The viceroy Mikhail Vorontsov, fascinated by local landscape and the unique properties of mineral waters, made Borjomi his summer residence and refurnished it with new parks and gave it its popular name of “the pearl of Caucasus”. The bottled mineral waters began to be extensively exported.
For the purpose of commercial benefit of natural riches, the Russian royal family of Romanovs began construction of Khashuri-Borjomi railway line in 1894. Construction of a narrow-gauge line began in 1897 and because of the difficult environmental conditions, lasted for four years.
Since January 1902, the first “Kukushka” train passed Borjomi-Bakuriani narrow-gauge line.
Since then the “Kukushka” train connects Borjomi to Bakuriani, a small city and skiing resort up to the mountains. For the movement to high-mountainous areas, a steam engine of “Porter” type was brought from England.
Since 1967, the small-steam engine was replaced by an electric engine “Skoda” from Czechoslovakia.
Many tourists as well as locals have traveled by famous “Kukushka” train that passes through amazing forest and ascends great mountains.
The journey to Bakuriani is slow, through green valleys and gorges, along the breathtaking steep sides and on old bridges. The villages around the railway are almost abandoned due to the economical and agricultural crisis of the Country after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Sometimes for the few families still living in the area, the “Kukushka” train is the only means of transport for reach the cities, because of the lacks of the roads and deep snow. But for most of Georgians of every generation, the little train is connected with childhood memories of travels through enchanted landscapes and winter school vacations.
Travelling by Borjomi-Bakuriani railway is a trip through places where time passes slowly; people have a strong relationship with the landscapes, and a wild but warm fairy-tale atmosphere from the past is still very present.
About the author:
Maurilio Mangano was born in 1980 in Palermo, Italy.
He lives and works as a documentalist between Italy and Georgia. For several years he has worked in Film Industry as a Casting Director specialized in Street Casting. In 2012 he decided to move to the Caucasian Region to make a documentary about the post-war children of the Abkhazian War. Since then his work is focused on post-war countries, social and environmental issues. In 2015 he made his first documentary, Internat, as a film director. As a photographer he has been published among others by Vice Magazine and Pagina 99.