A Guest Post by Matt Arnold
Consequently, the small state of Abkhazia has no legal passports, no legal license plates, and very little self built culture. This land has been a war zone for nearly 2000 years with two major wars, including a civil war, in the last twenty. Although, driving though the cities you may see Coca-Cola, listen to Madonna, and even hear a little English not a single person I had contact with had ever met an American. From this point here on, I was constantly making every decision with that in mind.
Initially I was skeptical about venturing this far South, American foreign policy is not exactly welcomed. But in a land still riddled with World War II tanks, statues of Lenin, and a fully operational communist party I met some of the nicest people I had ever spoken with. Not twenty minutes into my trip I met my first Abkhazian, an older gentlemen who was remodeling his hotel in preparation for spring. Upon being invited inside I quickly came to the realization that this was no place for guests, maybe another couple weeks work was still required. However, we were still invited inside and offered a seat at the bar.
For the next two hours we spoke with the owner about a wide range of topics, including his interest in Al Capone, and historical Chicago. We spoke of Politics, world policy, and even pasteurized milk. This entire time we were being offered shots of home made cognac (which must be done in groups of three!) for no cost. We were offered many home made foods and even took a trip to his garden to hand select salad ingredients. Following our time together, he suggested a few hotels along the road and sent us out the door with apricots and coffee.
Not once was I greeted with a sense of hostility but rather a wonder and curiosity. Every single person was more hospitable than the last and after returning to Moscow a friend of mine had told me that the Abkhazian's were famous for just such behavior. If there is one thing I will take from my trip across the Soviet States it is simply that people are people, regardless of their location in the world. Though governments will play their games, it is only just that. It is the people that make a country and it is the people that make a country great.