Who knew pine cones could come in a jam?
The Borjomi – Kharagauli national park is a large national park in Central Georgia and I managed to visit a tiny part of it in May 2018 with my boyfriend. We decided to skip one of the many local monasteries in favour of getting a taste of the untouched nature the Caucasus region is so revered for.
Our trek began at the national park information centre in Borjomi, as it is mandatory to buy a national park pass and register at the office before you go anywhere. Since Georgia has only started with organised tourism about 20 years ago and their tourist services are mostly limited to larger cities and important sights, I was surprised to find a large, modern information centre with storage lockers (although their closing time was much too early to be useful). All available tracks were well-marked on a handy map and the employee at the office took the time to find the best option for us, as we only had about half a day.
After a short bus ride we found ourselves on a nice nature trail to somewhere (at the time of writing this neither of us have been able to identify exactly where we went 🙂 ). We walked there, marvelling at the beautiful, wild forest and lack of hikers. Since I woke up with a backache and it got progressively worse while wearing my backpack, I decided to stop somewhere after the path stubbornly kept going uphill, while my boyfriend continued up to what he thought was the local peak, but turned out to be more forest and only a plateau with no nice views.
Impressions of the Borjomi – Kharagauli national park
We had a picnic instead of braving the trail further up: we tried the local red jam with preserved young pine cones, which were sweet, soft and nicely crunchy, with sour cream (we thought we had bought yogurt, but life had other plans) and bread. It was delicious and the cones were very fun to eat. Soon after that the first hikers started showing up and we headed back to Borjomi to take a ride up the hill on the cable car.
On the way back it started snowing – the wind lifted thousands of little white petals off the flowers nearby and pelted the forest floor with them, which made for a truly beautiful sight. Getting back to Borjomi was a bit more of a challenge, as we took the taxi to the start of the trail and could not find one anywhere. We walked along the road almost back to the town centre before we managed to get a bus (the joys of Georgian public transport). We passed some pretty intriguing properties rusting away on the way back though, as well as a former villa with what used to be a huge garden but now closely resembled a swamp, fed by a large drain pipe.
Some photos by M. Zupan.