Chiatura - Legendary Cable Cars, Lost Places, Soviet Architecture and More

Tschiatura Seilbahnen
Chiatura - Legendary Cable Cars, Lost Places, Soviet Architecture and More

Georgia. Die “hängenden Särge” haben mehr als 60 Jahre lang die Einwohner der Industriestadt Tschiatura (Chiatura) in windige Höhen transportiert. Doch seit Sommer 2019 stehen die legendären Seilbahnen von Tschiatura still. Am Ende waren die Gondeln doch etwas zu verrostet und die Technik zu veraltet. Doch die Seilbahn Stationen aus den 1950er und 60er Jahren sind noch immer da und sind Zeugen der Geschichte und dem einstigen Glanz der Stadt. Und meist hängt auch ganz in der Nähe der Stationen noch die eine oder andere Gondel in der Luft.

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When we visited Chiatura in July 2021, we were overwhelmed by the impressions. However, we were also a bit disoriented. There are indeed numerous blog articles on the Internet with great photos when the cable cars of Chiatura were still in operation. But where the photos were taken remained unclear. To make your search for Tschiatura's treasures a little easier, I have therefore compiled my favorite photo motifs in a map. So you can explore the city on your own and know immediately what awaits you where.

But first, let's go back to a time when Chiatura still looked into a rosy future.


In this Article you will find

Short History of Chiatura and the Cable Cars
Cable Cars, Buildings, Pioneer Palace and more
What's next for Chiatura?
How to get to Chiatura
What is the best way to get around the City?
What else is there in the Area?
Book Recommendations for Georgia



Short History of Tschiatura and the Cable Cars

Tschiatura was founded at the end of the 19th century and before the First World War possessed the largest manganese ore deposit in the world. Manganese mining at that time amounted to 60% of the world production. Even during the Soviet era, the city remained an important center of manganese mining. Investments were made, including the construction of ropeways.

Chiatura is located in a deeply cut, long valley of the Kvirila River. The main means of transportation were cable cars with a total length of more than 6,000 meters. The first cableway was built in Chiatura in 1953. More lines followed in the 1950s and 1960s. In total, there were 70 ropeways for transporting people, materials and manganese ore. This made Chiatura the city with the most ropeways in the world. For a long time, the hand-operated gondolas were the only means of public transportation in the city.

The cable cars operated almost without interruption until the summer of 2019. But eventually, the last two remaining passenger cable cars stopped operating due to official orders. During our stay we could only see one cargo line for the transport of ore in operation.


Cable Cars, Buildings, Pioneer Palace and more

Map with Photo Motifs

In the following map I marked most of the motives I describe in this chapter with a camera pin. For each pin there is also a small photo. So you can orientate yourselves more easily. The map should be a little help for your own explorations. However, there is so much more to discover in Chiatura and I could have easily spent two or three days here.

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Tip: In the free app Maps.me you can download an offline map of Georgia. The map shows the cable car stations and lines. So you can explore even more stations.

Monumental Welcome

We entered the city on the main road coming from the west. Shortly after the town entrance sign, Chiatura greets us with an overwhelming monument commemorating World War II. Next to it, several prefabricated buildings provide a great background.

In the City Center

We wind our way down the road into the Kvirila Valley. Soon we reach the center of town with a small market, numerous stores, and typical chaotic city traffic. After parking our Lada, we are off. We don't know exactly where to go and stroll through the city for the time being. Every few meters we discover something new that fascinates us. Soon we come to the first cable car station. Shortly before the station a red-yellow gondola is still hanging. Remnants of the advertising signage are still visible.

From the underpass under the railroad tracks we come to the bridge over the Kvirila. To the right and left are architectural gems such as City Hall and the Registry Office, as well as whimsical structures on the riverbank housing stores.

In the center of the city, the elongated row of stores on the main street is a real eye-catcher. We follow the main street to the traffic circle on Ninoshvili Street. Here we find a large mosaic on the facade of the school.

Back on the main road we go a little further uphill and come to a market. There is also an old cable car station here.

Highlight of Chiatura: the Stalin Ropeway and Peace Ropeway

From here we walk along the bank of the Kvirila back towards the car. Very close to our parking place one of the highlights of Chiatura is waiting for us: the station of the Peace Ropeway and the Stalin Ropeway. The station itself is meanwhile firmly closed, but also from the outside it is a great motive and one can peek in at several places. I quickly spotted the black and white graffiti on the wall. Unfortunately only a part of it is visible, but I recognize it from photos on the internet: it shows a kneeling miner with a shovel. On both lines there are still two gondolas hanging in the air.

From the station, the yellow gondolas of the Stalin Ropeway across the river to the opposite mountain. This line was the first cable car in the Soviet Union in 1953. Accordingly, the gondolas are now rusty and the windows are cloudy from dirt and scratches. One gondola could carry six passengers. In addition, a gondola lady rode in each gondola. Her job was to ensure safe operation and report any abnormalities in the gondola to the mechanic.

The Peace Line goes north from the station. It is the line with the blue gondolas and dates back to 1964. This line is also the steepest cable car in Chiatura with a 48 degree incline and is even one of the steepest in the world. In the small gondolas fit just 4 people. There are also no more windows, as in the Stalin cable car, but only small barred portholes.

Detour to the Pioneer Palace

South of the Kvirila River, high up on the slope, is the former Pioneer Palace. You can reach it either by cable car or by your own car. The palace still shows its former splendor. The wide entrance staircase is lined with a large semicircle of columns. Some of them have already collapsed. The entire building is badly dilapidated and it appears that it will collapse like a house of cards at the next slight breeze. I myself did not go inside. Cows are less fearful and use the empty building as a shelter.

Cargo Ropeway in Action

We leave the city along the river in the direction of Tbilisi. After a short ride we finally see one of Chiatura's cable cars in action. It is a freight line for transporting the mined ore. Several gondolas cross the track, which is covered with nets in places. The nets are a damn good idea, because there are actually several chunks of rock in them that have fallen out of the ore gondolas.

Not far behind the freight gondolas is another disused passenger ropeway. Here, too, a gondola hangs in the air just before the station. You will also find an adventurous narrow pedestrian bridge leading to an industrial building.

Photo Motifs at the Exit of Chiatura

At the town exit we see a large Tschiatura sign and a green stele with a wreath. To the right of the road there are tracks and behind a fence there is a railroad wagon. All four give each of them again great photo motifs to say goodbye.


What's next for Chiatura?

Die legendären “hängenden Särge” von Tschiatura hängen nun in der Luft. Ebenso wie der Antrag der Stadt zur Aufnahme in die UNESCO Welterbeliste. Die rostigen Gondeln und die Seilbahn Stationen im Sowjetstyle haben lange Zeit den Herzschlag der Stadt ausgemacht. So viel Stadtgeschichte und individuelle Geschichten sind mit den Bahnen verknüpft, dass es aus meiner Sicht undenkbar wäre, die Gondeln und Stationen aufzugeben oder gar abzureißen. Ich wünsche der Stadt die Aufnahme in die Industriekulturliste so sehr und würde mich freuen, wenn die verschlossenen Standorte bewahrt und für touristische Besichtigungen aufbereitet würden. Ob das gelingt ist jedoch unklar. Denn die neuen Seilbahnen von Tschiatura stellen möglicherweise ein Hindernis für die Aufnahme in die UNESCO Liste dar.

A little tourism would certainly do the city good. After all, the manganese reserves will not last forever. In about 15 years, the deposits in the area are expected to be exhausted. What will happen to the jobs and the inhabitants of the mining town then? The population has already shrunk by almost half since the early 1990s. The reason for this at the time was problems with electricity, water and gas supplies, as well as declining manganese mining. Today, around 13,000 people live in the city. How many of them then still see their future in a mining town without mining?


How to get to Chiatura

Chiatura is located about 60 kilometers from Kutaisi. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the city by rental car or marshrutka. From Tbilisi it takes about 2-3 hours.

The city can also be reached by train. There are also guided tours from Tbilisi at GetYourGuide.


What is the best way to get around the City?

The center and some of the cable car stations in the valley can be explored very well on foot. Since the old cable cars of Tschiatura are no longer running, it is not so easy to reach the upper stations.

A new, modern cable car with four stations is currently under construction. Everything looked ready in July 2021. However, none was in operation yet. Possibly, the launch, like many other things, has been delayed by Covid-19. The main station of the new cable car is located in the center next to the river and near the stores.

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Click on the image to go to Amazon. If you buy a product through this affiliate link, I get a small commission and you help me to keep filling Fernweh-Motive with interesting content. The product will not be more expensive for you and you do me a huge favor.


What else is there in the Area?

Only about 10 kilometers west of Chiatura is Kazchi Pillar. This is a freestanding rock about 40 meters high, on which there is a tiny monastery.

About halfway in the direction of Tbilisi is the town of Gori, where Stalin was born. The Stalin Museum was opened here in 1957 in his honor. Don't expect a detailed rehash of the atrocities the dictator committed during his reign here. It's more like a big cult palace, even souvenirs like coffee mugs, fridge magnets, baseball caps or backgammon games with Stalin's portrait are available here. was opened here in 1957 in his honor. Don't expect a detailed rehash of the atrocities the dictator committed during his reign here. It's more like a big cult palace, even souvenirs like coffee mugs, fridge magnets, baseball caps or backgammon games with Stalin's portrait are available here.


Book Recommendations for Georgia

Do you want to know where the journey is going? Then I can recommend this travel guide * to you.

You can order the travel guides at Amazon by clicking on the pictures. If you buy a product via an affiliate link, I get a small commission and you help me to keep filling Fernweh-Motive with interesting articles. The product will not be more expensive for you and you do me a huge favor.


Have you ever been to Chiatura and maybe even used one of the cable cars? How did you like it? Do you have any questions about my article? If yes, then write me a comment!

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Recommendations for further Reading

Do you love Soviet architecture and lost places as much as I do? Then you might also be interested in my articles about Eisenhüttenstadt or about a GDR architecture in Berlin..

Eisenhüttenstadt sozialistische Planstadt
Eisenhüttenstadt - Time Travel to a Socialist Planned City

DDR-Architektur in Berlin: Fototour vom Alexanderplatz zum Frankfurter Tor
GDR Architecture in Berlin: Photo Tour from Alexanderplatz to Frankfurter Tor

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