Far away in Georgia, the country, not the Peach State, sits a luxury hotel complete with nearly 250 handsomely appointed rooms, a spa & fitness center, and restaurants/bars galore, but just a decade ago the Radisson Blu Iveria was something quite different… It was a 22-story refugee camp with a population well into the thousands, strikingly similar to the "Tower of David," or the Centro Financiero Confinanzas in Venezuela.
Georgia, formerly a part of the USSR, didn’t fare too well in the break-up of the Soviet Union, and civil war ravaged the country in the 1990s. Thousands of displaced refugees from a territory in dispute (Abkhazia, west of Georgia) were in search of a new place to call home, and the then-vacant Hotel Iveria in Tbilisi, Georgia became their new home.
When the hotel first opened in 1967 it was THE place to stay with its magnificent views of Tbilisi and quality accommodations, but by the time the refugees took to its floors the hotel had succumbed to the collapse of Georgia’s tourism industry.
A travel writer visited, or at least tried to, as he was often turned back by the smells of urine on some floors, and reported back:
What appears as rust from a distance are actually crude plywood constructions on the balconies as these refugees, who have lived five or six to a room since 1993, have built kitchens. Washing hangs everywhere. Inside is like visiting my idea of a ravaged community after a nuclear attack. The carpets are long gone (now bare concrete), the walls boast bare plaster, the health centre on the ground floor I couldn't visit as the stench of urine on the marble stairs forced me back upstairs. There was grass growing on the sixteenth floor.
The refugee camp, however, was not to be permanent, and the inhabitants were paid a small sum to move out following the Rose Revolution in 2003. Today, the Hotel Iveria is once again a premium hotel, now called the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel.
If you’re planning a trip to Tbilisi, Georgia in the near future, and we know you are, stay in one of the most storied and luxurious hotels in all of Georgia, the Radisson Blu Iveria.
And if you want more stories of citizens taking over large skyscrapers, read about the iconic "Tower of David," in Venezuela.