Welcome back to my Traveling Diva blog! Since I last wrote, we have been scanning the auction and real estate sites, here in the Republic of Georgia, for a property that we could buy, to make a home base in which to travel from. One day, while viewing the SS.Ge real estate site, we came across a 1200 square foot, traditional style apartment, listed at $10,000, located in a city called Chiatura, that looked interesting. The photos of the apartment showed many features that we’ve always wanted in a home, such as, hardwood parquet floors, crown molding, high ceilings, and two fireplaces.
The Lost Mining Town
When we looked up Chiatura, we discovered that it is a city in the Imereti region of Western Georgia, in a valley at the foot of the greater Caucasus Mountain range, on the banks of the Qvirila River. In 1879, the Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli discovered deposits of Manganese and iron ores in the area, and when the large scale mining of these areas began, it led to Chiatura becoming a town in 1921. The city enjoyed prosperity for a number of years until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 when the mining production decreased, the city began suffering an economic decline, and the population went from 30,000, to what it is today, of 12,000.
Local Tourist Sites
Though Chiatura is an economically depressed city, there are some local sites that draw visitors to the area each year. One of these sites is the Mghvemevi Monastery, which is carved out of the eastern cliff face and contains well-preserved frescoes, documenting the life of Jesus and his 12 apostles.
Another popular site, located 13 km from Chiatura, is Katskhi Pillar, which is a 40 meters tall, limestone tower, that supports a medieval monastery, where a solitary monk still lives today.
The most popular reason tourists have had to visit Chiatura, in the last few years, is the desire to ride the Stalin era cable car cars, that were built in 1954, to transport workers from the city to the mines. Unfortunately, they are currently not running. a couple of years ago the production of a new cable car system began, but there is no word yet on when that will be completed. It is our hope, that if the old cable cars don’t become operational again, that they be preserved as a landmark.
Seeing the Apartment for the First time
The apartment in Chiatura sounded intriguing, so we called Ana, our lawyer, to have her arrange for us to see it. ana contacted the owner, who is an elderly lady living in Tbilisi, with her daughter and son-in-law. The woman contacted her neighbor who had a key, and she agreed to show us the apartment on September 26th. We took the minibus from Tbilisi, at 12:00 pm, on the 26th, and arrived in Chiatura about 2:00 pm. From our hotel, we called Ana, who spoke to our host in Georgian, since he didn’t speak English, and arranged for us to get a ride to view the property, late that same afternoon. When we first saw the apartment, we weren’t sure if we wanted to buy it. On the one hand, it had great bones and was nicely located, in a solid stone building, at the top of a hill, overlooking the city. on the other hand, it would require a lot of work to make it livable, such as, installing a new kitchen, and a new bathroom, and running new plumbing and electrical lines. The apartment would also need a heating system since the only source of heat is two wood-burning fireplaces.
That night, at our hotel, we discussed whether we should buy this fixer-upper on the hill. We decided to look at another apartment in the city center, that was listed at the same price, so we’d have something to compare it to. We looked at the city center apartment the next day, and since it needed just as much work, and wasn’t nearly as nice, we decided to call our lawyer and make an offer of $8,000, on the hilltop apartment. The owner made a counteroffer, of $8,500, and we accepted.
Purchasing the Apartment
When we got back to Tbilisi, Ana informed us that the hilltop apartment in Chiatura hadn’t been registered yet. It would be two more weeks before we could close on the property. Finally, on October 11th, we met Ana, our lawyer, and Ms. Khatridze, the owner of the property, at the Ministry of Justice, in Tbilisi, to sign the purchase agreement, and to pay the $8,500 in cash, for our apartment in Chiatura.
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Researching the History of the Apartment House
Since no title search or survey is conducted prior to purchasing a property, in the Republic of Georgia, I would discover that I would have to do my own research to learn more about the property, that we bought in Chiatura, in the weeks following the closing. From talking to the neighbors, I learned that the house where the apartment is located was built by an American, who was involved in the mining of manganese in Chiatura. When I read that in 1924 there was an American financier named, Averell Harriman, who was responsible for reviving the production of the manganese ore, by investing 4 million dollars of his own money in the industry, I concluded that he must be the same American who built the house, where our apartment is located, somewhere between 1924 and 1928, before he sold his share to the Soviets.
These last few weeks, we have been busy doing research and gathering ideas for the new apartment in Chiatura. Our preliminary plans include having a new front door made, adding a hallway, so each room has a separate entrance, and building a half wall, with columns, separating the living room and dining space. We also have decided on a claw-foot bathtub and pedestal sink, for the new bathroom, and counter bases, built from stone, for the new kitchen. We ordered a program online, called Sweet Home 3D, which will help us design our apartment space. this weekend, we’ll go back to Chiatura to take measurements, of the apartment, that we’ll be able to input into the design program.
In February, we’ll be visiting our daughter in the Netherlands, when she and her husband, will be expecting their first child. When we return to Georgia, we’ll be moving to Chiatura, to begin the work on our apartment.
Thanks for joining me. I hope you’ll come back for another visit when I will continue to share our travels, and about our life in the Republic of Georgia. See you soon.