Kutaisi (Georgia’s 3rd largest city) is located in western Georgia. It’s about 4 hours from Tbilisi. Visiting Kutaisi is a perfect weekend get-away from the hustle of Tbilisi. We opted to take the local bus which was pretty quick and simple process. Check here to find out options for getting to Kutaisi from Tbilisi. We picked up the bus at Didube station and had to ask around a bit – but the locals at the station were all super helpful in directing us to the right bus.
The bus stops about half-way for a quick break to stretch your legs. I picked up a huge piece of sweet-bread with raisons which I think is nazuki. You can read more about this delicious bread here. According to this article, the only place you can find this delicious sweet bread is along the road near Surami.
In Kutaisi we wandered the markets, explored the alleyways, and had several great meals.
The Green Market
The market here was one of my favorites. The Soviet Bas Relief on the market wall was so interesting. It would be a great option for a tour to actually explain the significance of all of the various items.
The market vendors were outgoing and friendly. They were insistent that I taste their products. All the while trying to explain a bit about them and asking questions about me and my visit.
All were very excited to see ‘western’ tourists and even more excited when I told them that I’m from “America”.
I don’t normally tell people that I’m from “America” because there is a lot of places in America: Central America, Canada, Mexico, South America…. I actually find it offensive to these nations to generalize that I’m from “America”. Having said this, I’ve noticed that many Georgians don’t comprehend when I say that I’m from the US/United States/Etc. But when I say “America” they glow with excitement and recognition. Therefore, when in Georgia – I’m from “America”.
I have to admit that after seeing several Monasteries, I’m a bit jaded and when my co-traveler suggested that we visit Gelati monastery, I was a bit less than excited. However…WOW!! I have to say that I was certainly impressed.
Gelati was founded in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It certainly deserves it’s UNESCO designation.
Getting Around: Taxi’s
We opted not to take a tour and planned to simply taxi from one spot to another. Most of the excursions were simple and easy to access
Since we were doing this trip on our own without a tour group, we opted for a taxi to the Gelati Monastery. Unfortunately, the car we ended up with couldn’t quite make it up the steep incline to the monastery and we ended up walking the last bit of the uphill climb. It truly wasn’t bad and could have been a nice walk if it hadn’t been quite so hot. Getting a taxi back down was actually quite easy – we just asked the vendors and they directed us to a ‘taxi stop’ just a few meters from the entrance.
We rounded out our trip with a visit to Bagrati Cathedral, a local graveyard, an accidental visit to the Gelati train station (in which I thought the taxi driver likely thought we were crazy) and drinks overlooking the city and river at Terrace Gelati.
Places that I would recommend are:
- Toma’s Wine Cellar: This place is #1!! Toma greeted us personally at the door and gave us a quick explanation of the restaurant history as well as the family process of wine-making. I won’t go into detail…just make a reservation and GO!!
- Tea House Foe-Foe: An eclectic interior and good breakfast menu.
- The BBQ at a restaurant that I can’t remember the name of was the best BBQ I’ve had since arriving in Georgia. It’s located here. If you happen to know (or find out) the name of this place, please let me know!!
Outside my Comfort Zone
So my travel companion was really excited about visiting Prometheus Cave. How could I not indulge – you know I’m a people pleaser. Anyway, If you don’t know me…I DONT like small spaces! In fact, once I couldn’t even go into the cellar of some castle because the space was just too narrow and claustrophobic.
But, I digress…I pushed past my anxiety and spent an hour or so underground. In retrospect, it wasn’t nearly as anxiety-inducing as I had anticipated. The cave is huge and spacious. Other than a few short areas, the pathways are all wide enough for two people to easily walk side by side.