Wow – what a destination, off the beaten track and for sure something different, I thought to myself. I wasn’t disappointed, this trip had some crazy surprises in place … but let me start from the beginning.
We take off from London Luton, flying into Kutaisi though not before a turn-around manoeuvre *first one for me*. Arriving at the airport, officials are astonished to see us leaving with hand luggage only and confirm twice whether we haven’t forgotten anything. Luckily our AirBnB host has arranged pick-up for us so we can sit back, relax and enjoy our first encounter with Georgia in the middle of the night, it is just starting to rain and a special mist was in the air.
The next morning is still grey but with some rays of sunshine making it through the blanket of clouds, leaving a very special mist in the air. Paired with our surroundings resembling the images of the old Soviet times with porose balconies and collapsing roofs, rusty gates and all our lovely farm animals roaming freely in the streets, this is giving us the impression we are retracing the past.
It’s the first day of school after the summer break. Students seem to have prepared special shows and new starters wearing particularly lovely clothes and with a bunch of flowers for their teachers. We admire all the beautiful street art nearby and follow the smell of fresh bread. Soon we head over to the market where we are almost run over by a cart with a whole pig on it, feet high up in the air, belly open. Hm, that might be early in the day for us so we walk over to another section. The local sweets speciality is “dried fruit juice” – sheets of it like a palatschinke or covering a string of nuts … different kinds of colours (and flavours) are available … very interesting and surprisingly delicious.
Leaving the market on the opposite side, we walk across one of the bridges over the Rioni river and up the hill for good views over Kutaisi and further to the Bragat Cathedral where we are greeted by orthodox catholic men making music and singing some beautiful songs in their traditional lyrics.
We decide to take a marshrutka to the nearby monastery of Gelati and then walk the 5km or so through lovely hills and small villages, then along the old railway tracks to Motsameta monastery that sits beautifully on top of a rock, overlooking a river that bends in horseshoes through the rolling woody landscapes.
It’s a day full of new impressions, eating fresh kakhi, pomegranate, mandarines and apples from trees, making friends with the many lovely street dogs, eating some of the national specialities like Ostri (stew), Kachaphuri (cheese bread with egg) and Khinkali (twisted knobs of dough, usually stuffed with meat and spices) and trying to communicate with the locals for some stories, the right way or even a corkscrew 😉 …long live the Georgian wine!
After some adventures in the marvellous mountain ranges of the Caucasus, we spend our last couple of days in charming Batumi, a lively city at the Black Sea. It’s a beautiful mix of ethnicities, architecture, cultures, food and styles that gives up and coming Batumi a cosmopolitan feel. I’m quite pleasantly surprised by it and decide to investigate even more next time, before I pigeonhole and put it down as a place of a certain calibre.
The final surprise and quite a shocking one is when I find out that our flight time is in fact two hours earlier than I thought it was … departing in two hours and twenty minutes when we’re leaving Batumi from where it’s a two hour drive to Kutaisi International Airport. It’s not fun to be stuck in a minibus with a driver that doesn’t speak nor understand any English and we have no Georgian skills. Thankfully the airport is super small so one can see from one end to the other pretty much from wherever one stands. That doesn’t help though if simply no one is at the check-in desk and apparently not gonna come as the crew is busy with boarding – and we have to watch them without being able to do anything. Some nerve-wracking 20mins later finally a crew members runs towards us and check us in, we hurry through security and passport control and quickly board the plane. Phew, that was quite tight.