And now here’s part 3 of my Georgian adventure, where I experienced some impressive highs and some lacklustre lows… After having spent a day in Kutaisi and a day exploring Tbilisi it was time to head out of the city and see what the area around Tbilisi had to offer: the Uplistsikhe – Gori – Mtskheta – Jvari day trip.
Luckily, a Georgian friend of friend happened to be in Tbilisi and was happy to play chauffeur as he hadn’t been to most of the places since he was a kid. First stop was Uplistsikhe Cave Town.
Carved in the rocks atop a hill overlooking the area this ancient site is one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia – dating back to the Iron Age! It was such a unique and surreal setting and I had to keep reminding myself that this was not the Flintstones filmset, it was where people actually cried, laughed and danced for centuries.
Look at this view! How would you ever want to leave?
Gori seemed to be a place where everyone stopped. It’s home to the Stalin Museum which (depending on your ethical views) you can visit. It turned out it was more a place housing a random collection of stuff Stalin owned without providing real background info, with everything written in Georgian or Cyrillic. You can always book a tour, but in the end it wasn’t worth the money.
I was really curious to lay my eyes upon Mtskheta as it was supposed to be a real slice of ancient history. But everything seemed to be restored and rebuilt. It was cute and quaint with a market through the high street and a famous cathedral, but it lacked a bit of the history I was expecting. To give you an idea of how big the tourism is in Georgia: we ran into the couple that we shared a taxi with to visit the monasteries two days earlier. And their trip wasn’t going much better: they were stuck in the middle of nowhere when their taxi broke and once they arrived to their destination in the middle of the night their room was given away. So we definitely had lots to catch up on.
If you’re feeling peckish on your travels, I’d recommend stocking up on churchkhela. You’ll see these everywhere, and no, they are not sausages like I initially thought. They are a snack with walnuts and grape juice, also known as Georgian Snickers, and they are actually the most delicious natural sweet I’ve shoved in my mouth.
As we travelled around chowing on our churckhela, we kept spotting the Jvari monastery on the hill calling us to come visit, but more on that later.
Before we trekked up the hill to meet Jvari, we sat down for a quick lunch and our first experience of Georgian lemonade – my advice is skip the vanilla-flavoured version and stick to the original lemon variety, or if you’re feeling daring go for the tarragon infusion!
One of my favourite Bosnian dishes is brown bean soup and I am very picky about it, so you can imagine I was sceptical about trying the Georgian version! Don’t tell my mum … but I LOVED it. The Georgian spices work well and their cornbread was delightfully crunchy. If you see lobio soup on the menu you must try it!
And then it was time for Jvari. And honestly? Jvari is a shameless tease that gets you all excited while driving around it. But once you get on top, it’s not as big or impressive as you might have guessed – Uplistsikhe is a way better experience.
To end the post in bad-luck style: after that we went back to Tbilisi train station and learned that the trains to Batumi were booked for the rest of the week. So where did that leave us? Did we flee off to Armenia? Back to Kutaisi to take the first flight back home? Go to the Kazbegi mountains? Stay tuned!
Have you been to Georgia? Or do you have any questions if you’re thinking about going?