For the chosen few!
We arrive at Tbilisi and right from the airport drive to the Alazani valley. Alazani is the center of Georgian winemaking! The distance is just 70 km, on time - 1 hour. The road goes through the mountain pass.
Thirty minutes later, at the top of a mountain, we make a short stop, open a jug of saperavi wine, and drink it along with fresh sulguni cheese, herbs, vegetables, and hot lavash bread…while basking in the beauty around us, raising our glasses to toast this adventure, and taking photos as keepsakes. Then, in the best of moods, we continue our journey!
The Royal Batoni awaits us. We dump our bags and head for the pool. There is still time for a swim before nightfall. And then we sit down to dinner!
Sumptuous food, sumptuous drinks…
along with Georgian singing…
…and dancing. How time flies when you’re having fun!
The next day we take our time. People have come to rest, so let them sleep as long as they like. Georgia is a small country, everything is close by, no one is in a rush to get anywhere. After breakfast, we set off to see the local sights. Close by, right across the road, is the ancient Gremi Fortress (15th c.).
Then we visit the Nekresi Monastery
After lunch, those who want can return to the hotel, while the adventurous board a hot air balloon and set off on a trip around the Alazani Valley, or to be more precise, above the valley!
On the third day, we set off for Tbilisi. If we leave at 10.00, we will arrive by 12.00.
After check-in, we take a walk around the Old Town district. It is located in the very center of the city and dates to the middle and end of the 19th century.
We have lunch in one of the taverns here. They are usually located in the cellars of old buildings. There are no tourists here, they do not feature in the tavern’s bookings. This is the stomping ground of Tbilisi locals, where they can enjoy excellent food and the old town atmosphere.
After lunch, you can take a walk to the sulphur baths, then enjoy some leisure time.
Dinner will be served in the Funikuler restaurant. This is a favorite hangout of the Tbilisi beau monde. The restaurant is situated on a hill above Tbilisi. The view is breathtaking! It was built in 1905. And it has never closed since (in 110 years)!
On the fourth day, we visit Mtskheta and the Jvari Monastery. They are not far from Tbilisi, a thirty-minute drive away. Mtskheta is the ancient capital. This is where Georgian Christianity began in the 4th century.
The Svetitskhoveli Church is the most esteemed shrine in Georgia, it was built in the 11th century at the site where the first Christian church was erected.
The Jvari Church stands on a hill top not far from Mtskheta. It was built in the second half of the 6th century and has survived almost unchanged to the present day.
But man is not fed by spirit alone! So now we are off to the Chateau Mukhrani. It is a wine factory located not far from Mtskheta, and is one of the leaders in Georgian winemaking.
The factory is located on the grounds of an old palace and winery that belonged to the Bagrationi princes. Everything has been restored in its original appearance. We also use this park as a launching field for our balloons.
First we will take a walk through the cellars where the wine is kept and listen to the history of Georgian wine-making.
Then we taste the wine to see how good it is.
And then we move on together to the palace park, where we will break up into several teams and begin some serious work.
We will compete to see who can make the best chacha in the way the Georgians have been making it since time immemorial.
Following the instructions of the experts, you will be asked to make as much 60 proof chacha you can in the set time—two hours.Following the instructions of the experts, you will be asked to make as much 60 proof chacha you can in the set time—two hours.
We will drink it with our lunch, prepared for us by princely chefs.
To make things even merrier, traditional Georgian musicians will play for us on the accordion, pipe, and drum. We are in for a wonderful day!
The next morning we set off on a journey worlds away, to the cliff town of Vardzia. It is in the southwest of Georgia. And a picturesque road that winds between mountains and lakes will take us there.
Vardzia is a cave monastery complex. It was built into the cliffs of Erusheti in the 12th century. More than 20,000 people lived it in at that time.
A well-planned system of multitudes of rooms, shelters, vertical and horizontal passages, and secret tunnels has been dug into the stone. The complex has churches, cells, living quarters, cafeterias, storehouses, libraries, water conduits, bathhouses, and apothecaries.
The main church at Vardzia is the church of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin. It is also cut into the cliff and partially protrudes from the rock. Its vault and walls are almost entirely covered with unique 12th century frescoes.
Further, the Rabati Fortress awaits us, located in the town of Akhaltsikhe 25 miles from Vardzia. It was built in the 15th century and was the residence of the Jakeli princes who owned these environs. The fortress boasts a modern guest house. This is where we will stay.
The next day we go to the city of Kutaisi through the Borjomi Gorge.
On the way we take a dip in some thermal springs and enjoy the local beauty…
… and by evening we have reached our destination.
In the morning, as we leave Kutaisi, we will stop by Prometheus’s cave (this is the very place he was chained to the cliff). The cave was formed millions of years ago and is about 260 feet deep, large, with an underground stream. It would be a sin to miss something like this.
Then we go on to Svaneti. This is an Alpine region in the northwest of Georgia. Its center is the village of Mestia. Svaneti is a historic province that has retained its primordial nature.
Its distinguishing features are snow-topped mountains and ancient turrets. These towers were built in the 12th-13th centuries. There is nothing else like them anywhere else in the world. They are free-standing four-sided (5x5 m) stone fortifications up to 25 meters high. They have five floors, blind walls, and the entrance is no lower than 10 m from the ground.
The Svaneti towers are reminders of the bygone wars and bloody hostility. With supplies of food, water, and ammunition, people could stay safe in them for years. Throughout its history, Svaneti, which is several thousands of years old, has never been conquered by enemies. The Svan way of life is still austere and aesthetic. The Svans are hunters and shepherds.
We check into the hotel and, after a short rest, set off on a sightseeing tour around Mestia.
Our first stop is the local history museum, a kind of small local Hermitage.
In the evening, when we sit down to feast, the Svans sing and dance for us. Their songs and dances are different from the rest of Georgian folklore and go back far into the past to the time of the Sumers. Very unusual.
The next morning we set off in search of gold. Yes, don’t be surprised. The thing is that the story about King Aeëtes’ Golden Fleece is not just a legend. the Svans, who belonged to the Colchis kingdom, have been panning for gold since ancient times by throwing a sheep skin into the mountain river.
We will also try to do this with the help of experienced local gold-diggers. Then we will enjoy a picnic lunch in the open air.
In the afternoon, we visit a Svan family of woodcarvers and traditional felt hat makers. Woodcarving is an ancient Svan craft, and these people are exquisite masters of their trade.
The felt hat, which the true Svan never removes from his head, is nothing other than a knight’s helmet lining. The tradition of making and wearing this headgear has existed here for more than one-and-a-half millennia. We will not only watch, but also take part in making carved ornaments and Svan hats.
The time has come to descend from the mountains. The next day we go to Batumi. We begin in the morning and in the afternoon, after passing through the mountains, we find ourselves on the shores of the Black Sea, in the subtropics!
Batumi is one of Georgia’s most beautiful cities. The old part of the city, which is more than 150 years old, has been completely renovated. The spirit of the bygone centuries has been preserved: the facades of the houses are decorated with fantastical creatures, mermaids, and figures of Atlas and Telamon. The Old Town is known for its combination of elements of Turkish, Russian, English, and French colonial architecture.
The Old Town is particularly beautiful at night when the buildings, lit up by colored lights, acquire the magnificent appearance of palaces. The old town is the tourist center with numerous hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques.
Well I think that is enough for now. Ten days have flown by in a flash. From Batumi, we return home. But I assure you that soon you will want to return.