"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Well, if I do say so myself, Julie's and my trip to Kutaisi was a smashing success.

We caught the 9:10 marshrutka from Poti to Kutaisi with no (okay, only one very small minimal) problem.  Kutaisi is about an hour and a half away, and is Georgia's "Second City," that being the second-biggest and second-coolest after Tbilisi.  Rolled in just before 11:00 and the bus dropped us right next to the McDonald's.  GLEE.

That's a double cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke.  WITH ICE.
Had a bit of a Georgian adventure getting a cab and communicating where we wanted to go, but eventually we got ourselves to Rustaveli Avenue and to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.  Brand-new as it was built in 1901, but quite beautiful both inside and out.

Human bone iconostasis
Then it was on to the Art Museum, which was disapointingly closed.  We were promised most sincerely by a guard that it would be open the next day, however.  Next, we followed the map to the post office so I could mail my cards.  Closed!  So, slightly discouraged and a little sweaty, we took a look at the lovely City Gardens, and then set off to find our guesthouse.

City Gardens
I'd never stayed in a guesthouse before, and neither had Julie.  But lo and behold, my guidebook did not steer us wrong.  We were able to follow the map and directions to the very unlabeled and very peeling front door.  By all signs and signals, we were in the wrong place.  But we knocked, and turned out we were right where we needed to be.  We were shown into a lovely home, and to a spacious room with two twin beds, for the very attractive price of 25 lari per person.  Not bad for a night's stay, and certainly well cheaper than any hotel would be.

We dropped off our stuff and headed out again, grabbing a couple beers and a snack at an outdoor cafe.  I called my friend Matt, a fellow Program volunteer posted in Kutaisi.  The three of us agreed to meet after Julie and I visited the Kutaisi State Historical Museum, which turned out to be fantastic.  Loads of Georgian artifacts, from the Paleolithic Period to modern times.  They didn't allow photography, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Julie in front of the KSHM
Matt showed up right on time, and we took a ride on Kutaisi's cable cars up to the top of a hill, where there was a small amusement park.  We rode the ferris wheel. :)

Cable car over the Rioni River
Me and Matt on the ferris wheel.  Nicely hot and shiny!
View of Kutaisi from the top of the wheel.

Then it was time to hump it down the hill, and back up another one, to visit Bagrat Cathedral.  We got a little lost on the way up which meant we got quite the unexpected hiking workout.  Bagrat Cathedral was awesome, but also sadly undergoing extreme renovation.  The entire thing was scaffolded-up and fenced-off, and we couldn't even go inside.  Bummer, but it just means we'll have to go back.

A very sad and dejected Bagrati Cathedral
After all that, it was time for food and beer!  Matt took us to Mirzaani Brewery, where we met yet more volunteers.  Good food and good stories!  But sadly, my body did not share my enthusiasm, and an upset stomach led to my requesting an earlier night than I would have wanted otherwise.  Julie was very cool about it; we picked up a couple drinks at a market (I sipped on a beer, stupid stomach), and chatted until the wee hours of the morning.  It kind of had an oldschool sleepover vibe which I was digging.  Very excellent day, evening, and night, overall.

The next day, we slept late, had a bit of a slow morning, and left our extremely pleasant guesthouse at around 12:30.  We walked to the Art Museum with high hopes -- it was, of course, closed.  But it would be open tomorrow!  Of course it would.  Good to know.

So then it was just a matter of finding a good place for lunch.  We walked around for a while with a couple of misses, but then we happened upon Aeetes' Palace.

Holy Crap.

Without a doubt, the single nicest hotel I have ever seen in Georgia.  We decided to walk in because we saw an open terrace on the hotel's roof, and the thought of eating lunch there was too tempting to pass up, even though we were afraid it would be prohibitively expensive.  The hotel people could not have been nicer or more gracious.  They showed us a menu -- with English -- and the prices turned out to be not bad at all.  And then they escorted us up to the terrace.

I just don't know if I've ever been happier to eat lunch anywhere in my life.  The views were just incredible!  Plus, we had the whole terrace completely to ourselves.  If we wanted something between waiter check-ins, there was a phone we could use to ask one of them to come up.  One guy dragged out a CD player and speakers so we could listen to Georgian music while we ate.

View from the terrace
We ordered a bottle of white wine, some roast pork, a green salad, some fries, and bread.  The waiter actually opened the wine at the table for us, and our table set-up included placemats AND cloth napkins.

No surprise that the food was amazing.  Our loaf of lavashi arrived piping hot; pretty sure it had come out of an oven just a few moments before.  Julie and I just could not make ourselves leave our incredible amazing private terrace, so it was time to order ice cream, fresh fruit, and a second bottle of wine.

I think we spent almost three hours there, all told.  But eventually, it was time to catch the 6:00 marshrutka back to Poti, which we did, again with no problems whatsoever.

I had a really, really wonderful, very busy weekend in Kutaisi.  I cannot wait to go back -- the only hard choice will be whether to stay at our excellent guesthouse or splurge on actually getting a room at Aeetes Palace!  (I have a feeling it would be SO worth it!)


  1. The hotel thing makes me wonder, what's the prices like in Georgia compared to the US? Do things like hotels, food, clothing if you've gotten any cost more, less than in the US?

  2. It depends on what you want. Ironically, one of the most expensive things we did was visit McDonald's. My meal cost almost 10 lari, and that is rediculous for a lunch that doesn't even include alcohol. It's because the price for a cheeseburger is the same whether you buy it in the States or in Georgia.

    Basically, if you still to all things Georgian -- beer, food, clothes -- it is way cheaper than anything you could get in the States. But conversely, pretty much anything Western is going to break your bank.

    Aeetes' Palace told me it was 100 lari a night to stay there. That is pretty rediculously heavy for Georgia, but would be like $65 USD. Go figure.