We don't talk about Georgia
I couldn't resist this blog title - not only was "We Don't Talk About Bruno" from Encanto the unintentional 'internal soundtrack' of my recent adventure to the beautiful country of Georgia, but it also seemed that it wasn't the most easy destination to research as other places I have travelled to.
It seemed that not many people talked about Georgia...
So I'm spilling the tea, and will reveal everything you need to know about finding the hidden gems of Georgia, and hopefully allow this to become the newest addition to your travel bucket list.
First, let me take you back to the heart of the pandemic.
We were ALL grounded.
Travel was a distant memory.
Future trips were getting cancelled left, right and centre!
And it was in this moment that travel shows, travel books, YouTube vlogs, Instagram hashtags and Facebook groups became my adventures. This was my way of living out my travel bucket list and exploring new destinations whilst stuck indoors. I even downloaded Google Earth and would drop my digital-self into different parts of the world and take a walk around. Ridiculous...I know! But honestly don't knock it until you try it! *Reader quickly downloads Google Earth*
So in the midst of all this, (and particularly through watching Race Across The World on repeat) I realised that it was time to diversify my bucket list. Many of the places I wanted to go to were mainstream, well-travelled, "Instagrammably popular" destinations. Before you get the pitch-forks out, there's nothing wrong with my basic bucket list! Of course the reason that destinations are popular is because they provide something incredible - there's a reason that tourism is popping there, right? But what I realised was that there are also a LOT of countries, particularly across Europe, that offer similar landscapes and an even more unique experience at a fraction of the price of some of these popular tourist hotspots.
So my bucket list expanded like wildfire. I had nothing but time and nothing but the ever-growing desire to travel to every corner of the earth!
It was then that I stumbled across Eco House Merisi in a Facebook group. It had a glass bedroom that hung over the edge of a two-storey cabin and overlooked the most stunning lush, green mountainous landscape. Not only that, but it had a glass platform that gave the illusion that you were walking above the clouds, a swing that looked as though swung you off the edge of a mountain and beautiful outdoor hot tubs. Once it was saved on my bucket list, it didn't take long for it to rise the the top. I got chatting with the girl who had posted about it in the Facebook group and she said that there were only a handful of cabins, so to get the one you wanted, you'd need to book about six months in advance.
The next month, I booked it!
Me and my friend Stacey were all in, and I slowly started to build the trip around that particular accommodation. It soon became apparent that there are no direct flights to Georgia from the UK - we would need to change in Istanbul. And it just so happens that four years ago, me and Stacey had spent the most whirlwind, incredible weekend in Istanbul visiting my friend who lived there. So naturally, we decided that since we were passing by, we might as well add a cheeky Istanbul visit to our itinerary.
Then, I started looking into Georgia and was fascinated by what I found! So many beautiful and unique places scattered across the country. From black sand beaches, to mountains and ski resorts. So many cultural influences from other parts of Europe, stories that I'd never heard about a conflict-ridden history and a bright future. I wanted to see more of this country and really make the most of it while we were there - YOLO and all that.
Our two night getaway soon turned into a four-night break, then into a five night trip, before we eventually settled on a seven night holiday across two countries and four cities.
I booked our train tickets, sorted out transfers got in touch with the hotels directly, and we were all set!
But even with hella organisation, the trip didn't exactly go as planned.
Arriving in Istanbul was pretty smooth-sailing to begin with. We caught the Havabus into the city which cost about £3. But then the chaos commenced! We got stuck in crazy traffic as there was a big football game on, looking out of the window was like watching a video game - there were no rules!
We then got dropped off in the city and jumped into a taxi, however shortly after were kicked out because we has the "wrong serial number" on our Turkish Lira. I still can't make sense of it, but the driver said that this serial was good to be used for shopping, hotels and restaurants but not taxis. Bottom line, use Uber - it was the easiest and cheapest way to get around the city, and we didn't get kicked out of any more taxis.
Unfortunately our hotel (The Peak Hotel Taksim) failed to tell us that it was under construction during our stay. You couldn't have asked for a better location to be in the thick of it all. Taksim square was right behind the hotel, there was a rooftop with a pool that offered great views of Istanbul. But the drilling, the noise and the chaos was not it!
We easily slinked back into travel-mode and explored the city like we'd never been before. we ate our way through the city and were welcomed positively by the locals. It was really great to be back.
From Istanbul, we headed back to the airport and got onto our second flight of the trip to Batumi, Georgia.
When I booked Eco House back in 2021, I did a forecast-check and saw that by March it was likely to be sunny and blue skies with a bit of rain. The temperature would be quite mild, although a little fresh and chilly most days - but that was totally okay with us. We had visions of sitting on the day beds wrapped in blankets, smoking shisha in the hot tub and enjoying the view regardless. The ultimate cabin escape.
All through December, January and February I stalked their Instagram page and their tagged photos - all I saw blue skies, green scenery and the most breathtaking views.
So imagine my surprise when a week before our trip in March, their Instagram account was flooded with photos of snow! Piles and piles and piles of it! I have never seen so much snow in my LIFE! A huge part of me hoped that it would have melted by the time we arrived, and thankfully that was confirmed when finalising the details of our transfer with the lodge the day before we arrived - we were so pleased to hear that they would be sending a standard car transfer rather than the jeep that they send when there is snow. (The transfer takes about 90 mins and costs 100GEL for the car and 150GEL for the jeep).
Our driver collected us from Batumi airport which is probably the smallest airport I have ever landed in. There were no other planes there, only two luggage carousels and the arrivals terminal is the same size as Bedford train station. Our driver had a smile on his face and a paper sign with "Sherilyn" written on it, we hopped into the car and off we went into the mountains.
As we drove, it started to rain a little, and as we climbed the mountain landscape, the rain turned into sleet, then into tiny flakes of snow. It was actually really beautiful to watch. The buildings were old and rustic and looked like something out of a movie as we climbed higher into the mountains and the snow set - leaving the huts, cabins and building looking like something out of a Christmas film.
The snow got heavier - unbelievably heavy! - and before we knew it, everything in our sight was covered in layers of thick powdery snow. We spotted a car ahead that had gotten stuck and there were a bunch of people with shovels trying to get it to move. At this point, nervous laughter was upon us. We had no way of communicating with our driver to ask questions due to the language barrier and as the car struggled up the mountain, we had no idea how much further we had to go. The wheels were spinning and we all held our breath at every corner whilst trying not to look out of the window at the sheer mountain drop-offs that seemed to be inches away.