Georgia is a country that didn’t blow me away. I almost feel guilty saying it. The unspoken social rule says every place we visit, each holiday must be mind blowingly amazing, evoking jealousy and Instagram love from all. Here I am saying Georgia didn’t live up to the romanticised image in my mind.
The people are friendly but not welcoming. No one smiles, yet they’re happy to help if you ask. The roads and cities are chaos, and the culture dwells somewhere beneath the surface. Maybe it’s the subtlety and unspoken moments that fuel my ambivalence for Georgia.
Georgia holds an indescribable spot in my mind. It’s less European and more of like an Asian Soviet hybrid with a few picturesque cobblestone streets here and there.
The journey began in Tbilisi where we were greeted with a 1970’s-esque Soviet style airport on the verge of disrepair. After bouncing down the freeway in a 25 cent rickety bus going far too fast for its own good, we made it to the heart of the city.
Once again, Tbilisi did not blow me away. There’s a lot of hype online with bloggers report spending two or three weeks exploring the city, but somehow it just didn’t jive with me. I didn’t dislike Tbilisi. The balance between big city feel and chaotic overwhelm to culture and quaintness was skewed too far in the wrong direction for my taste, and I much preferred the countryside regions we visited.
After a couple of days wandering the streets of Tbilisi we headed north toward the Russian border to the mountain town of Kazbegi. A three hour bus ride careening (at a far too fast pace) through the mountain passes against a backdrop of snow covered peaks, ski resorts and jaw dropping cliffs had me drooling. The scenery was truly stunning and bus ride worth it just for the scenery.
Kazbegi is known for its monastery on a mountain top. It’s the classic “Georgia” photo you see online and in travel brochures. However, the jaunt to the monastery wasn’t without it’s own share of drama.
Being late spring, portions of the mountain road were still snow packed with sections allowing only a single lane of traffic, and other portions covered in snow drifts only accessible by 4x4s. In typical Georgian chaotic fashion, the obstacle course that was the road was a taxi driver free for all.
Two directions of traffic in a one lane passage way – you do the math. We entered into the most magnificent traffic jam I have ever seen. 4X4’s bottomed out on snow banks, cars trying to pass said 4X4’s, sedans with no 4X4 capabilities whatsoever sliding across snow piles, horns ablaze, and motorbikes carefully careening through the entire mess.
The sheer sight and escalation of the disorder had me laughing in disbelief and we opted to walk to the monastery while the drivers battled it out.
The monastery set against the snow draped peaks was breathtaking, giving way to 360 views of the sleepy town of Kazbegi below.
Kazbegi in itsself doesn’t offer much in the way of attractions. The main draw is the monastery along with hiking paths in the mountains (it was too snowy for us to hike). We capped off the night drinking tasty Georgian wine at the Rooms Hotel (Kazbegi’s foremost luxury hotel) oogling over the mountain sunset. Then embarked on our next adventure in search of the renown Georgian wine…