Those were the reactions when I announced my plan to travel to Abkhazia:
- “Oh, isn’t that dangerous?” (seventeen times)
- “Be careful, it’s very dangerous there!” (eight times)
- “But what would you want to do there?” (five times)
- “You have to be very careful! Under no circumstances should you speak to a girl. As soon as you just look at a girl, four of her brothers with guns will be there to protect her. It’s like Chechnya.” (once)
- “The Department of State strongly cautions U.S. citizens against travel to the Russian occupied regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A number of attacks, criminal incidents, and kidnappings have occurred in and around the area.” (US State Department)
My first visit to Abkhazia only lasted four days. But as I was out exploring every day and crossed almost the whole country twice, I dare say I got enough of a first impression to tell you about it.
And this is what Abkhazia looks like:
So, how dangerous was Abkhazia really?
Quite dangerous indeed! Dangerously beautiful and dangerously interesting. It is particularly dangerous for people who don’t want to lose the prejudice about anywhere east of Italy being dangerous, evil and poor.
Seriously, the most dangerous thing was this cat who tried to eat my shoelaces.
By the way, while I was gone exploring the Caucasus, Germany looked like this:
Lesson: Most travel warnings are useless and wrong because they are issued by people who have never visited the relevant country, or their last visit was 10 years ago, or who are sitting in an office all day and are generally scared as soon as they venture outside.