Stalin's Sanatoriums and Prometheus Cave, Georgia
Updated: Jan 11
It’s best not to look up when travelling on Georgian pubic transport.
You don’t need to know how close you were to the oncoming traffic as your marshrutka overtakes anything slower than a speeding bullet. Why concern yourself with small details of stopping distances when your driver doesn’t?
Make like a local and have a snooze as you hurtle through crossroads, reassured that the fastest vehicle has right of way.
Play it cool and ignore the whiplash from sudden stops as cows/people walk out in front of you.
All this excitement is to be had for just 13p-32p so be let your wallet be full and your head be empty.
Day trip options
There are tour groups that will take you to these sites but a cheaper version is possible on the local marshrutkas – ancient minibuses left over from the Soviet era. These allegedly run on a timetable but my experience is that they leave once they are full.
Admittedly, an organised tour is probably quicker…
Kutaisi to Tskaltubo
Head to the little bus area near the Kutaisi Tourist Info Centre – you will need to cross the Red Bridge to find No.30.
You can then visit several of the derelict spa hotels and wander around their remains, imaginatively recreating scenes of Russian splendour in your head.
During the Soviet era, Stalin dictated that all citizens of the USSR had a 'right to rest' and prescribed them a two week spa holiday each year! Many of Stalin’s compatriots were encouraged to build their own sanatoriums in Georgia.
To Prometheus Cave
In Tskaltubo, head north to the centre to find marshrutka 42. You may need to wake the driver if it is out of the touristy season & offer a little more to make him move.
The Prometheus Cave entry ticket is 23 gel and the boat ride is an extra 17gel. You can pay on card. It turned out that the name is only for marketing purposes (it clearly worked) and it is just a touristy cave with lights and music.
I was a bit disappointed with the cave having thought that it was to do with the Grecian legend of Prometheus who was exiled to the Caucasus region by Zeus.
Admittedly, there are some impressive stalagmites and stalactites but unless you have an avid interest in geology, then it was an expensive trip underground.
Although, the boat trip at the end was an unusual (claustrophobic) experience:
Catch marshrutka 42 back to the supermarket car park and change to No.30 to take you back to Kutaisi town.
In total, we paid 7.40gel (£1.90) each for our public transport return journey which is a significant saving on the organised tour price of 50gel (£13). It did, however, take a lot longer but working out the buses was part of the fun.
Tips for riding the marshrutkas
Make sure you have small change on you
The price is displayed on the inside front window
You can hail the minibus by sticking your arm out and waving your hand
Generally the front few rows are reserved for women (men at the back)
Stand up near the door when you’re ready to get off
Pay as you alight the bus
Remember to close the door behind you