Apparently, everyone but me. My vision of Georgia, the country, was drab, dark, Soviet-bloc-downtrodden. Boy, was I wrong!
- Forbes magazine declared, “Berlin Is Out, Tbilisi Is In: Georgia’s Capital Is This Year’s Most Exciting City” — and that was LAST year!
- Time described “the buzz around Tbilisi as an emerging travel destination.” In 2018.
- In 2017, CNN Travel‘s Anthony Bourdain wrote, “You should know Georgia because it’s nice. Because the food is excellent. The country is beautiful. Some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. It’s a place you should absolutely visit given the chance.”
- The New York Times listed Georgia as one of its 52 places to visit in 2015. TWENTY FIFTEEN!
This West Virginia-size country is THE place to be, so naturally Mimi’s Travel File and her followers must go, too, be it vicariously or in the flesh.
The most well-traveled mother-daughter duo I know recently returned from eight glorious days and raved. They described Georgia as cosmopolitan, inexpensive, and a food-y destination, with excellent wine, hiking, history and scenery. Vogue magazine’s article entitled, “There Are Several Reasons Why Georgia Should Be on Your Mind,” inspired them to go. The quotes below are from said article.
Tbilisi (3 nights)
- Cosmopolitan: “The Arabs, Russians, and Ottomans have all passed through this Silk Road crossroad and have left their mark and influence throughout the years.”
- Scenic: “Geographically, Georgia’s an evocative spot, with the Caucasus Mountains to the north and the Black Sea to the west.”
- Stylish: “This rich, varied place makes it a natural fit for a growing fashion scene, as was evident at the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi Fall 2017, held in the capital city.”
- Friendly: “The once–Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, now known simply as Georgia, declared independence from Russia in 1991. Still in a state of disrepair, the country saw a mere 1,500 visitors in 1997. The small country has since bounced back considerably—it celebrated its six-millionth visitor in 2016 with a countrywide celebration when the Dutch traveler randomly arrived. The fanfare was not surprising to locals, as they celebrate visitors regularly.”
- Architecturally interesting: “Old World wonders: stately squares, city walls, and dimly lit castles in the distance…a mad mix of many eras heading in several different directions…you see well worn cobblestone streets and Art Nouveau buildings, some of which are impeccably restored while others remain in a state of disrepair. Orthodox churches stand next to stark modern Soviet structures and shiny new buildings desperate to express themselves.
In the historic Avlabari neighborhood, “The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi is breathtaking on a Taj Mahal–like level. It feels that epic. It was shocking to hear that it was recently built, between 1995 and 2004.
“The Kala district, a bohemian enclave with a web of cafés, wine bars, and shops, is situated below Narikala, the city’s 4th-century fortress.”
“In Abanotubani, the bath district, distinctive dome-shaped sulphur bathhouses are the foreground for brightly colored buildings. “The Moorish Revival style of Tbilisi’s Opera House is something to look at, both inside and out. Dating back to 1851, it’s floor-to-ceiling operatic opulence.
- “Newer points of interest in Tbilisi are
Beside Rike is the iconic Bridge of Peace, a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge built in 2010 connecting old city to new,” per Vogue magazine.
Food, glorious food
All of this touring is bound to make us hungry, so let’s explore the much-vaunted food in Tbilisi. The nicest restaurants are Georgian Mediterranean, says my mother-daughter duo. Khatchapuri (click here for recipe) is the signature cheese pie dish.
One of the reasons the food is so good here, say they, is that Georgia grows its own fruits and vegetables, and the soil is fertile. Check out:
- Cafe Littera, a courtyard restaurant recommended by the Stamba Hotel and my friends.
- “The signature Funicular Restaurant serves khinkali, traditional Georgian dumplings, and khachapuri, the national dish of Georgia—a flatbread with cheese topped with a runny egg. It’s far more decadent and delicious than it sounds. The Lounge Bar above is sexy and sophisticated, with the best sundowner in town,” says Vogue magazine.
My mother-daughter team recommends:
- Inexpensive: Fabrica Hostel
- Middle end: Rooms Hotel (Vogue liked this)
- But it was the “very high end” Stamba Hotel that my friends especially like (“great bar and concierge”). They spent three nights in Tblisi and thought that was sufficient
Kzahbegi (two nights)
Next stop for my mother-daughter friends was Kzahbegi, a town just south of the Russian border. The Rooms hotel there is the place to stay, located at the foot of snow-capped mountains. Looks beautiful, very Alpine! Request a room facing said mountains.
From there, they hiked 6-7 miles up to the chapel in the mountains.
Kakheti (3 nights)
- If you like wine, this is your town. Wine Enthusiast magazine says, “Recent findings from a joint research venture by the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum suggests the country’s winemaking dates to 6,000 B.C., which makes it the site of more than 8,000 vintages…Georgia even has a Napa Valley-like wine trail in Kakheti…”
- Stay at the Schuchmann Hotel and spa. My friends say it’s the nicest winery. Request a room in the main house, with a view of the Caucasus Mountains.
- Hire amazing David to drive you around ($25 per hour), as highly recommended by my friends. They found him in Lonely Planet.
- Visit the local wineries that don’t export because they don’t add sulfites. This is a genuine Georgian experience, where you will meet friendly people in small, rural villages, enthused my mother-daughter duo. They described the Georgians as charming, hospitable, warm people happy to have tourists.
Check out this article from Departures magazine.