Today our virtual tour of countries I’ve been to takes us to the Republic of Georgia. Whilst we’re all living in the age of the Corona Virus, actual travel is not a thing that’s advisable and in most cases, possible. So here on my little blog I’m taking through pictures, posts and words to give you a taste of what it’s like to go to several places around the world which I have been fortunate enough to visit in the last twenty or so years.
From Soviet State to Republic
The Republic of Georgia, or as it is more commonly known, ‘Georgia’, is an ex-Soviet state located in a part of the world known as the Caucasus. The region includes part of Russia along with the countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. All were part of the Soviet Union back in the day, and all regularly participate in the Eurovision Song Contest each year – with the exception of this year as the thing ain’t happening.
To the south of the region is Turkey and a little bit of Iran. You may or may not be familiar with this part of the world, it’s still not a very frequently visited region when it comes from visitors from the west. If you are from ex-Soviet states though, you probably are more familiar with it. Personally Georgia is the only country in this region I have visited thus far although I would love to get back there one day when life circumstances allow and I’ve ticked a few things more off my bucket list.
So what can I tell you about Georgia? I visited a while ago now, in 2011. Since then, without blowing the travel market wide open, more people have begun to visit Georgia. Which is a good thing for infrastructure in that country because it was somewhat lacking in 2011, and so whatever experiences I relay in this post you can presume that in most cases, things are better for the tourist now. Or they will be when travel is back as a thing, which we all hope is sometime this year, but may well not be.
Getting Around – Don’t expect Luxury!
Firstly, transport is reminiscent of that in Central Asia, with a lot of the people getting around the country via mashrutkas. This is a sort of packed minibus that leaves when it’s full from certain spots in the towns/cities. There is a basic train system too, I took it once from the Black Sea to the capital Tbilisi.
Hotels and Bread and Breakfasts…
Hotels were definitely a developing industry when I was there. I was there primarily to teach English for three months in a small village in the west of the country, and they put us up in a large hotel for the first week whilst we underwent orientation. It was around a 3 star sort of standard, except the rooms were probably bigger than your standard three star hotel. It certainly had a bit of a dated feeling, but was comfortable enough without feeling particularly modern.
I also stayed in a couple of Bed and Breakfast style affairs when travelling around, and those were cosy enough. The time of the year was September to December, and once November hit I found it really cold. There was a bit of snow as well, and power was always an issue.
Power is handy, when you can get it!
In the little village I lived in, I stayed with a family. The electricity for the whole village was pumped through some sort of small sub station sitting on the side of the road and it would go ‘Bang!’ every so often and the whole village would lose electricity. It happened a number of times and if we were lucky, it was repaired the same day. But there was a stretch of at least three days with no power. Thank goodness for fire is all I can say!
Tbilisi – the Capital
Black outs also effected me in Tbilisi, so no where seemed safe from them and I would hope that today they are far less frequent. Tbilisi is a riverside town, feels a little medieval in places (in a good, charming way) and is probably the highlight of the country.
Georgia likes to stress at times that it is a European country, even though I guess that is at least debatable (still, as I said it does do Eurovision), and in the capital it is the most European that the country feels. Although along the river it is almost cute at places, with a beautiful glass bridge, and a park full of little fountains, other parts of the city have wide boulevards and grand buildings, and the city has a number of churches as well.
It’s quite hilly, and public transport was in 2011 basically mostly mini-buses, but there is something a little special about it too.
Batumi on the Black Sea Coast
Batumi is the country’s second city, reachable in half a day’s travel or less if you’re lucky. The interweb tells me there are regular buses and that if you drive direct it should take you around 6 hours. It’s great to get out there because it’s not an unattractive place and it is on the Black Sea Coast. Pity I wasn’t there in the Summer, rather the winter and it’s where I went to a wedding when the snow came down like crazy.
Actually, great experience was the wedding, despite the hideous weather which made the floor of the venue somewhat slippery. Great example of Georgia food and drink and indeed hospitality. If you like bread, cheese, meat and wine, Georgian food will probably make you very very happy. And things cooked in vinegar, sausages… yes I had a mostly happy stomach whilst there. Having said that – it’s a ‘don’t drink the water’ sort of country.
Batumi is not that far from the Turkish border so it’s probably a good first stop in the country IF you are going overland. It has a really interesting concert hall there with a glass exterior I went a couple of time, some beautiful squares, churches and a tower on the Black Sea you can climb. There’s a cable car and apparently a ‘Dolphinarium’. Can’t imagine it’s worth seeing but you never know. Wasn’t there I don’t think when I was.
Kutaisi is the other main city I visited. It’s also pretty, and a little outside the city there is a monastery in a sort of valley I visited which was worthwhile, especially for the location. The Motsameta Monastery.
I can tell you about the wonders of Jikanjuri if you like – the little village of a few hundred people with one shop and irregular electricity, but honestly it’s unlikely it’s a place you’ll go to. If you’re adventurous you might try one of the ‘breakaway republics’ – Abkhazia for example is a Russian-backed ‘republic’. It wasn’t recommended to go there, and maybe still isn’t. But it sounds interesting.
So Georgia. Although it’s not a big country, and although I had three months there, I didn’t see too much of it as is evidenced by this post. Will I return? Anything is possible in this wacky Universe. Hopefully I guess, Hopefully!
Other posts about Georgia –
and of course the general Georgia Page.
Thanks for popping by today – and May the Journey Never End!