Georgia round up πŸ‡¬πŸ‡ͺ

While the transition from Greece to Turkey felt gradual, the difference between eastern Turkey and Georgia was immediate. Food instantly became more varied, Islam changed to Christianity, clothing became less conservative, the Latin alphabet became Mkhedruli script and the structured coach network was replaced with an informal collection of marshrutkas. After three weeks in Asia, it felt like we’d re-entered Europe.


We travelled from Batumi in the west to Tbilisi in the east almost exclusively by marshrutkas.

While we loved the organised chaos of marshrutkas, the lack of certainty kept us on our toes regarding whether they departed on a schedule or when full, and whether passengers should buy a ticket or pay the driver. We also found that driver care on the road varied wildly, and it seemed that essential requirements included a huge crack across the windscreen and reliably departing before closing the sliding minibus door. We also witnessed many pre-departure altercations between fellow passengers and sometimes the driver. We think the source of these arguments related to who sat where and whether the passenger had bought a ticket before reserving a seat, but we’ll never know for sure. The best part of these situations was that inevitably, every passenger on the marshrutka threw in their two cents, while we sat helplessly and watched it unfold.

While there are train lines in Georgia, there are generally only one or two trains a day, often at inconvenient times of day (or night!). We were most excited about the scenic Borjomi-Bakuriani railway, but sadly this route hasn’t restarted since it was paused during the pandemic. Still, I managed to weave a round-trip train journey into our day trip to Gori.

We enjoyed the amount of bureaucracy that went in to the purchase of this train ticket, despite Gori only being 79 km from Tbilisi. Our passports were required, seats were allocated, and after lots of typing, we were presented with an airline-style ticket each. And after all that, we found some people sitting in our seats anyway.


Our route across Georgia was our second most carbon intensive journey so far, despite also being the shortest distance we’d travelled within a single country. This is largely because I’ve classified our marshrutka journeys as “average local bus”, which is nearly 4 times more carbon intensive than “coach”, according the the UK government’s carbon database. This is probably an overestimation of our carbon emissions, but it’s the best I could do with the available data.

This brings our total carbon emissions from transport since leaving London to 676 kgCO2e, so we’re now well over halfway towards the minimum offset size of 1,000 kgCO2e.


We spent less money per day and less money in total in Georgia compared to any other country we’ve visited so far. This was despite feasting on Georgian delicacies in some great restaurants while we were there.

Transport costs were responsible for less than 10% of our expenditure in Georgia. This proportion is similar to Turkey, but noticeably less than the proportion spent on transport in Italy and Greece. Despite travel by marshrutka being quite hair-raising at times, they really were cost-effective. For instance, we travelled the 267 km from Batumi in the south to Mestia in the north for the equivalent of Β£16.50 each.


We saw about 5 cats per day in Georgia, which sadly doesn’t even hold a candle to Greece or Turkey’s totals.

We did meet some particularly fine chaps though – quality not quantity!

πŸ…Award for the cutest flood barrier

If it fits, I sits

πŸ…Award for the most co-ordinated cat gang

They arrived en masse, worked together to fleece this woman of her dinner, then dispersed to wreak havoc around the rest of the restaurant

We also saw plenty of dogs, although these were not counted so rigorously. At first we were apprehensive of stray dogs when they approached us in the street or while we were hiking, but it was hard to not feel attached when they would quietly follow you for hours purely for company and the chance of a scrap of food. We also noticed that most of them had tags in their ears, presumably to track and record health status, which I thought was pretty impressive. Still, I think my favourite photo is this one of a stack of snoozing Georgian puppies.

From Tbilisi, we took the overnight sleeper train to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, although this wasn’t where the day’s journey ended…

Revisiting lovely Tbilisi (and Gori for the first time)

Our initial plan had been to pass though Georgia in two or three days on the way to Armenia, but nearly three weeks later, we’re still here! I thought that we’d seen all we wanted to see on our last visit in 2019 (when we spent time in Tbilisi and the wine region, Kakheti) but that was definitely not the case. In fact, we found so many new things that we wanted to do that Tbilisi was the first place on our Georgian itinerary that we revisited. We were very happy to be back.

Because we’d seen many of the main sights previously, this freed us up to do what we like doing best anyway – wandering, admiring the architecture, and eating. Tbilisi has a really distinctive look and it’s a treat just to roam its streets. If, like me, you’re a fan of doors, it’s a great city. I’m aware that if you don’t particularly like doors (or perhaps have never considered your level of liking for them), you’ll probably think that sounds really strange, but I know there are other people like me! We also spent some time hanging out on our pretty (but frankly quite precarious) balcony.

We paid a visit to the Dry Bridge Market, which was absolutely full of treasures. If only we had somewhere to live, I think we would have bought quite a few bits! The thought of carrying additional things in our backpacks is a very good incentive to be disciplined, though.

At some point during our slow meandering around Tbilisi, we realised that we had made a slight miscalculation in that the every-second-day sleeper train to Yerevan (our next connection) did not, in fact, depart on even dates but on odd dates. Whoops! This left us without accommodation but with a bonus day, which we decided to spend in Gori.


Gori is Georgia’s 5th most populous city, but is much better known as Stalin’s birthplace. Although I suspect it was both faster and more convenient to travel there by marshrutka, Oli convinced me that we should take the train, given it was one of the few rail routes in Georgia. This was by far the oldest train we’d travelled on and the process to obtain a ticket was suitably beaurocratic. Once we boarded the train, we became well acquainted with the conductor because every time he saw us (which, over a 90-minute journey, was quite a few times), he enthusiastically shouted, “Gori! Gori!” After an inauspicious start where we Brysoned our way out of Gori railway station through a spooky but fascinating yard of rusting train carriages, we headed to the Stalin Museum.

I think we would have got lots more out of the museum if our Georgian or Russian language skills were up to scratch, but as it was we missed much of the written information. We did enjoy examining the scale model of the secret underground printing press where Communist propaganda were printed, though.

I was also pretty impressed with this portait of Stalin meeting Mao Zedong – it’s embroidery!

Parked (stationed?!) outside the museum was Stalin’s private train carriage and this was really up our street. Unfortunately, there was a tour group there at the same time taking many photos who were slightly irritating. Oli’s pose below is supposedly a cruel imitation of their poses, but actually I think he really was this excited at having so much train-related fun in one day!

Our next stop was lunch, and we followed a recommendation to a very local workers’ cafe in residential backstreet to try the local speciality: cutlet. It might not look like much but it was pretty good! Think Ikea meatballs but with delicious fried crispy edges, smooth mash and a spiced tomato sauce…

In the afternoon, we climbed up to the citadel, which gave us a great view across the city. At the base of the citadel, we stumbled across the Memorial of Georgian War Heroes. This was a circle of eight huge metal sculptures of soldiers, where each one had something missing, such as an arm, a leg or a head – symbolising what is lost in war. It was beautifully done and really moving.

While exploring the old town, we saw our 50th Georgian cat (a milestone!) He declined to pose, but our 51st and 52nd cat were only too happy to work it for the camera.

Back in Tbilisi, the other side effect of our train miscalculation was that we needed to move accommodation. We chose the extremely hipster Fabrika, a hostel housed in an old Soviet sewing factory, complete with co-working facilities, maker’s spaces and a courtyard filled with small food joints.

For our bonus evening, we had drinks at Wine Merchants and a delicious dinner at Asi Khinkali, before joining in the Saturday night melee back at Fabrika. It had a really nice buzz but we might have been the oldest there…

We woke up the next morning to rain and slight hangovers, which meant it was the perfect time to relax in Tbilisi’s famous sulphur baths. We chose a private room at Gulo’s Thermal Spa. Although there are public baths, if you’re not so into public nudity or just fancy some peace and quiet, renting a private room is a good option. On our last visit, we were on less of a budget and our room was positively palatial. This time, we were a little more frugal but still ended up with a four-roomed space that was larger than our London flat! It’s a bit of a rite of passage to have a kisi exfoliating scrub, but given I’d tried this last time and it was one of the least dignified experiences of my life (slithering around on a marble slab while all soaped up and then having a bucket of cold water poured over my head!), I opted out this time. I imagine it would have sorted my hangover out pretty quickly, though!

The rain continued all day but we were determined to enjoy our last few hours in this beautiful city, so we spent the afternoon walking and revisited the Bridge of Peace, one of Tbilisi’s iconic pieces of modern architecture.

That evening, we caught our first proper sleeper train of the trip to Yerevan, Armenia, marking the end of our time in lovely Georgia.

Georgian gorging

As we might have mentioned once or twice, we really enjoyed Turkey, but the one place where it fell slightly short for us was on food. Make no mistake, nearly all the individual meals were delicious, but for us, the variety just wasn’t there – particularly in the east. Most towns had a speciality kebab, but to our untrained palates they were remarkably similar to each other! If anything, this made arriving in Georgia an even bigger treat. The food is just SO good, with a focus on fresh, seasonal and regional fare.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been truly feasting on good food and wine, and this post is a bit of an ode to some of our favourites. I’m not usually much of a food photographer (I’m much, much more interested in the eating), so I was cringing taking all of the photos that follow! Hopefully they capture some of the deliciousness, though.


Boat-shaped Adjaruli khachapuri is probably what most people imagine when they think of Georgian food (if they think of anything at all – I truly believe that Georgia has one of the world’s great unknown cuisines), but there are actually lots of regional varieties of khachapuri. All involve some element of breadiness and plenty of cheese, and some add further cheese, butter or eggs. Having khachapuri’d a little too hard last time we were in Georgia, we were a bit more measured this time, but we still ate a horrifying amount of cheese and regretted none of it!

My favourite version is Imeruli khachapuri (I’m looking very happy holding one in the photo below) – it’s easy to eat on the go because the cheese is stuffed inside the bread, and it doesn’t go quite so big on the cheese as some other versions. By the way – you might be thinking along the lines of pizza, but it doesn’t really taste like that at all. The cheese is much saltier and tangier than mozzarella and you can’t eat nearly as much in one go (trust me, I’ve tried).


We’ve already raved about khinkali, but these filled dumplings are probably our favourite Georgian food – although it’s a very close contest. When we arrived in Tbilisi and realised that our days in Georgia were numbered, we ordered some as part of nearly every meal! We tried some different varieties, including ‘branded’ khinkali (below left – a speciality of Zodiaqo) and mushroom khinkali, which came with a butter sauce (below right), but kalakuri remain our top pick. We met an Armenian-Russian couple on the Tbilisi – Yerevan sleeper train who are convinced that khinkali taste even better in Yerevan (although they admitted they hadn’t tried our faves from Khinkali Ludi in Batumi), so we’re very excited to follow their restaurant recommendation when we get there next week!


The name translates to ‘family meal’, and it’s a simple dish that’s definitely more than the sum of its parts. I think it can be made with other meats, but we had the pork version a few times, oven baked with potatoes, onion, garlic, white wine and topped with pomegranite seeds. Oli already wrote a love letter to the version we had at Cafe Laila in Mestia (left pic), and I think this wins the award for us – they were all good, though. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!


Ostri is a thick, rich and fragrant beef stew that tastes SO much better than it looks. We ate this a couple of times when the weather felt particularly autumnal (i.e. chilly) and it was a total delight. Our winner (below left) was from the tiny (and oddly-named) Cafe Tourist in Borjomi, which was super herby and had a surprise addition of sour cream that was so delicious in combination with the rich flavours of the stew.

Chicken with tkemali sauce

I think this takes the award for the most beautiful meal we ate in Georgia.

We met an American chap called Ted on a marshrutka who told us about a sensational meal he’d had at Asi Khinkali in Tbilisi. I was dying to try fried chicken with tkemali, a sour plum sauce, but his description convinced me to wait until we reached Tbilisi and could eat the same version. We made it there on our final evening and it was worth the wait. The chicken was succulent with a salty, crispy skin, and the sauce was the perfect contrast – cold (which surprised us!) very sour and almost citrussy.

Walnut everything

Georgian cuisine goes big on walnuts. One of our favourite ways to eat them is in nigvziani badrijani (aubergine rolls filled and topped with walnut paste). These are light, garlicky and really delicious as a starter, and we ordered them almost everywhere. They were consistently good – we couldn’t pick a favourite.

A variation on this is pkhali (top right pic), which adds vegetables such as spinach, beetroot or cabbage to the walnut paste mix. The best pkhali we had were at Heart of Batumi, but we hadn’t decided to write this post at that point so there’s no photo of these!

Also, they’re not walnut, but an honourable mention for the pickled bladdernut buds (top of the main photo below), which we only ordered because they sounded like something from Harry Potter. They tasted a bit like it, too.

Pine cone honey

This is a speciality of Borjomi that I just had to try. It’s also known as pine cone jam, which better captures how it is prepared (boiling green pine cones in sugar syrup). Despite the name(s), it was nothing like any honey or jam I’ve ever tasted – it was the colour of blood oranges with a sweet, tangy, fruity taste and then a fresh, resinous aftertaste. I could only really compare it to how I would imagine eating a Christmas tree might taste! We ate it on bread so fresh that it was still warm, sold to Oli directly from the bakery by a lady with floury hands.

On that note, it’s probably worth mentioning the phenomenal bread in Georgia. Baked fresh in flat loaves throughout the day, it’s somehow soft, chewy and stretchy all at the same time.

Peeking into a bakery in Tbilisi. The dome on the floor is the oven and the bread was being baked to order. Check out that huge mound of dough on the counter!


Finally, I had to mention Borano for being the most aggressively unhealthy dish we ate in our 19 days in Georgia. Made of melted sulguni cheese, it was like fondue but without the dipping (unless we were doing something very wrong!) The guide that we’d read suggested that there was a version that included potato, if you fancied something lighter. Any dish that is made lighter by the addition of potato is sure to be quite something! And yes, that is butter on top. Don’t worry, we didn’t finish this. Our arteries wouldn’t let us.

Borano with potato from BatuMarani

I’m sorry if this post made you hungry – my stomach is now rumbling after proof reading the above! Georgia is a delicious country πŸ˜‹πŸ‡¬πŸ‡ͺ