Georgia on my mind

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Asia » Georgia
July 9th 2014
Published: August 31st 2014
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Georgia may not be everyone's first choice for a holiday destination, but Amy's Mum and Dad have been interested in visiting for a long while. So, when the opportunity arose to visit during our honeymoon trip (with Amy!), we jumped at the chance to go and explore.

First stop was the capital city, Tbilisi. During our visit, it was agreed that Tbilisi could best be described as a cross between La Paz, Luxembourg and Berlin in the '90s. A strange mix but good at describing its unique geography (lots of hills surrounding the city), post-communist feel and the fact that there was lots of building work going on to create some pretty cool public spaces. Some particular highlights included:

- dinner at the top of the funicular, with excellent food, wine and views across the city

- wandering the small cobbled-street old town and visiting its churches

- enjoying the new architecture on offer, including the lovely new Peace Bridge and nearby park on the river

- relaxing in Prospero's bookshop, taking in the ex-pat vibe. This was Amy's favourite spot as they had a nice big area for her to crawl about.
While exploring the capital was great fun, we really visited Georgia to see the mountains. The two best areas we explored were Kazbegi and Svaneti.

Mount Kazbek is the centrepiece of a visit to Kazbegi, situated in the Caucasus in the north-east of the country, very close to the Russian border and reached via the famous Georgian Military Highway. We stayed at a fantastic hotel, "Rooms Hotel", where Amy was adored by the staff, we enjoyed the swimming pool and had amazing views (on clear days!) of the nearby mountains from the massive terrace. The food was also great and breakfast was especially worth waking up for. Even better, it was one of the few places in Georgia that had a baby high-chair! We enjoyed some scenic hikes nearby, including to the Trinity Church and onwards towards Mt Kazbek.

Svaneti is another well-known mountain area in Georgia, this time in the north-west of the country. We stayed in the town of Mestia which has good access to the surrounding mountains. One of our favourite excursions, which we did twice because we enjoyed it so much, was to take the Hatsvali ski lift up to Zuruldi and take in the views from the cafe at the top. It was a very chilled out place and the coffee on offer was very tasty. Amy especially loved the play area here. We also did a hike one day from the top across the mountain ridge, which was very enjoyable and quiet and gave us lovely views of the region. Another day's hike saw us tackle the route to the large cross above Mestia straight-on. This is the classic hike in Mestia and gave us great views of the famous Mt. Ushba. Svaneti was also remarkable for us as this was the place where Amy learned to stand up all by herself. We were relaxing in our hotel room and turned around to see that she had pulled herself up to stand holding onto her cot - very exciting and clearly she's keen to get moving!

There's more to Georgia than the mountains of course. Close to Tbilisi is Gori, where the main square and main street are named after Stalin, who was born and grew up here. Nowadays most people visit the Stalin museum which doesn't exactly tell the full story... it was a bit bizarre to see so many people posing with Stalin's statue, he's clearly still popular with some folk.

Travelling in Georgia with a baby does present some challenges, such as the lack of high chairs and baby cots. But mostly we managed well and the locals were very friendly and welcoming to Amy.

We ended our visit to Georgia at the touristy town of Batumi on the Black Sea coast, which has a much different feel to the rest of the country. Apparently it has benefitted from a lot of 'oil money' and it is certainly full of snazzy apartments and more seem to be being built every day. Try as we might we could not get Amy to swim in the Black Sea but we think she enjoyed seeing her Dad splashing about instead!

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