You might have never heard of Abkhazia – it’s a small plot of land between Georgia and Russia along the Black Sea. It’s surprisingly beautiful and populated by friendly people. Nevertheless, it’s a disputed region. This de facto state has been struggling for international recognition for many years, and the conflict is still not resolved yet, sadly.

Traveling in this region was a great experience. I was surprised by the amazing bus stops we saw on the side of the road. I couldn’t drive by without taking a picture of them.

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In many countries, these stops are just a place where you wait, a shelter from the weather elements. However, Abkhazia’s stops have extraordinary designs and are so unique. These surreal places are very uncommon for Soviet times. Architectural freedom was not allowed into the Soviet Union, the regulations were very strict, and the technology was limited. You’ll find specially designed shelters everywhere across the former Soviet Union, but the ones at the Black Sea in Abkhazia are the most peculiar and unique.

You’ll find most of them on the highway between Gagra, Pitsunda and New Athos. One man was responsible for these amazing designs – an architect, a painter, and sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. Since he got his inspiration from the Black Sea, several stops are shaped like giant seashells, waves or fishes. Back in the day, local people were surprised and intimidated by this style and creativity, it was too western. Most of them didn’t like the shelters but now those places are landmarks and tourist sites.

This remarkable bus stop brings a flood of memories back. While we were photographing, an old Mercedes pulled up and the driver emerged, walking over to us. He struck up a friendly conversation, pleased and honored that we were commemorating the site through pictures. As we spoke, he picked up litter off the ground, a poignant effort rooted in pride for his country and a desire to present it at its best.

Stops made from mosaics, stone, concrete or plastic were built almost 60 years ago, and some are in a bad condition. They were some efforts to restore them but without any success; a group of local people want to preserve and see this shelter on the list of historical monuments. So far, the government of Abkhazia hasn’t done anything.