The electricity bill for the small flat I had rented in Tbilisi had just doubled because of falling temperatures. I was reaching the end of the needed research for my hiking guide about Georgia. And a good friend of mine was planning a vacation in Thailand and Myanmar.
I decided that I could as well finish my hiking guide while enjoying the warmer climate of Southeast Asia – and I am writing this post while enjoying the sea view on Phuket island, Thailand! (Okay, it’s grey and rainy today, but hey, it’s still the sea and there’s a palm tree right next to my balcony, so what.)
Just before I left Georgia somebody asked me what I liked and didn’t like about the country, and it got me thinking about what I will miss and what I won’t miss. Here we go:
Top 5 Things I Will Miss About Georgia
- Georgian people and their hospitality
Actually, some foreigners find Georgians a little grumpy and unfriendly at first, especially if their first encounter is with people working at shops or with marshrutka drivers. But it doesn’t take you long to realize that hospitality is a fundamental character trait and deeply held value of the Georgian people, especially when they see that you share with them the love of their country.
- Great hiking in the mountains and other regions of the country
- Sitting next to a warm wood oven in the living room and kitchen of a traditional Georgian guesthouse during cold evenings and mornings in the mountains, while watching how cheese is being made and being fed yummy dishes straight from said oven. (My Georgian vocabulary is still quite limited, but I doubt I’ll ever forget “Xame, xame!” = “Eat, eat!”)
- The quite harmonic mix of tradition (music and dances, toasts and celebrations, etc.) and modern life. I never had the impression that people were somehow clinging on to traditions nor putting on a show for tourists, they simply remain part of everyday Georgian life.
- The metro in Tbilisi: It’s only got two lines, the ride’s quite noisy, but it’s cheap and clean, and you get to use some of the longest escalators I’ve ever seen. Plus you don’t have to haggle with taxi drivers nor try to figure out how the Tbilisi minibus system works.
Top 5 Things I Will NOT Miss About Georgia
- Georgian cheese and wine
I do apologize to all my Georgian friends for this one, but neither Georgian cheese nor its famous wine have really grown on me during my stay. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really good cheese and wine (for example, at the Pheasant’s Tears in Sighnaghi), but, altogether, they are just not for me. (I admit I felt very much with the French travelers who I met at a hostel and who were asked by our host how they liked the wine in Georgia: listening to their pained attempts at giving a polite reply was priceless.)
- Being cold
I am one of those people who need a polar expedition sleeping bag when camping in summer, and apparently I chose one of the rainiest and coldest years for coming to Georgia and writing a hiking guide, of all things. Apart from the lovely wood oven in the living room there was usually no heating installed in the guesthouses I stayed at, and I don’t remember ever having been so cold so often as in the past six months.
- Rubbish everywhere
During one hike my companion and me got caught in the rain on our way back. Fortunately somebody gave us a ride in his shiny new SUV. He introduced himself to us as the vice-president of some hiking association in Georgia, then rolled down the window and tossed his empty water bottle out. If I had to name one thing that really annoyed me in Georgia, it was that its roadsides often resemble garbage dumps and people leave trash in even the most beautiful places.
Won’t miss it simply because I didn’t see any. This although Georgian National Parks are home to an impressive range of animals. But friends of mine did see a wolf in Tusheti!
- Alright, it’s supposed to be a top 5 list, but I just can’t think of anything else right now that I won’t miss… Maybe seeing how split people are over politics, but I’m afraid I’ll get that in other countries, too.
In any case, the good things outweigh by far those that I’ll be happy to leave behind, and though now I am mostly looking forward to exploring a completely different part of the world, I already know that at one point my meanderings will bring me back to Georgia. There’s many more trails to be explored, and who knows, in a year or two I might even miss the cheese…
This post is also available in Deutsch.