Ochamchira Ghost Town - Georgia
Like the mythical phoenix, Ochamchira is very much a city that has risen from ghost town to regaining a significant population.
A seaside resort on the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia, archaeological excavations have revealed it as the possible site of the 4th century Greek city of Gyenos although the poor condition of the ruins make it difficult to identify conclusively. It survived as a Greek city until the rise of the Arab empire eventually becoming briefly a Genoese trading outpost called Ala Gunda.
The rise of the Ottoman Empire and the Fall of Constantinople with the ensuing increase in Turkish domination in the area meant that over the following centuries, the value and viability of the trading station collapsed and the areas around it became overgrown with impassable box woods. In the Turkish language “Shamshir” means a box tree or box grove giving the town the name Oshimshir which later changed to Ochamchira.
Over the next few centuries its position on the Black Sea coast saw it develop as a maritime city and it was fought over by the Russians and Turkish forces in the 19th century. Peace eventually returned to the area and until the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the city continued to develop and grow with the local economy built on tea and tobacco plantations. In 1978, a census showed the population to be nearly 19,000 but fourteen years later the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict brought about ethnic cleansing and the Georgian population were displaced as refugees by the advancing Abkhazians. Peace has returned again to the area, yet most of the Georgians haven’t returned to their former homes.
Ochamchira's climate is humid subtropical, with mild winters and hot summers. The average annual temperature is 13.6 degrees Celsius. In January the average temperature is 4.5 degrees Celsius while the average July temperature is 23 degrees Celsius. This climate has led to its renaissance as a holiday resort based on the new wealth of the Russian region. It is still a low populated, dilapidated city of mainly two storey wooden houses. For the tourist, the main place of interest in the city is the nearly deserted city quay backed by a wall of box trees. Behind the seafront the city’s streets are roamed by domestic animals adding to its sense of decay. The return of tourists to the area encouraged the authorities to replan the resort centre and built new hotels. Adding further to the regeneration of the city is Russia’s plans to build a new naval base near the city. The future looks brighter for Ochamchira if a little fragile in the simmering ethnic melting pot that is the Caucasus.