All photographs taken with a Canon G10.
All photographs taken with a Canon G10.
(First published on the Frontline Club blog)
Earlier in August I had the opportunity to film in Abkhazia with Matthew Collin - Al Jazeera's correspondent in Georgia and fellow Frontline blogger.
It's now one year since Russia recognised Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
The first time I visited Abkhazia was in December 2006 to produce radio features.
I had always wanted to visit the region during summer. This time I was keen to not only experience what brings Russian tourists and their much needed roubles to Abkhazia's Black Sea coast, but also try to get a sense of what's happened inside the territory in the past year.
Abkhazia is not the Côte d'Azur, but if you're after a cheap flop and drop beachside holiday, plenty of hearty shashlik or trout, cold beer and smooth vodka, then Abkhazia would fit the bill.
Unfortunately the closest I came to a quick dip at the beach was filming two Russian anti-submarine corvettes anchored of the coast near Novy Afon. My bad luck for not getting up early for a dawn patrol paddle.
Russia has announced it will begin providing protection for merchant vessels trading with Abkhazia. That's the sort of news that will go down well with local taxi drivers complaining of fuel shortages after Georgia's coast guard recently intercepted a tanker.
Early in the trip we had the chance to interview Abkhazia's Vice Foreign Minister, Maxim Gunjia. He says that since Russia recognised Abkhazia as independent and pledged to offer protection, Abkhazians have more confidence to invest and develop businesses.
I'm working with Adobe Lightroom 2 at the moment and seeing how I can integrate it into my workflow. Not only for editing but also for archiving images.
My first impressions are positive. It's quite an intuitive tool to use and it's great to have some extra firepower for editing and adjusting an image over iPhoto. For instance, I really like having a simple tool for dodging and burning.
The image above is of 15 year old Soso. He found a grenade-like explosive in the grounds of his school in Kirbali near Gori. It detonated soon after he removed it from his pocket.
The Halo Trust is clearing UXO from the area.
Before the accident Soso enjoyed boxing.
April 9 is a date firmly etched in the memory of many Georgians. Any demonstration on the anniversary of the 1989 Soviet crack down would always bring out people, whether supporters of the opposition or people just curious to see what was going on.
For perhaps more of a grassroots perspective I'll be keeping my eye on the blog that Georgian journalism students at GIPA are producing that Onnik pointed out.
The Georgian Young Lawyers Association is another independent group that's useful to get a picture of what's happening between demonstrators and police/security services. I bumped into the chairperson Tamar Khidasheli late last night outside the Georgian parliament.
Her group has monitors observing the demonstrations. Here's what she had to say.
Basque independent journalist Karlos Zurutuza was recently in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Two of his audio slide shows are now up on the Argia website.
Both are well worth watching. Set to music they're both solid photo essays. Interesting to see the contrast between both regions. A lot of the images of Sukhum(i), Gagra and Gali in Abkhazia were familiar but I haven't seen much come out South Ossetia.
Next stop for KZ is Nagarno-Karabakh in Spring producing again with ETB.
Plans to head to Tbilisi for the Georgian elections this weekend have been shelved. In the meantime an excellent website for facts, background reports and analysis is Georgia 2008 produced by the good folk at EurasiaNet.
It's yet another wonderful multimedia resource on the Caucasus and includes a number of really good audio slide shows.
There is also a Report Card for visitors to rate the Government on a range of issues.
As for my plans over January, I'll be co-producing and presenting Inside Europe over the next couple of weeks so do tune in. There are links to the podcast via the homepage.
Independent Basque journalist Karlos Zurutuza has posted a video feature about Abkhaz youth on the etib24: Basque News And Information Channel.
It's short. You'll see some shots of the University and the burnt out main administration building as well as local rapper Genry from the Abkhaz hip hop group Black & White.
I did a story on Black & White last year which you can listen to from the Abkhaz pages on the left. Meanwhile, another blog to keep an eye on for all things related to the Caucasus is Steady State .
I'm getting itchy feet after spending several weeks in Bonn and now making tentative plans for a short trip to Georgia around the time of the elections in January.
In 2005 I took a bumpy trip down towards the Georgian - Armenian border with Chaco my indefatigable driver.
Abandoned things always come to mind. This old petrol station was outside of Akhalkalaki. A nice contrast to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which I saw on the way.