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georgia

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the trip

Luca and I went to Georgia in June 2017.

It was a guy I met in Gjrokaster, Albania, who made me want to visit Georgia and Armenia. He said that these were his favorite countries (he visited plenty), but he decided to open and manage a hostel in Albania because he thought it had much potential. And I believe he was right.

Anyway, one year after Albania I was in Georgia.

 

Tbilisi, the capital, was the first stop. I was immediately fascinated by the elegant decadence of the Old Town.

We stayed in Tbilisi for a few days, I didn’t want to leave. The town is charming, food is delicious and guesthouse very welcoming.

The guesthouse!

Some pictures of the guesthouse, Skadaveli, that from outside seems to be falling down, but inside it’s all renovated and very warm and welcoming. In the historic centre of Tbilisi. So welcoming that I want to go back and just stay there for one month.

Breakfast was not included, but there was a small shop not far from the house selling fresh bread, cheese, tomatoes and eggs. The best breakfast.

There’s an antiques market in Tbilisi with many russian and Orthodox relics that I really liked. Sort of an open-air museum.

 

For a couple of days we walked around the Old Town, the markets, the castle, the Baths…

 

Davit Gareja

Public transport is quite efficient in Georgia, and moving from one part of the country to the other is pretty easy. But not to Davit Gareja, a monastery in a semi-deserted area at about 2 hours drive from Tbilisi, near the border with Azerbaijan. To go there we took a tourist minibus leaving at 11am from the center of the town. You get there that it’s very hot, you can visit the monastery and in a couple of hours you can walk around the hill where you can see some caves with frescoes that are part of another monastery. All very interesting. And amazing panorama.

 

Oasi Club

Going back from Davit Gareja we stopped in a hostel-campsite for lunch/coffee/snacks. An amazing place, seems out of the world, with grazing pigs, horses, hammocks, good food, a lot of books. A place to go back to and stay for a few days, even though sleeping and eating there is slightly more expensive than in the city. 

Other than Davit Gareja, we did another day trip while staying in Tbilisi.

Mtskheta

The spiritual capital of Georgia, Mtskheta isn’t very far from Tbilisi and can be reached by Marshrutky, the public buses of Georgia.

One early morning we left to go to Armenia, about which I will write in another post…

Below continues the trip in Georgia. 

Akhaltsikhe & Vardzia

We went back to Tbilisi on a minibus from Armenia. After a short wait we got on another bus to Akhaltsikhe.

Along the road we passed through Borjomi, a quiet resort with thermal waters, surrounded by nature. Having more time, it would have been nice to stop there for a bit. Backpacking it’s nice to stop in a quiet place to rest from time to time.

In Akhaltsikhe there’s a castle that has been recently refurbished, pretty but seems fake, but the town is famous for Vardzia, a caves village. Born as a monastery, Vardzia grew into a small town that could host up to 2,000 monks.  A very special place, not to miss. 

Unfortunately with public transport you are not free to travel at the time you want, I would have liked to be there for sunset, but we had to take the bus back to Akhaltsikhe (I am traveling on a budget, I can’t afford a taxi for 60 km). 

Akhaltsikhe town

Pretty and comfortable. Guesthouse brand new, very clean and very welcoming. 

I must say that guesthouses in Georgia are very good. 

Vardzia

Vardzia. Hot hot hot. It’s recommended to bring a lot of water from the town, as there are no villages near Vardzia, just a small restaurant with a nice terrace, but to visit the site you need a couple of hours and there’s no water on the hill. 

The North

After Vardzia e Akhaltsikhe we went North.

We hadn’t booked any place for the night because we weren’t sure where we would stop.

The fist minibus took us to Kutaisi. I was thinking of stopping there, but it was very hot and the city seemed so big, I thought it would be difficult to find a place to stay.

So we took another bus to Zugdidi. We were also thinking of Batumi, a holiday resort by the Black Sea, but we didn’t have the time during this trip. We preferred to focus on other parts of Georgia.

Zugdidi seemed a bit anonymous. The interesting side of this town is that it’s near the border with Abkhazia, and in the last decades Zugdidi has hosted many refugees from this part of the world.

There’s a nice museum/palace with a beautiful park.

For many it’s the departure point for Mestia and the Svaneti mountains.

This is just a small preview of Svaneti, because I want to write a whole post about the trekking here. It was the best part of our trip in Georgia.

Mestia, Ushguli e Svaneti

Svaneti belongs to the Caucasus and it is the highest inhabited area in Europe.

From Mestia we hiked for three days up to Ushguli, three days in the nature, among fields in bloom, glaciers and old villages with the traditional medieval towers.

I didn’t really want to leave the little paradise that is Svaneti, but the trip must go on.

There was a minivan going directly to Tbilisi, fortunately, but the trip was quite long anyway, we arrived in Tbilisi at 7pm.

The Skadaveli guesthouse was fully booked, so we decided to rent a room in the new part of the town.

Very nice there too.

Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue is a walking street completely renovated, with pretty pastel houses, small restaurants and many clubs. Very touristic, but pretty nonetheless.

Tbilisi New Town

Kazbegi

The following day we left for Kazbegi, about three hours away, on a marhrutky.

Kazbegi is in the mountains (near the border with Russia), famous for a church on a hill overlooking the town.

Tsminda Sameba Church (not easy at all Georgian names) can be reached on a easy hike, the path is steep but short.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stop for too long here neither, there are some nice hiking trails to be tested.

The following day we left.

Marshrutky to Tbilisi (basically you need to go back to Tbilisi almost any time you move from one part to the other of Georgia) then another to Sighnaghi.

Kakheti

Sighnaghi

Kakheti is the main region for the production of wine in Georgia.

We stayed a couple of nights in Sighnaghi, a pretty little town, and we stayed in a guesthouse overlooking the valley.

On the way to Telavi

From Sighnaghi we took part to a tour organized from our guesthouse to take us to Telavi. We took advantage of this tour, so that on the way to Telavi we could stop at a monastery, at the house-museum of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, at a winery with a museum and the qvevri, large terracotta pots buried in the ground, the way wine is traditionally made in Georgia.

Telavi

Telavi is a bit too modern maybe, with some picturesque corner, very welcoming indeed.

Once we put foot out of the guesthouse to visit the town, we met a guy on a bench who invited to his house to drink Georgian wine and eat some snacks (probably I don’t have big memories of Telavi because we spent most of our time with our new friend). 

At dinner we decided to eat at the guesthouse. The host cooked so much for us! And everything was delicious, another proof of the quality of Georgian cuisine.

Last days in Tbilisi

And here we are, at the end of the trip. Last couple of days in Tbilisi before we go back to Italy. 

We walked around the old town again, always charming, we also went back to the new town to take some pictures in the night, and one early morning we flew back home.

GEORGIA ON THE TABLE

Short recap of the delicious dishes of Georgia.

It’s Going to be Awesome!

Come with me!

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