maur  
life through the lens
 
  
home destinations a-z the big trips about me world beers newspapers updates/links freestyle top fives

 



 



GEORGIA


Location - Caucasus, Europe; Capital - Tbilisi; Population - 4 million; Currency - Lari MORE GEORGIA

Tbilisi is a good hub for day trips, with many tour companies competing for custom. I booked two tours, one to Vardzia cave city (a very long day) and another to Mt Kazbegi (gorgeous area, recommended). Then to Batumi for some R&R on the Black Sea coast - October 2019.

 

georgianote2The 10 Lari note

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia270First stop on the Vardzia tour was Akhaltsikhe, known for the Rabati Castle

 

georgia259Part of the castle complex is the citadel, centre, what I picture when I think of a castle - Akhaltsikhe

 

georgia261Climb the citadel tower for brilliant views of the town and surrounding mountains - Akhaltsikhe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia263The panorama from Rabati Castle's citadel tower - Akhaltsikhe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia268Within the castle grounds is a gold-domed mosque, pictured - Akhaltsikhe

 

georgia269Rabati Castle is pretty big, like a small town within a town, with mosques and a madrasa, church, jail, pools and ponds. Plus it's now got a museum, cafes, restaurants and even a hotel - Akhaltsikhe

 

georgia272After quite a few hours since Tbilisi we arrive at the fascinating cave city of Vardzia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia283Vardzia was built in the 12th century as a cave monastery which expanded into a full-blown city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia285There were more than 400 rooms over several floors, and as far as I can tell most of the city was underground, earthquakes having destroyed sections and exposed some of the chambers. Tell me if I've got that wrong - Vardzia

 

georgia290Entering the refectory - Vardzia

 

 

georgia299Our guide explained that World Heritage status hasn't been given because the original structure has been altered, for example with railings and steps - Vardzia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia300An open section inside Vardzia, near the Church of the Assumption

 

georgia313To explore properly there's several tunnels and small spaces to negotiate, along with some steep sections - Vardzia

 

georgia309Since the end of Soviet rule it's become a working monastery again - Vardzia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia255On the return trip to Tbilisi we drove through lovely countryside near the spa town of Borjomi

 

georgia252Driving alongside the Mtkvari River near Borjomi

 

georgia316It was such a long day that we didn't arrive at Borjomi until after dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia318This traditional wooden house is the 19th century Blue Palace, or Firuza, a former home of the Iranian consul and now a hotel - Borjomi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia317Inside the Mineral Water Park are pavilions where you can fill up with spring water. You can buy Borjomi mineral water all over Georgia; it has a salty taste that made me feel more thirsty, so I avoided it! There's also thermal pools in the resort - Borjomi

 

georgia322Like the icons! Public toilet signs in Borjomi

 

georgia320It's a seriously long day-tour from Tbilisi, starting at 08:00 and finishing after 23:00, with much of the time spent on the bus. So if you've got time, spend a night in Akhaltsikhe or Borjomi, and make Vardzia a day trip - Borjomi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia326My second day-tour was to Kazbegi, with a first stop at the very picturesque Lake Zhinvali

 

georgia330Overlooking Lake Zhinvali is Ananuri, a fortress incorporating two 17th century churches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia332You'll probably find that the majority of tourists on these organised tours are Russian, so guides address everyone in Russian and English. This is despite tensions between Georgia and Russia; when I was there flights had been suspended betweeen the countries - Ananuri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia335The drive to Kazbegi follows the Georgian Military Highway to the Russian border and the city of Vladikavkaz, while over the mountains behind Ananuri is the Russian occupied region of South Ossetia

 

georgia336There's boats and canoes for hire on Lake Zhinvali (or Zhinvali Reservoir) - Ananuri

 

georgia340The bus winds its way up the Georgian Military Highway, gaining altitude, until we reach the Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument - Gudauri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia343The monument was built in 1983 to celebrate Soviet Russia and Georgia relations, with murals of their history - Gudauri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia354Paragliding was very popular in Devil's Valley - Gudauri

 

georgia364Perched on the edge of the Devil's Valley, beneath the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument - Gudauri

 

georgia368The mountain and valley views are gorgeous, a great highlight of the tour - Gudauri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia367A lone paraglider got into trouble and ended up crashing against the rocks. His wife was crying and everyone rushed to the edge but it was too precarious to climb down. After a few minutes stallholders returned to their work. Hopefully emergency services rescued him - Gudauri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia369A few minutes further on, near Jvari, we stopped at some rocks with rising spring water

 

georgia374The road keeps climbing through some lovely landscapes - Gudauri to Kazbegi

 

georgia378A glorious view of Tsminda Sameba Church, high above Kazbegi, with 5,047m Mt Kazbegi as a backdrop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia386We swapped into 4x4s for the 15min journey from the town of Kazbegi (now called Stepantsminda) to the church, located at an altitude of 2,200m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia389It was a blue sky day, perfect for mountainous scenery. If you're heading for Russia it's only 15km from town, with Vladikavkaz 45km away - Kazbegi

 

georgia393Here's me looking down at the town of Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) which itself is at 1,750m altitude. It's possible to get here by public transport but I wanted stop offs at Ananuri and Gudauri, which makes a day trip more difficult, so a tour was ideal. Staying overnight is a way around that, then work your way south to Tbilisi. Either way, highly recommended! - Kazbegi

 

georgia408Trains take less than 6hrs from Tbilisi to the Black Sea resort of Batumi, near the Turkish border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia412Batumi has become the main Georgian beach resort since the occupation of Abkhazia further up the coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia404Jellyfish also like it - Batumi

 

 

georgia413The 19th century Batumi lighthouse hasn't been in use for a while - Batumi

 

georgia419On the left is the flag of Georgia, while on the right is the flag of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia516Batumi is the capital of Adjara and this building is the home of the government of Adjara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia429Just off Batumi Boulevard's waterfront is Batumi Tower (middle) and the Alphabet Tower (right) - Batumi

 

georgia432Yes that is some sort of Ferris wheel in the middle of Batumi Tower, though I didn't see it moving - Batumi

 

georgia448Standing below the 145m Alphabet Tower, honouring Georgian alphabet - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia450 A couple of lifts take you up to the tower's viewing platform - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia441A much larger Ferris wheel stands behind the very slowly moving and rotating Ali & Nino sculpture - Batumi

 

georgia455Batumi Boulevard stretches several kilometres along the coast - Batumi

 

georgia459This is the smaller of the dancing fountains in Batumi, just off the boulevard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia465Bulvari Park separates the boulevard from the town - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia467Within the park the Sheraton Hotel has its own pool, which everyone can use. For a price, of course - Batumi

 

georgia468A street mural near the pool - Batumi

 

georgia475The 6 May Park has a small boating pond - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia478 Comic book hero Tintin has a display in a hotel, presumably a Belgian-owned one - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia481Street art festivals have made their way to Batumi

 

georgia482I read somewhere that street art first appeared in Batumi in 2013 and has grown in popularity since then

 

georgia498I was lucky enough to stay at an excellent cheap hotel on this square, Batumi Piazza - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia488The piazza clocktower is home to a boutique hotel. I didn't stay there but at the Piazza Inn, crossing the square for its buffet breakfast, included in the price - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia497The piazza has bars and restaurants on three sides, and occasionally hosts live music (I'm guessing more often at the height of summer) - Batumi

 

georgia504The streets of Batumi

 

georgia509Apparently these buildings on Europe Square are called belle epoque. I have no idea - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia513Batumi is a pleasant town to wander around and has a relaxed feel, with many familes out and about. But I'd hazard a guess it gets very lively in summer..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia520Taking the cable car to Anuria Hill - Batumi

 

georgia523On the left is Batumi Tower (with the mini-Ferris wheel), further right is the spiralling Alphabet Tower, and the main Ferris wheel can be made out on the far right - Batumi

 

georgia531The sun sets on Anuria Hill - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia528The best time to come is when watching fantastic sunsets, then watching the town light up at night - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia535There's a bar-restaurant at the viewpoint, 250m above Batumi

 

georgia546The hazy hills at dusk - Batumi

 

georgia534Spot the Batumi Tower, Alphabet Tower and the Ferris wheel again - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia561Keep walking, walking and walking south along the boulevard to the main dancing fountains (in the summer at least) - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

georgia557From one side the mist cloud is just that, accompanied by music over the loudspeakers - Batumi

 

georgia564But walk to the opposite side and the cloud comes to life, with a video animation of Singing In The Rain - Batumi

 

georgia567Playing Funky Funky, lyrics from US3's Cantaloop - Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Website and content Copyright © 2008-2019 Mark Wilkinson. All rights reserved.

 

LINKS

https://caravanistan.com - Main resource for Central Asia but also has a bit on Georgia

www.exploregeorgia.org - Official Georgian tourism

https://georgia.travel - More on Georgia

https://tkt.ge - Buy Georgian train tickets

 

I am not responsible for the content of external websites.

 

 
 
 
   
 
   
world beers