From its winding streets and rolling hills, to its unusual architecture and cute outdoor cafes, to its enticing cuisine and fashionably worn furry hats, Georgia has always seemed quite attractive to me.
However, it wasn’t until hearing the news about WizzAir’s new flights to and from Kutaisi and Larnaca that fully encouraged us to finally start planning a trip (WizzAir’s flight deals commonly inspire travel plans in my world). We knew we wanted to visit sometime during the fall, and after doing some creative maneuvering around an Okean Elzy concert, a major translation project, and our budget, we had finally made a plan…
3 nights, Batumi+Kutaisi.
- A flight from Larnaca to Kutaisi
- A transfer from Kutaisi to Batumi
- 2 nights in Batumi
- A transfer from Batumi to Kutaisi
- 1 night in Kutaisi
- A flight from Kutaisi to Batumi
The total budget for two people was 181 EUR (excluding the payments for airport parking, food costs, and taxi fares):
- 46 EUR — airplane tickets
- 112 EUR — hotel stay + breakfast
- 23 EUR — a bus from Kutaisi to Batumi and back to Kutaisi
Bliss beaconed from the very beginning of our trip- right on the plane. It was only the third time WizzAir had offered a flight from Larnaca to Kutaisi, so the plane was half empty- which meant that even the tallest of individuals could feel comfortable in low-cost seating.
A two-hour flight from tropical Cyprus and you see Georgia: a gorgeous country smothered in greenery and perfectly decorated with snow-capped mountain tops.
I realized that I was no longer in Cyprus as soon as I stepped foot out of the airport, where, instead of half-empty comfortable buses, marshrutkas (just like the ones in Crimea) were waiting for me (actually, Georgia reminded me of living in the Crimean peninsula in a lot of ways). We traveled from Kutaisi to Batumi in one of these marshrutkas.
Quickly, we noticed a second big difference from Cyprus: 150 km on a highway.
In Cyprus, 150 km on a highway means a nice, smooth trip lasting about 1.5 hours. In Georgia, on the other hand, 150 km on a highway means driving down a single-lane with loads of obstacles in the form of grazing cows, cyclists, and a myriad of Turkish trucks, lasting about 3 hours.
By the end of the second hour, we were finally accustomed to the Georgian style of driving and started admiring the dilapidated 5-windowed houses (and pondering whether there was some sort of a sacred significance behind the 5 openings) and the sunset on the horizon (which we found to be admirable even compared to the Cypriot sunsets).
Soon, signs to Batumi with a distance of less than 50 km started appearing along the road, and our anticipation of meeting this amazing city reached maximum capacity.
For our stay in Batumi, we chose Hotel Paliashvili: a family-run type guest house/hotel not too far from the old town- a strong 9 out of 10.
The good: warm-hearted hosts, well-kept rooms, flexible breakfast hours, and a fantastic location.
Minor drawbacks: the lack of an elevator, and how cold it got at night (those who are familiar with the autumn process of, “it is cold already, but they are not heating it yet” will understand what I mean).
We spent our first evening getting acquainted with Georgian cuisine, tasting Turkish coffee (which came with it a surprisingly delicious crema), and being reminded of the magic of good ol’ barbecue – which was strikingly contrary to Cyprus-style mixed grill.
The next day was dedicated to walking around the city. Batumi boasts a beautiful promenade, modern architecture, and cozy squares/courtyards that are vaguely reminiscent of Europe.
Despite the fact that we hardly completed our minimum program, the city left a very good impression, placing in my Top-10 list of favorite cities, next to Rome, Vilnius, and Lugano. Perhaps next time we will visit for an entire week so that we can really soak up the Black Sea coast and visit the Botanical Garden.
One suggestion I must make about traveling in Georgia:
Leave some extra time for transfers around the city. The traffic jams here are quite frequent, perhaps due to Georgians striving to demonstrate their “art” of driving. For this, it is not surprising that every third car, including taxis, rides around the city without a bumper.
Since our return flight to Cyprus was relatively early, we planned to arrive in Kutaisi by evening. For this city, I will not go into the details about what I liked or didn’t like since we didn’t spend enough time here to adequately assess its strengths.
I will only talk about Hotel Old Town, which I will rate an 8 out of 10.
We really liked the location of the hotel, the friendly staff, the spacious bathroom, and the view from the room of the gorgeous Rioni river bank (which was extra spectacular in the rays of the morning sun!).
However, the lack of an elevator combined with the ridiculously steep staircase to the top floor could have been a cruel joke if we had heavier suitcases. As well, the slightly poor “standard hotel breakfast,” which was served at each table separately, could have been another minus if we were to have stayed longer — luckily, we stayed for just one night, so in the morning we were satisfied with just a cup of coffee, a sandwich, and some cookies.
All in all:
Our trip to Georgia left us with a lot of positive emotions (and in our imagination, we also revisited Crimea). We have promised to come back here again, perhaps even twice (to visit Tbilisi as well).
See you again, Georgia!