Kutaisi

The first stop on our Georgian trip.

In May 2018 I visited Georgia, a small country at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Georgia is an interesting country with a long, rich history (you can read more about it here) as it is the legendary home of the Golden fleece and boasts both the Caucasus mountains and the Black sea beaches.

Me and my boyfriend started our Georgian experience at the Kutaisi airport, which offers low budget flights from some of the European capitals and is usually cheaper to get to than the airport in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

Kutaisi is the capital of the Imereti region, the second largest city in Georgia and it is famous for the UNESCO heritage Gelati monastery. In fact, most of Georgian sights are the majestic solid-looking churches and monasteries, built in the medieval Georgian Golden age style. In the Middle ages Georgia existed as a very successful kingdom, which reached its peak during the reign of Queen Tamar, who also built the cave complex at Vardzia. But even further back in the day, Kutaisi was the capital of Colchis, which makes it one of Europe’s oldest cities, dating back to the second millennium B.C..

Since we only stayed for a day, we did not manage to see the Gelati monastery, but we did walk up the city hill to the also UNESCO Bagrati cathedral, which was a magnificent sight.

We stayed at one of the hotels relatively close to the centre, which had a lovely view of the junkyard through the window where some horses were grazing. I believe that was the moment when my boyfriend’s first-time-travelling-out-of-the-EU cultural shock fully kicked in, as he couldn’t wrap his head around the hotel decor and the junkyard view. To be fair, the showers were quite creepy and looked like something out of an underfunded prison, but the rest of the hotel was decent. However, I am happy to report he loved Georgia as much as I did by the time our journey was finished.

The charming junkyard in question.

As much as we saw of the centre of Kutaisi appeared quite green with many parks and 19th century streets, but as soon as we turned a corner, we could see that the reality was quite a bit more impoverished. Despite that I was surprised to notice very few beggars (throughout the whole Georgia) and even the less touristic areas felt unexpectedly safe. The people in general gave off a warm, friendly vibe everywhere we went and tried to be helpful even if we couldn’t find a common language.

Impressions of Kutaisi

Since Kutaisi is built around the wild Rioni river, the views from the Bagrati cathedral hill and the riverbanks were quite nice. We watched the sunset on the hill and then headed back to the city centre to try the local food for the first time.

We ended up having an unintentional candlelit dinner at one of the local restaurants, due to a sudden loss of electricity. That seemed to be a normal thing as the locals weren’t particularly bothered and the only difference was that food made in the oven was no longer available. We went back to the hotel for a scary shower after dinner and headed to Chiatura the next morning.

Some photos by M. Zupan.


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