can see there are several entry and exit stamps for Georgia over this last year. She makes polite enquiries. You have been here many times. Do you like Georgia? May I ask what is your business here? I am doing a project in Poti, I say. She quickly hands the passport back, with a smile of incredulity. Better not to ask any more questions… I find this be a common reaction, particularly in the capital, these looks of utter incomprehension. Poti? It’s a dead end place, I’m told.

A town of 47,900 people, Poti is on the Black Sea coast of Georgia, in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. This part of the country is a humid subtropical zone - coastal marshes and swamps, deciduous wet land forests. Some talk of the legendary lake bordering the sea and the river where remains of the ancient city lay underwater, of the fishing, memories of preparing an excellent dish with mullet, but some say the fish is no longer good from these parts. The fishermen no longer catch anchovy. Others speak of the ugliness, grayness, abandoned beaches and the sadness which they associate with the place. You might call it unprepossessing. “One of the most lonely places in the world” was one response I received. Others complained of the size of the mosquitoes. “Because it is damp place. Rains a lot.” Others describe it as “a quite calm town… the sea shore is quite nice and the sea level is quite low. You can walk in the sea for a quite a long distance before you are able to swim.”

Town Plan from 1922
Map of the ancient Caucasus showing the Colchis region, 1907.

The town that you see today was built near to the site of the ancient Greek colony of Phasis or Pazisi, an emporium known for its Rhetorical-Philosophical School. In antiquity, the Kingdom of Kolkhis was the dominant ethnic and cultural presence in this region, from the 6th to 1st centuries B.C, playing a significant role in the ethno-genesis of the modern Georgia. It is best known for the tragic intersection of two worlds, the story of Medea and the Argonauts. In the 16th century it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. They called it Faş, building a fort here and using it as a slave market. It remained mostly in their possession until the Russians finally drove them out in 1828.

I first came here on a research trip with Borderland Foundation, who had an interest in following the trail of Medea and the Argonauts. We drove down a rutted track past a graveyard to view the point where the river met the sea. There, as dusk fell, standing by a large cross we found a group of men drinking, a lighthouse in the background. The beacon seemed familiar. Above the doorway, in the Cyrillic alphabet, the words ‘Easton, Amos & Sons Engineers, London’. This is one of the oldest navigation facilities on the coast of the Black Sea, still operating to international standards, something we will raise a toast to. I wondered if the light was the work of Chances Glass in Smethwick, who once had their own lighthouse on the canal side to test their lenses and foghorns. As it turns out, this was not one of their lights.

The Museum of Colchian Culture is located on a street off the central square. Built in 1907, it was designed by the German architect who was also responsible for many of the stone buildings here of that period. It was originally the house of a certain merchant Omer Avgeninos, purportedly to keep his Austrian opera-singing mistress in the style she was accustomed to. It became a museum in 1933. As one of the most significant buildings in Poti, it has retained its individual appearance, though it is in a poor state of repair, with little renovation evident in the last 30 years. The roof has been leaking and caused some damage to the upper floors, and the general condition is a major concern to the staff. No wonder, given it has a remarkable collection of some 20,000 objects, the work of decades, the story of centuries and is certainly in need of some TLC.

We are looking at a map of the lake and a simple terracotta amphora found near the shore in one excavation. Nunuka tells me: “The ancient city of Phasis was most probably situated where the Paliastomi Lake is now. According to a myth, once in that place there was a city that was flooded and now it’s covered with water. Although it’s one of the versions and we have no exact proof where Phasis actually was. In 1985 Lela Gamkrelidze led archaeological excavations at the bottom of the lake; here we have a few objects that were found there. ” There are many clay objects, pottery for storage, jewellery, hair combs, which reveal a trail of successive peoples who came to live here, Greeks, Byzantines, Romans among the best known. Some of the more fancy stuff has been taken elsewhere, the ancient gold coins live in a dark bank vault.

I am thinking of a different map, made at the end of the 13th century, on calf skin, with its own legends, Asia occupying the North, in the lower half Europe lies to the West and Africa to the East. Jerusalem is the centre of this inhabited world, confidently inked; Colchis with the Golden Fleece and many others marvels cohabit the same space. Here we will find an iron eating ostrich, Scythians, a grey eyed race who see better by night, and the Essedenes who eat the flesh of their dead parents. Is it any more terrifying than our modern era?

The city evolves around the unique character Niko Nikoladze at the end of the 19th century. He’s well travelled, indeed the first Georgian to be awarded a doctorate at a European university. His dissertation was entitled ‘On the Social and Economic Consequences of Disarmament’. Although he may not have encountered the likes of poet Gérard de Nerval, who paraded a lobster on a leash, he knows revolutionary thoughts and actions are in the air. In Zurich, Niko meets with Marx, who invites him to become the representative of the International in Transcaucasia. Niko declines. Instead, in his role as Mayor, he masterminds the development of the city we see today. Already he has been involved in the construction of railways and the building of the Grozny-Poti oil pipeline. It is on his initiative, in 1901, that a city development plan is created, inspired by the capital of France, offering a semi-circular, radial street network in the city centre and a rectangular street network in the northern part of the city. This plan completely determines the shape of the city, even now in the 21st century. During his time, over 18 years, he ensures the seaport is built along with bridges across the river. There are the remains of one bridge of iron which some believe was the work of Gustave Eiffel, who in 1902 engineered a rail bridge for the Romanovs over the Tsemistskali River at Borjomi. We don't really know, for here in the watery depths lie these legends and lost records.

Elene, the Director of the Museum tells me: “During the Ottoman times, this place was the gathering point of slaves, young women and young boys, who were sent on ships to Istanbul, and that was the departing point, so it had a very bad connotation. He tried to give it a new positive meaning. The second thing he did was to build a cathedral church, but he knew that the Russians wouldn’t allow him to build a classic style Georgian church, so he chose Byzantine architecture as a model and built a small scale version of the Hagia Sofia. It took nine months to build and it was the first building made by steel and concrete in the whole Russian Empire.”


Malingering on the shores of the Black Sea


First impressions: I met a man in a café on Pekin Avenue in Tbilisi. It turned out he was originally from Poti. The problem with the town is there’s a brain drain, he said, the young and educated leave, but it’s good to hear there’s something happening at last. He had not lived there for over 15 years. He told me, You know, even five years ago I couldn’t imagine going back, it would be my worst nightmare, but I see it’s changing, with a new theatre there, this new esplanade they are planning on the seashore, so now I think, well, maybe it’s not impossible. The only time he remembered going to the museum there was with a class from school. He said he might have been there a second time, but it had faded from memory.

While many might perceive Poti as a place inhabited only by sailors and truck drivers, with long convoys of 44 tonners coming from Turkey and the Balkans, those travellers from Europe who ventured here in the second half of the 19th century also had a very poor opinion of the place. James Bryce, a British historian, statesman and diplomat, was 38 years old when he travelled through Transcaucasia in 1876. During his time in Poti, waiting for the Odessa steamer, he found little distinguishing about the place. To him Poti was simply the seaport at the mouth of the river Rioni that ‘every traveller from the West is condemned to pass through, the most fever smitten den in Asia’ - where ‘one feels in a perpetual vapour bath’.

Bryce also wrote: ‘Lazy the Mingrelian certainly is, but in other respects I doubt he is worse than his neighbours; and he lives in such a damp and warm climate that violent exercise must be disagreeable.’ He had a better opinion of Imeritians, though he admitted his knowledge of them was confined to three waiters at three separate inns. He thought that the swamps of Eden must have been ‘rather like Poti, only pleasanter’ and once he had set out to see the sights of the place he concludes: ‘Sights, however, there were none’. Here in Poti he complains of the blackest nights, hideous dreams, the ocean of the mud, the wretched market, and particularly ‘those dank bed-rooms and clammy sheets, heavy with such a smell of putrid slime that one feared to lift the frowsy carpet and find beneath it a bottomless abyss of foulness’. Even his travelling companion, who is ‘a determined optimist’, has to admit defeat. Poti was too much for him, says Bryce, and together they relapse into a moody silence.

Looking out of the swaying bushes and melancholy popular trees that lined the river, at the breakers rolling in over the sandbanks, he pondered the legend of Medea, as many had before and would do so in future. It was his opinion that ‘the conduct of Medea might have been more leniently judged if her critics had known what sort of a place it was she escaped from. A less attractive hero than Jason would have done to tempt a lady away from such a den. But the countless bards who have sung of the Argonauts do not seem to have been strong in local knowledge. From Apollonius Rhodius to Mr. William Morris, nobody says anything about the bar at the Phasis mouth, though it must have given a vessel so large as the Argo some trouble to cross it at short notice, when Medea came on board by moonlight. To be sure, she was a sorceress, and may have known how to lay the breakers or deepen the channel’.

He thought of the luxurious forests he had seen and wondered why there were so few roads or any sense of enterprise present to make what would surely be a magnificent trade in wood. As a historian, he was keenly aware this exploitation of natural resources. After all, he came from a small kingdom, where in the reign of Henry VII, a third of the land had been covered in trees, though by the following reign of Henry VIII such was the rate of deforestation, for building ships and making charcoal to heat foundries, where ‘men were more studious to cut down than plant’, that the King introduced the first statute on record to replant forests ‘to cure the spoils and devastations that have been made’. While Bryce malingered on the shore of the Black Sea, little did he foresee of the century ahead or this present one, when ships docking at this port would have no desperate need of timber for planking and masts, such is the pace of technological change. He died in 1922, long before Malcolm Mclean came up with the idea of the shipping container, which would revolutionise transport worldwide, but not before Niko Nikoladze had himself reshaped the future of Poti. As for the lessons of the past, Bryce told himself and his readers that there is ‘a wonderful harvest awaiting the archaeologist here, and the labourers are still few. With this curious sense of a complex and almost unexplored past, the traveller has a still stranger feeling of perplexity as to the future’.

Poti Soboro Cathedral, under construction, 1906-07
Poti Soboro Cathedral, under construction, 1906-07
In 1872, the town became the terminus of the Transcaucasian railway.
Construction of the port, circa 1900

They are detectives of time. This is a place of might-have-beens, on the periphery, yet also a place of strategic value. They really don’t expect to find graves full of gold jewelry like at Vani or come close to the esteemed fieldwork of Professor Othar Lordkipanidze. They are more concerned with uncovering everyday objects, a different kind of treasure trove. Ancient Colchis was bounded by the Black Sea to the west, the Caucasus Mountains to the north, the Surami Range to the east and the Meskhetian Mountains to the south. It was a rich and fertile territory, once upon a time.

There is so much rain that the trenches soon become flooded. Thankfully, they have a decent pump. If they didn’t, they would have to wait for the next season to resume digging. Still the sweat pours from their brows, such is the humidity. They perservere. They have found evidence of Colchian wooden dwellings, houses built on mounds in the middle of the swamp, but the location of the older Greek settlements remained hidden, unknown. They knew from the ancient texts they were here, but where exactly is guesswork, supposition and argument. The top level, just below the turf, clearly is Soviet – lots of broken Borjomi water bottles, wire and concrete. In the upper Hellenistic levels they find remains of a burnt wattle-and daub house, as well as both local and imported amphora’s. These are relatively well preserved, as are the deeper Iron Age levels. Some levels are dry, some waterlogged. It’s slow and painstaking work. There are levels totally degraded, the pieces they find are barely recognisable. Some bronze axe-heads, even the remains of a wooden plough, are found at the deepest levels of their investigations – they have now dug down to the eighth century B.C. – here lie the wooden foundations of an ancient dwelling. Beechwood.

To ascertain the age of an object, scientists rely on carbon dating. All living things assimilate carbon from the environment, a proportion of which is the isotope carbon 14. When a plant or animal dies, it no longer assimilates carbon, so the carbon 14 it contains gradually loses its radioactivity. By measuring this loss, scientists can estimate the age of a bone, a piece of wood or any other carbon-based remnant for that matter. Seeds, shells, leather, peat, lake mud, soil, hair, pottery, paper or parchment, all these contain a remnant of a story. Here are the patterns of human behaviour, a window to the past opened carefully and painstakingly with brush and trowel. Slowly they establish the chronology of the site, a reconstruction through these tangible clues, to find out what people ate, what they believed, how they lived, how they died.

To the lighthouse


The word for a lighthouse is shuqura (შუქურა). Made of immense cast iron plates, which were then bolted together, it was fabricated in England at Southwark, London, and transported in parts by steamship to Georgia in 1864. It was likely to have been designed by a protege of Thomas Telford, Alexander Gordon, who specialised in this type of construction. It stands at 39.8 metres – one metre less than the tallest iron light in the world at Gibbs Hill, Bermuda. The Fresnel lens came from a manufacturer in Paris, who were at the time the pre-eminent manufacturers of this kind of glass. Even one hundred years after installation, tests showed it was visible for 27 kilometres.

I hear there is a legend that Georgian football started in Poti, when the Englishmen who came to put up the lighthouse invited local men to have a kick about with a ball. A popular Soviet comedy film from 1975, ‘Pirveli mertskhali’, tells one story of Poti’s first football team ‘Swallow’, a version where the local players learn the game from English sailors and the lighthouse makes no appearance. In reality the first soccer club in Poti was formed for the 1906-07 season, and was indeed the first club in Georgia.

The location of the ironworks in London where the lighthouse plates were forged lay behind a railway viaduct, within walking distance of where you will now find Tate Modern. They were known for producing centrifugal pumps, steam engines, turbines, hydraulic rams, as well as machinery for laying the Atlantic cable. Southwark at the time was a centre for foundrywork, wire making, glass making, anchor smithing and many other heavy industries, houses and factories cheek by jowl, only seperated by narrow alleyways. This viaduct carrying the railway from London Bridge to Waterloo was under construction, even as the order from the Tsar was taken and the lighthouse forged. At that time, this part of the capital of Victoria’s Empire was known as the ‘Larder of London’. Based here were Peak Frean Biscuits, Jacob's Crackers, Sarsen's Vinegar, Courage Beer, Cross & Blackwell Soups, Hartley's Jam, Pearce Duff, Spiller's dog biscuits. At the waterfront, Hay's Wharf was rebuilt in 1861 with fireproofing and refrigerated storage, allowing the import of perishable foodstuffs from all around the world. Three quarters of the bacon, butter, cheese and canned meat needed for the city was stored there. This is where the lighthouse began its long journey.

It has some personal significance for me, as the first serious photographic project I undertook was documentation of the work of Trinity House, the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. I have pushed oil barrels up the slipway at Bardsey Island, slid down a pulley from the Eddystone to a boat once the tide had dropped, stood on the helipad at Wolf Rock, the first in the world to be fitted with one. I also later worked on a project about Chance Brothers, in Smethwick, who were to dominate the market in lighthouse glass from the latter half of the 19th century, and who were a partner to Fresnel.

The Poti lighthouse was refurbished in 1967, then fully restored in 2011-12. You will find it the main symbol on the flag of the State Hydrographic Service, on all their publicity and as their official logo.  Revaz Babilua, the Director of the Service, is responsible for the 80 people who work here. He explains that their job is to survey the changing conditions of the seabed, updating navigational maps and maintain beacons at sea, provide meteorological data and safe navigation for mariners along the 142 miles of their jurisdiction.

Wreck detected by multi-beam echo sounder by Georgian State Hydrological Service, at the bottom of the sea off Poti.
Wreck detected by multi-beam echo sounder by Georgian State Hydrological Service, at the bottom of the sea off Poti.

Aleksandre Dolbaia, one of the specialists, tells me: “This work requires years of research to get an understanding of where we are and what are the characteristics of the sea here. We have 142 nautical miles in our jurisdiction. We study the sea, the bathymetry, the depths, the movements and the currents. A lot of data was lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union and much information got lost or was just burned, and we continually look for it, paper by paper, book by book, and try and recollect the data. You can see we have a lot of renovations here to bring this area up to a standard and quality which is appreciated and liked. We have a very unique thing here in our garden, the lighthouse, and we love it very and take care of it with all our heart.”

At the top of the iron tower, that light was always on, a writer recalls. Even in the early 90’s when there was no electricity and the whole town was dark. Children would look up and see the lighthouse, the only illumination. Somehow, by hook or by crook, they kept it going all through those hard years. He remembers clearly as a young boy, his father, a sea captain, showing him a map upon which were inscribed all the lights of the Black Sea. These markings revealed to the mariner all the different frequencies of light, the distances, the colour, so they could distinguish one from the other. By using this almost mystical chart, they knew exactly where they were. It was an amazing thing to look at, this fragile paper document, long before GPS and all those satellites flying above us, something used long before the advent of radar.

I52 steps to the top.
Detail of Fresnel lens

The port, which brought us here

The view of the port from the lighthouse, further north towards Anaklia and Abkhazia.
The view of the port from the lighthouse, further north towards Anaklia and Abkhazia.

While those travellers from Europe we have previously encountered commented unfavourably on the swamps around Poti and the complete lack of roads, they thanked God for the Transcaucasian railway (which arrived in 1871), whose investors recognised Georgia as a commercial link between the markets of the Middle East and Europe. James Bryce wrote, ‘No bad accident has happened yet; I suppose more people are killed at Preston station, which is generally accounted the worst in England, in a month than on the Transcaucasian railway in a year’. Charles Marvin commented in 1883 on the climatic difference the railway traversed. ‘You begin the journey in Devonshire and end in the Sahara’. The railway was mostly built by European labourers, who fell in their hundreds along the tracks they laid, stricken by fevers. The rails ended at the dockside in Poti, such as it was at that time.

A port was first proposed here in 1828, the year the Russian Empire pushed the Turks back to Batumi, and the town was given port status in 1858. Little construction actually happened until 1899, under the patronage of Nikoladze. It became highly industrialised in Soviet times, ships and steel, metal and smoke. During the Soviet period the population of Poti increased from 20,000 inhabitants in 1914 to 50,000 in 1990. In 1996, a new Master Plan for the reconstruction and development of the city was proposed, which established a special economic zone in Poti. In 2000, the population was 47,000 including 7,450 Internally Displaced Persons  from Abkhazia. During the Georgia-Russia war in 2008, strategic points in the city were bombed and the Russian forces occupied Poti for a short period.


Looking back, it was the opinion of Charles Marvin that Poti would not become a second Odessa. He wrote: ‘Originally the mole was to have been 6ft. above high water mark, and to have been constructed of blocks of stone weighing not less than three tons. After a while the height was raised to 16ft., and the size of the blocks of stone to thirty tons. Not long ago a storm occurred, during which twenty of these 30-ton blocks were carried away by the sea, there with a couple of massive cranes, weighing 100 tons apiece. To render the mole of any use it would
have to be carried out fifty yards from its present point, or else a costly breakwater constructed. While the Government is making up its mind what to do, the plant of the harbour construction works is rotting or being swallowed up by the sea, and the foundering of a steamer and a number of coasting craft the other day proved that what there is of the mole is useless for the protection of shipping. The local opinion is that now that Batoum has been connected by railway with Tiflis, Poti will be allowed to go to ruin.’

He would be surprised to see it today. The port is owned by APM Terminals, part of the Maersk group. It is the largest port on the Black Sea, with 1100 employees and 9 million tonnes of cargo a year, and 600,000 20 foot container capacity, serviced by 1300 ships. Sixty five per cent of the trade is for transit through Georgia. It remains the largest dry cargo handler in the Caucasus, with 15 berths, handling general, liquid, bulk and container cargoes, ro-ro and rail ferries. Kazakh oil comes through here to the European market. And there are substantial plans to expand the port, increasing capacity to 1 million containers of cargo.

The port does not employ as many as in former times. As one man put it: ‘After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were all these huge ships going to waste. My uncle sailed one to Japan where they sold it for scrap metal. Huge, massive ships.’ I wonder if this metal will return to Poti reshaped as these containers.

The sea, which carried the Hellenes here


They came here as early as 7th century B.C., attracted by the plentiful fish, even though it was the edge of their known world. They travelled by the stars, by legend, by ‘estoire’. They first called it the Axeinos Pontos - the Inhospitable Sea - a place difficult to navigate. This was the legendary land of the Cimmerians, a tribe living at the Gates of Hades. And then, those tales of the Amazons. Bit it's the fish that draws them close, Herodotus, Ptolemaios, Strabo and others leaving accounts of innumerable Black Sea stocks of sturgeon, mullet, salmon, tuna. Salted and smoked Black Sea fish were shipped back to Greece. Later the colonists used the fertile soils around settlements to become the main supplier of wheat and wine for the Ancient Greek states. The Georgian word for Greek is ‘berdzeni’ which means ‘clever’ or ‘wise’. Later the Byzantines came, the Genoese and Venetians, Tartars, Turks, Russians, all interested in trade of one sort or another. But now the Black Sea anchovy, once the main species for industrial fisheries, so abundant 40 years ago, has declined due to overfishing, as has the turbot. Salmon, sturgeon and bonito are now rare, and local fishermen rely on the freshwater fish, their sea fleets barely working anymore.

In 1984, explorer Tim Severin recreated the voyage of the Argo, sailing from northern Greece to Georgia. While Jason's Argo had 50 oars, Severin's reconstruction only had 20. Severin believed that if his vessel could complete the voyage with less it would demonstrate the feasibility of the original legendary voyage.  At dawn on the seventy eight day of their voyage, they sailed into Georgian waters (then still part of the Soviet Union). Soon they were greeted by the Tovarisch, a three masted barquentine training ship, then another ship, named the Kolkhida, came alongside and toasted them with champagne, tossing the glasses into the sea, throwing three bottles across to the weary argonauts. A Georgian rowing crew came on board, physical training instructors and athletes, ready to take the oars, until they reach Kobuleti, where they anchor for the night. The next day they reach Poti, the British, Irish and Georgians side by side, bringing the ship into the harbour, to be greeted by thousands of well wishers with wine, speeches and songs. ‘Every window, every ledge, even the high cabins of the dock cranes were packed to capacity,’ wrote Severin. There was no trace of the rage of King Aeetes, no special tasks or challenges. Instead a new edition of the Argonautica had been printed to mark their arrival, a new brand of Georgian cognac named for the legend, along with a recently discovered cave. The main challenge from this point on would be navigating the mudbanks of the river Rioni.

A model of the Argo in the museum.
Dennis Hopper threatens Medea in the 2000 TV mini-series of the Jason story.

There is a large model in the museum, a replica of this Argo with its three Mycenaean warriors painted on the sails, their shields featuring the ram’s head symbol, along with documentation from the period, though by my count it has twenty eight oars, if we include the steering oars.

The Black Sea is not black, unless you go down to the bottom, 2000 metres, where there is no oxygen, no life at all. The visibility below the surface is low, on average approximately five metres, as compared to up to thirty-five in the Mediterranean. One suggestion as to the origin of the name refers to a phenomenon known since ancient times, that any metallic object submerged over one hundred metres becomes absolutely black. This happens because the deeper waters of the sea contain sulfuric hydride H2S, a chemical substance that forms salts of metals - sulfides - of black colour. The sand found on the shore near Poti is grey-black, sand with a raised content of ferromagnetic materials, which can have curative effects on the body. The beach at Ureki is particularly known for this.

The sea has other colours. The powerful inflow of nutrients brought by fresh water rivers from inland result in the proliferous growth of phytoplankton, make the waters turquoise. After heavy rain the sea becomes yellow on the horizon line, caused by the suspension of clay particles brought by the same rivers.

The sea here can be powerful, despite the lack of a tide. In England, when there is heavy rain, they say ‘it’s coming down in buckets’ or ‘raining cats and dogs’ but the electrical rain storms here are intense. A traveller in the 1840’s recorded 29 Russian ships wrecked in a single night along this eastern coast of the Black Sea.

The sea encroaches. Coastal erosion is palpable at Poti. The city is low lying, at sea level, sometimes lower, and built on a sandy soil which sinks. Diversion of the river mouth to the north of the port, intending to stem the flooding of the city, caused erosion of the south shores of the port, the sea advancing by 940 metres between 1939 and 1968. A whole area of the town was washed away, even a whole field where they used to play football. He remembers how far away the sea seemed back then, the lengthy walk across the sand to get to the water, this long beach where they used to make movies pretending it was Egypt. That’s gone, even though some six million tons of sand had been dumped here to halt the erosion. In 1959, a dam was built across the Rioni river to the north east of Poti, to divide the river flow and regulate the water flow, diverting some to the former river bed. This resulted in flooding of the town and necessitating further dams, water collectors and a pumping station.  Even the dam itself faced destruction and was partly restored in 2006.

In Poti, rainfall is heaviest in the autumn, bringing heavy deposits of sediment into the Rioni river delta. After every single storm the port here needs to be dredged; the deepest water at the entrance road to the port is only 10 metres.

The seafront will change again, as the city council plan construction work along the Maltakva section. The first stage of the project includes building a 570 metre long road to the beach, then a 370m-long boulevard along the coastline. The government aims to spend spending about 18.5 million GEL in total to improve tourism infrastructure and to ‘bring the recreation zone into better shape’.

At Maltakva there is the remains of Okros Tba (Golden Lake) water sports complex, used in 1991 for the European water sports championships.
At Maltakva there is the remains of Okros Tba (Golden Lake) water sports complex, used in 1991 for the European water sports championships.

‘Ponds have established themselves in permanence along the sides of the streets and roads, soaking through from the river, which is above their level;  in fact, the town stands in water and out of water; marshes around it for many  miles each way, and west winds bestowing upon it 62 inches of rain in the year. It is the paradise of frogs, whose croak is heard all day and all night;  and wild boars find themselves at home in the  swamps, where they are rarely disturbed.  In such an atmosphere, everything falls to pieces.’
- James Bryce, 1876

While Bryce has borrowed from Dumas (who said Poti was a paradise for pigs), I am more inclined to recall something that one of the Museum staff said over coffee.

“At least four generations ago, I know my ancestors lived here, and four generations ago there was not much here. Every place has its specifics, Kakheti has wine, in Guria they had tea and citrus, in Abkazia they had plenty of fruit, in Poti we never had anything like this. But someone, Niko saw potential for this place as a gate to the sea when there was nothing here but damp, mosquitoes and frogs. This was always a working class area, because of the engineering and the port, but what we really have is good human relations, local pride, being close to each other and respecting each other. You might say that there is a kind of slogan, There is One Love in Poti.”

Read some of the stories inspired by the Museum of Colchian Culture here...