Georgia - Wow!
We came with the Wizz-Air-Plane from Dortmund and were really excited, when we left the plane in Kutaissi. A taxi took us from the airport to the Best 'Western Hotel. It was a brand new wonderfull small hotel in boutigue style. A very tasty georgian salad was served at the rooftop restaurant fo the hotel with a breath-taking view on the river and the city.
A walk through the city closed our day.
Next day starts with heavy rain, rain, rain... and a challenging taxi-ride to the airport. So we are glad, that we booked a 4WD car and received a Dacia Duster 4WD. The travic appears more robust and drivers are much more overtaking. After a while you get adopted. So the challenges starts.
Our first destination is Borjomi, one of the oldest spa-towns in the south of Georgia. The spa gardens had suffered from the time of the russian occupation but meanwhile it has been rebuild and refurbished. You can still feel and imagine the flair from the former times and how the russian elite has enjoyed to recover from their stressfull live. The hotel group IHG has build up a brand new Renaissance hotel from scratch. It has been designed in a way, that it fits very well in the entire environment. We enjoyed the entire stay and booked room in advance when we retunr back to Kutaissi.
The hotel was not very busy at this time and we could enjoy a nice and calm breakfast in the morning. Next stop was Uplistsikhe in the near of Gori. This is a very old settlement from 6 century B.C. built in the rock. In reality the whole "city" consists of smaller and bigger caves for the different duties. For that time it was a comfortable way of life. This place of the settlement must have a reason as the historic silk road is passing very nearby. And we know that the silk road is becoming importance again. The entire complex is very easy to access and cultural excellent designed for touristic requirements. In a small bistro we could enjoy an escellent small lunch. We think during summer time it must be a very busy place. The prince-church on top of one of the caves is impressive and fotos inside are not allowed.
We continue to move in east direction. Final stop for the day is the Georgian capital Tiblisi. There have been different ways to spell the name of this city, this is the way how we spell it. And the name has changed a couple of times depending on the political direction. The motorway is in excellent condition and very busy as we come closer to the city center. Suddenly we see on the left side a big mall and can not resist to stop for a walk in. Everything is new and the garage in the basement very spacious for all the SUV's. The do it the same way like in other malls around the globe and show big new global-brand-cars in the atrium. After this short stop-over we continued towards the city for check-in at the J.W.Marriott. They did not expect that we arrive with our own car, so the drive-in to the hotel as well as to the parking lot was challenging. But they had a surprise for us and booked us in the suite for the Vice-President. The view on Tiblisi at night from the huge balcony was terrific.
Convenient breakfast next morning in the lounge and after that with the funicular (refurbished 2013) up on the city hill. Great view on the city, huge restaurant with terrace and recreation park, historic TV-tower. Then downtown with the same and along walk further downstairs though the historic city center to the hotel and pick up our car.
It is time to change direction and going north to Kaukasus, the highlight of the tour. It takes 3 hours from Tiblisi to Stepantsminda. This drive is a real scenic route and impressive. The road is build on the historic army-trail and winds up in to the mountainsd of Kaufkasus. The road goes directly to the Russian border and the amount of trucks moving in both directions is impressive. We could see 3 nationality plates: Georgia, Russia and Armenia. From time to time also Turkey. There is a lot of road-construction going on. I liked the way how uncomplicated the bypass of these areas was handled. The construction mashinery was in most cases coming from German brands, new or preowned. In a few cases we could see and advertisement from the World-Bank.
Suddenly the scenery changed and it got winter-white. In Gudauri we felt like in a ski-resort. Here is a big development going on to build up infrastructure for winter-tourism. Now it was only a short distance to Stepantsminda. We reached the Rooms Hotel which just started to belong to the Starwood Hotel Group. Wir had booked already a room with view in the valley and on the mountian on the opposite side. It cost a bit more but we discovered that the spending is worth. The view on the mountain Kazbek (5047 m) is outstanding. The hotel provides a huge balcony-deck with a view on the totsl scenery.
The breakfast in the morning either form the inside-lobby or the balcony is anothe highlight. Now in the morning we can see opposite also the smaller mountain Kvemi (2170 m) with the small trinity church on top. We ask in the reception if it is possible to drive up to the church. They tell us we can do so , if we got a car with 4WD. Ok no problme (...we think). Our Duster 4x4 is ready to go.
The ride became unforgetable. 4WD locked in, icy, slippery paths (not roads), very bumpy, narrow paths close at the abyss, difficult for 2 cars to pass by. Finally it got that slippery that the car started to glide away towards the abyss. A magic ghosthand came by and the car started to move back to solid underground. What happened? A smart Russian gentlemen had watched our situation from his heavy duty SUV und pushed our car by hand back to the safe trail. He was dressed in sneakers and light wind-jacket. We arrived the top of the hill and i was afraid already about the way back. Again 4WD locked in and i found out that the car is doing the job on it self by locked in mode. Magic!!. We got back in the valley more easy than expected. It was a challenge for us. But it is worth to do it. There is a special atmosphere around the trinity church, something you should not miss.
In the village and the hotel you can book tours to visit the church. We have seen lots of special designed mini-busses with high-raised cabins and strong all terrain tires. They move the tourists up and down. It looks funny when you see them driving on the rocky ways. We were proud that we made it on our own. Now we went on the kaukasian army-trail towards the Russian border. Without visa we had to turn and went to Gudauri.
Back in the Rooms Hotel in the evening and next morining back to Borjomi. We got the same room again in the same hotel. This time we took the cablecar up hill and could see a big family from Asia taking lots of videos with their handy-cam. Here in Borjomi has been build one of the first bottling-water-plants in Europe. In the former administration-building is a very interesting exhibition from the time, when there was an active service for treatment. Famous names of the Russian history have spent their time in this resort.
Now we took our way back to Kutaissi and collected a few more impressions.
The return flight back to Dortmund was very early and we had booked a hotel in advance. We thought it was close to the airport. Outch. We learned that our first hotel was much better located and more convenient.
How can you get online in Goergia?
In the arrival zone of the Kutaissi airport we could directly walk in the shopping-desk of the Georgian Cell-Phone-Providers. Before the trip i had realized, that our home Germa Cell-Provider Vodafone has an offer for mobile internet in Georgia but this was not practical for us. Here at the airport they offer SIM-Cards for 3G / 4G with volumes from 2GB up to 12 GB. We decided for the 12 GB, which was fully enough. You get an official contract upon registration of your passport, the representative release the SIM-Card initially. We just pushed the card in our mobile hotspot-device and could connect Ipad and Iphone.