Georgia in winter, for two (and for 3 days only)

Georgia - a destination we have considered visiting for a few times. So far, however, we had taken into account only summer holidays period, but tempting price offers from the Wizz Air line in winter helped us to make our choice. This trip was different in many respects. First of all, it was only three full days, during which only the two of us got to know the charms of the mountain capital of Georgia - Gudauri.

First things first. As always, a handful of practical information:

  1. Georgia - a country located on the border between Europe and Asia, neighboring with Russia, Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. The capital - Tbilisi, population of 3.7 million, with access to the Black Sea, and with the well-known resort of Batumi. 100 Lari (the currency of Georgia) is approximately PLN 70 (as of February 7, 2019).

  2. Gudauri - supposedly the best ski resort in the country, located more than 100 km from the capital. You can get there in two ways: by air - either through Tbilisi (more expensive but faster) or by low-cost Wizz Air airlines flying to, located much farther, Kutaisi. The total length of the ski slopes is 57 km with the lowest point at 2050 m above sea level, while the highest is up to 3250 m above sea level. Skiing continues there practically from October to May. The New Gudauri are hotels and apartments built side by side next to the ski lifts - including the most modern gondola.

    The resort changes virtually every year. It is said that a few years ago there were very few attractions there. Today there is a whole lot of them - from paragliding to snowmobiles, spa, swimming pool and others. One can also see new apartment buildings being built.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYBh3Bmnzas

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xak0gYmOxZ8

    Gudauri, in addition to slopes for beginners and advanced skiers, is also famous for the extreme free ride and for skiing down from a helicopter.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJZxWgXlu4M

  3. As a curiosity, we can add that Georgia is a country to which Poles can travel having only and ID card on them (obviously as an alternative to a passport). Interestingly, it is the only country in the world that allows Poles to stay without a visa for up to 360 days. Georgian resorts such as Batumi (Black Sea), Gudauri (High Caucasus) or Bakuriani (High Caucasus) are experiencing an investment boom when it comes to building apartment or hotels. The prices of new apartments tempt foreign buyers; in addition, the purchase process itself and the form of ownership are very friendly and simple compared to other countries.

Let's get to our account. The flight from Katowice to the city of Kutaisi lasted slightly over 3 hours. The choice of this Georgian city is not accidental. This is the cheapest way to reach this country. We decided on the small suitcase + backpack + priority entry option. In both cases, the cost of the flight for 2 adults was less than 550 PLN. We flew on February 5 and planned the return trip for February 9. Just a few days dedicated to skiing and getting to know the interesting surroundings of this ski resort. Kutaisi, however, has a very big downside - it is really far away from Gudauri - less than 300 km.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get there. One of them are coaches of the Georgian Bus line (with wifi), which offer a "door to door" service - including transport to an indicated hotel or apartment. The entire network of connections, also with other cities in Georgia, is arranged with arriving or departing planes in mind. It is worth noting that the website is also in Polish.

https://georgianbus.com/new/?lng=pol

We have to admit, however, that 4-5 hours trip is something you have to get used to. First of all Georgian drivers go really fast, and let’s call it diplomatically - boldly. It just so happens that we were sitting in the first row and more than once our adrenaline level spiked. The quality of the roads also leaves much to be desired - an area that really needs major improvements. It was also interesting to see that after a 30-minute journey the driver stopped at a local (probably familiar to him) bar. Passengers all got out and started ordering various dishes - hot and cold, eating full. There we tried our first dishes of the excellent Georgian cuisine. It is worth noting that our bus eventually went to Tbilisi and about a few dozen kilometers outside the capital we changed to a car, whose driver took us to a new, fully equipped and located about 150 m from the gondola, apartment (booked by airbn.pl with the cost of 350 PLN / night).

When thinking about going to Gudauri, it is worth considering whether to choose cheap airline tickets to Kutaisi, with a later long road trip, or fly to Tbilisi, pay much more but land closer to the ski resort.

We spent the first day of our stay on getting to know the largest ski resort in Georgia. The amazing views of snow-capped mountain peaks with numerous ski lifts make a huge impression. For the first ascent, with a 10-person gondola, we decided to go without skis to get to know the surroundings and possible downhill rides (we must add that our skiing skills need much improvement). The mentioned ski lift goes to the station where there are bars / restaurants serving wonderful, tasty Georgian dishes. From there you can take lifts to the higher parts of the mountains or ski down a suitable slope.

The views you can see while drinking Georgian wine are simply amazing. From every side you can see snow-capped peaks of thousands meter high mountains. The, almost burning, sun and blue sky make it possible to look at such pictures for hours.

All that in a highly international atmosphere - tourists from around the world with the largest number of Russians and Poles, for whom Gudauri is a strong alternative to alpine slopes. As it is in every mountain resort, the prices, especially in the bars (let’s call them high altitude kind) are much higher than standard ones in Georgia - but still affordable. For example, for two homemade servings of wine and delicious Chaczapuri (yeast pancakes with cheese stuffing) we paid 50 Lari, which is approximately 70 PLN. It is probably not a lot while looking at the surrounding landscapes.

There is a whole lot of amazing places there to feel delighted with the view of mountain peaks.

The entire second day was dedicated to skiing. There are many alternative slopes - routes for beginners (also for children) and advanced skiers are available in large quantities

Prices (here in EUR) are attractive when considering the length of the rides.

We spent the third day on a day-long tour of the Gudauri area. There are several famous places that are definitely worth visiting. As our time was very limited, we decided to use a local travel agency - we bought a trip with a local English-speaking guide.

https://kartvelitours.com/

At 10 o'clock a very nice guide named Beka came to our apartment, we would like to greet him at this time - he will probably read this account. The first place we visited was a Georgian-Russian friendship monument built at the end of the USSR's existence, precisely in 1983. It was created to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the signing of a friendship treaty between the two countries. The whole rotunda is really a colorful mosaic with Georgian and Russian elements. Of course, the whole place can be interpreted (especially in the present time) a bit differently but let’s leave this point without further comment. However, the place itself is charming - also with a beautiful view of the surrounding high mountains.

Right after that we drove to the Georgian-Russian border. It is just a few dozen kilometers from Russian Vladivostok and North Ossetia. This is also the reason why in Gudauri the most tourists are from Russia. Right before the border is the Daliari monastery, which we had the opportunity to visit and light candles on behalf of the loved ones.

However, the best was ahead of us. Another place to visit was probably the most famous Georgian attraction of the 14th century Cminda Sameba (Holy Trinity) monastery near the town of Stepancmind called also Kazbegi. This is a very popular place, often appearing on postcards from Georgia; most often visited during the warmer months of the year. However, we decided to go up to 2,170 meters above sea level and believe me it was not easy. Normally, you can drive a car to this place, but then it was not possible. A very large amount of snow prevented the use of a vehicle - we passed several off-road vehicles with 4x4 drive, but each of them at some point was stuck in the snow though.

The ascent left us out of breath and took 2 hours from where we left the car. By the way, it was a bit of a laugh because it was enough that you put your foot in a different place than a beaten track (an icy path!) and you could land in snow up to your knees. After reaching the top, a well-known image of the monastery appeared in front of us.

Also from this place you can admire the panorama of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. However, one of them deserves more time. This is the third peak of Georgia - Kazbek, 5047 meters above sea level. It is really a dormant volcano, which reigns among the surrounding peaks on both Georgian and Russian sides. The mountain is known for its very capricious weather. It is worth noting that not every journey to the top is successful, there have been numerous fatal accidents, also among Polish mountaineers.

Looking at the sunlit, magnificent peak, we started going down to the village of Gergeti, where a lunch with the Georgian family was planned for us. We were very curious about the dishes because Georgian cuisine is known for being very tasty.

As we arrived, a table with various delicacies awaited us. The best known Georgian dishes are:

  1. Mentioned earlier Chaczapuri - yeast pancakes with cheese or potato filling (you can try really many varieties in Georgia).

  2. Chinkali - pan-shaped dumplings most often with meat filling. It is interesting that during the cooking they let juices out of them. So you cannot eat them like we tried - with a knife and a fork. You have to take them in your hand, then gently bite the dough and drink the outflowing decoction. They are very tasty and resemble our Polish meat dumplings a bit. It was also the only dish that Jola learned to prepare. After the initial training by a Georgian cook, it worked out quite well. Seemingly simple, but everything requires practice. One of the chinkali in the picture is Jola’s - guess which? It, of course, tasted exceptionally well ?

In addition to the dishes mentioned above, we tried a whole lot of other goodies and it would really be appropriate to devote a completely different report to it.

The entire dinner we drank excellent Georgian wine (it is ubiquitous everywhere there) and Chacha beverage with 50% alcohol content. The latter is made of grape marc and is a national drink of Georgians.

Of course, toasts are very important in Georgia.
The first one is drunk for God
The second one is drunk for the country
The third and the next ones are drunk for everything

The trip ended in the late afternoon. We said goodbye to our guide Beka - thank you for some really interesting information about this beautiful country. We spent the entire late evening in New Gudauri in the Drunk Cherry music pub, which we recommend due to excellent food and live music. That evening was really outstanding!

Thanks to all who have endured to the end of our account - cordial greetings and be welcome to read our future reports. And so, Georgia is also recommended :)

Dawid and Jola

Georgia 10/02/2019

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