Chiatura, the cable car city

After my visit to Tbilisi, I traveled to my next destination. Chiatura; a small mining village down a mountain valley. Escaping the hectic traffic of Tbilisi the route revealed me lots of interesting landscapes and sightseeing.

Arriving at the town you immediately notice the enormous mining structures. Back in 1915, around 3,700 miners would work for 18 hours a day. Not returning home and sleeping in the mines. Always covered in soot because there were no facilities to take baths. After their work week, the miners would begin their journey home. But because of the steep-sided river valley, it took quite a while to get back.

To get the workers to work faster gondola lift systems were installed in 1954. Most of them disappeared over time, but the main station still operates up until today (2018), providing two lines going up each mountainside.

Central Station.
Central Station.
A steel cabin inside the station, waiting for its passengers.
A steel cabin inside the station, waiting for its passengers.
The second line next to the station building with a cabin waiting to go up the mountainside into the other direction.
The second line next to the station building with a cabin waiting to go up the mountainside into the other direction.
Chiatura, the cable car city
Chiatura, the cable car city
Two dogs playing in front of a street art piece, displaying a mine worker.
Two dogs playing in front of a street art piece, displaying a mine worker.
A man waiting for the bell that notifies everyone the cabin will go up.
A man waiting for the bell that notifies everyone the cabin will go up.
Crooked but still sturdy. 💪🏼
Crooked but still sturdy. 💪🏼
Chiatura, the cable car city
Chiatura, the cable car city
A mosaic artwork displaying the former Soviet-Union leaders, Stalin and Lenin.
A mosaic artwork displaying the former Soviet-Union leaders, Stalin and Lenin.

The decaying station and the rusted cabins itself look like they've not been maintained since the fifties. Some of the lines operate without an emergency braking system. If a leading cable would snap the cabins would fall down or roll straight back down. Exactly this occurred in Tbilisi back in 1990. Two cabins in Tbilisi crashed after the cable broke. Killing 20 people and getting 15 injured.

Ready for the thrilling ride I waited for one of the cabins to return. The lovely lady who guiding the passengers also joined every ride making the call to the operator when the cabin was ready for departing. Halfway the ride she noticed the excitement of me and my friends and pulled out a small piece of paper from her purse, reading out loud in her best English that this is the oldest active gondola lift build in the former Soviet Union. Always nice to catch these interesting facts.

Chiatura, the cable car city
Inside the steel cabin, no possibility of looking outside sadly. This because of the dirty windows. There were some tiny holes in the steel plate floor that would give you an idea of your progress though. 😅
Inside the steel cabin, no possibility of looking outside sadly. This because of the dirty windows. There were some tiny holes in the steel plate floor that would give you an idea of your progress though. 😅
Luckily a window could be opened to get a view. 👀
Luckily a window could be opened to get a view. 👀

Arriving at the top, the mountainside showed us a nice view of the mining town and the river. Besides that, there wasn't really anything interesting to discover sadly.

Just arrived, waiting for new passengers to arrive.
Just arrived, waiting for new passengers to arrive.
The station on top of the mountainside.
The station on top of the mountainside.
Inside the station.
Inside the station.
Chiatura, the cable car city
A nice view overlooking Chiatura and the rough mountains up in the North. 🏔
A nice view overlooking Chiatura and the rough mountains up in the North. 🏔

Returning at the station to get back down again our excitement got noticed again. The women operating the gondola lift shouted at us from a tiny window above. Waving at us to walk around the station to come inside and have a look. We entered the dark and noisy room. The lady quickly returned to her seat operating the lift again. She was sitting in front of a tiny window looking all the way down the mountain steep to the other end of the line. Behind her, the enormous machines pulling the cabins up and down the mountain made a lot of noise. She seems to get used to it not caring at all. Again she waved to come and take a look at here control panel. I never saw a person so honored of her/his job. She proudly controlled the old machine pushing big buttons and pulling levers.

Chiatura, the cable car city
Chiatura, the cable car city

After the ride down we walked to the town market in search of some food. The streets were crowded and looked very much alive. After our quick lunch, we prepared for our next destination, Tskaltubo.

Chiatura, the cable car city
Chiatura, the cable car city
The operator cabin on top of the mountainside.
The operator cabin on top of the mountainside.
Chiatura, the cable car city
Chiatura, the cable car city
Groups of people waiting in front of ATM's. Probably waiting for them to be refilled.
Groups of people waiting in front of ATM's. Probably waiting for them to be refilled.
Chiatura, the cable car city
The town market consisted of farmers gathering and showing off their goods from the back of their cars. 🍊
The town market consisted of farmers gathering and showing off their goods from the back of their cars. 🍊
Chiatura, the cable car city
Chiatura, the cable car city
The indestructible Lada Niva was noticeably present in the area.
The indestructible Lada Niva was noticeably present in the area.
The Kvirila river.
The Kvirila river.
Chiatura, the cable car city