Georgia; skiing and culture in the Caucasus

One of the up-and-coming ski destinations is definitely Georgia and especially a region called Svaneti. Clearly I’m not talking about one of the states in the USA but about an exotic country located in the Caucasus. People are supposedly very friendly and welcoming and some remote skiing is on offer in several parts of the country. In February 2017 I boarded a plane to check it out!

The world renowned airline of Ukraine took me from Vienna to Kutaisi, the second largest city of Georgia with nearly 200.000 inhabitants. Kutaisi is the most Northern international airport and therefore closest to the region of Svaneti, my first stop in the Caucasus. The Georgian crowd that was waiting to board the plan in Kiev was an interesting one to say the least. Dressed in grey and black mainly Georgian men were waiting to board the plain. Based on their looks they could easily be some of the worst criminals you’ve ever seen. Structure and order are left out of their vocabulary so boarding was a mess. This continued in the plane, even after take off. Most people started changing seats immediately and my neighbor started to make phonecalls with his mobile. Remember, we were already in the air! Normally I would say something about it, but this time I wasn’t too sure about the consequences and figured I had better chances of surviving this flight by simply ignoring the man. Luckily the flight experienced no significant interference of any means so I arrived safely in Georgia. At the airport however, the chaos continued. People skipped the line at immigration upsetting both other people and officials and outside the airport a small riot was prevented by the police. Welcome to Georgia, let the adventure begin!

So, my journey started in Kutaisi from where I would travel North to explore the skiing in the Svaneti region. Next, I would visit the coastal town of Batumi before checking out the brand new resort of Goderdzi. Finally I would make my way towards the famous ski resort of Gudauri before finishing in the capital of Tbilisi.

Kutaisi turned out to be an interesting place to start my visit to Georgia. As I have already mentioned, the people are mainly dressed in grey and black. The buildings are old, grey and in many cases not finished. The streets are filled with men hanging out in groups due to the high unemployment rate, creating a rather unusual street view. Add the fact that winter had covered the city in a blanket of snow and the result is the scene of a bad movie of the 80’s…

the Bagrati cathedral had the only bit of color in all of Kutaisi…

My arrival at my homestay was at a comfortable 3 am. After waking up the hostess, a 70+ year old lady, she immediately grabbed my bag of 21 kilos and dragged it up the stairs to the second floor. A man who later turned out to be a handyman, slept on the sofa next to my room. The next morning we were together at breakfast where we were completely lost in translation. The handyman started drinking the famous chacha, the Georgian grape vodka, at 9 am, why not. And, when I say ‘started drinking’ I don’t mean just one glass. Nope, the guy had emptied 5 glasses before I had hardly noticed it. That’s when I left the house, so who knows how many glasses he had finished during the whole day!

Still being shocked by the local diet, I visited some sights in and around the city. The most prominent building in Kutaisi is the Bagrati Cathedral, probably the only building with some color. It’s only a 15 minutes walk from the center to get there. Once I soaked up all the colors of the building I went back down to the center to try one of the many different breads for lunch. At 2 pm sharp a marshrutka, the Central Asian version of a minibus, would depart to Gelati. Together with Simon and Marta from Krakow (Poland), I enjoyed the ride up to the monastery located over there. On arrival it turned out a wedding was about to take place. We witnessed the ceremony and enjoyed the monastery, especially the interior with its wall paintings that, according to experts (not me…), are unique as they display the entire history of Georgian ecclesiastic wall paintings. On our way back to Kutaisi we visited the Motsameta monastery, beautifully located on a cliff. We finished the day with a huge meal at the Palaty restaurant, probably the best restaurant of Kutaisi.

Would you consider to live up there on the Katskhi pillar in order to avoid any temptation?

In the airplane I read about Kutaisi and noticed a very interesting sight near the city. The so-called Katskhi pillar is located roughly 50 km from Kutaisi and is basically a 131 feet high rock with a church on top of it. This pretty unique sight is located close to Chiatura, about 1,5 hours away from Kutaisi. First I had to take a marshrutka to the bus station next to the McDonald’s. There I had to find the correct marshrutka to Chiatura which was not that easy at all. The Georgian alphabet, or script, is all abacadabra to me so I had to rely on locals who didn’t speak a word of English to point me in the right direction. “Marshrutka, Chiatura?”, was all I could say and hope for the best. Once I had seen all 50 minibuses at the station, I finally ended up in a blue one going to Chiatura. Equipped with a note written by the hostess of the homestay mentioning the station I had to get off the bus, I started my journey to the Katskhi pillar. After more than an hour I decided to show the note to the man sitting next to me and that turned out to be just in time. Only a few minutes later I was there. Well, at the Katskhi monastery that it. From there I had to walk about 30 minutes to reach the pillar…

The Katskhi pillar was used by Christians who lived on top of pillars to avoid worldly temptation until the 15th century when the practice was stopped following the Ottoman invasion of Georgia. Nowadays a 59-year-old monk called Maxime lives up there in virtual solitude after he decided to make a change in life having spent time in prison before. Supplies are winched up to him by his followers and he only comes down twice a week the 131 feet ladder to pray with his followers. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to climb the ladder and visit the church and cottage where Maxime is living. Also, the views must be spectacular from up there. However, I did meet Maxime and wandered around the area for a while before making my way back to the main road in order to find a marshrutka back to Kutaisi. Shortly after a minibus stopped. I shouted ‘Kutaisi !’ and while the door opened, I jumped in and roughly 2 hours later I was back home with my temporary grandmother and the drunk handyman…

the town of Mestia with its famous Svan towers

One of the main reasons to visit Georgia was the skiing. First stop in the mountains was Svaneti, a historically turbulent region as it has been involved in quite a few wars and disputes. Villages in these rugged landscape are often too scattered to be encircled with a protective wall. Therefore, each individual house had to be separately protected, resulting in the Svan towers. These towers offered protection to their owners and to their livestock, and also served as shelters for the most valuable possessions of every family, as well as copies of holy scriptures and religious icons. Most of the towers date back to the period between the 9th and 12th century. These towers characterize the Svaneti villages and attracts quite a few tourists nowadays. These villages are also surrounded by some impressive mountains which is why I was there…

Two ski resorts, Hatsvali and Tetnuldi, are located in the vicinity of Mestia which is where I was based for a few days before moving on. Hatsvali is a small resort with only one chairlift. There is a long groomed run and some interesting tree skiing. At the bottom of the hill you’ll most likely be greeted by one of the dogs waiting to be pet in the cold. Another thing worth mentioning, is that both resorts have a ski police in order to prevent people to ski when they’re drunk. Something typical for Georgia I would say, although nobody in Georgia will admit he (only the men drink insane amounts) is drunk, even after a couple of liters of chacha and vodka. But, if you avoid being caught by the police, you can have a good time in Hatsvali. It’s uncrowded, cheap (25 lari, about € 9, for a day pass) and the views are pretty good from anywhere on the mountain.

Similarly priced, Tetnuldi has different skiing to offer. Located mainly above the tree line, this is more of a typical freeride destination and one with huge potential. Unfortunately for me the upper chairlift was not working for the whole season. Considering that the most interesting terrain can usually be found in the upper parts of a mountain, this was a disappointment to say the least. However, when lifts are not working, one can still use his own legs. So, after exploring the bottom part of the ski area, Yury (a Russian snowboarder I had met in the guest house) and I decided to go for a little walk in order to write our signatures on the mountain. An hour or so later, we transitioned into ski / board mode and traversed to the best terrain of the day. Some people had started to hike before us but were aiming for a higher start so we were the first to drop in the untouched snow. A great way to finish the day!

skiing the backcountry of Tetnuldi with Mount Ushba (4.710 m) in the background

I have already mentioned something about the drinking habits of Georgian men. Perhaps it’s better referred to as a drinking culture. They literally seem to drink all the time. Unemployment and boredom, especially in winter, are probably some causes of the enormous alcohol (ab)use. However, they are still no explanation of why drivers of minibuses and employees on the train station smell of alcohol in the middle of the day. Or, why it’s necessary to have a police in ski resorts to avoid people from skiing drunk. At times these middle aged men seem to be little teenagers and try to drink whenever they can. It was sad to see.

Well, drinks are only one part of the local cuisine. Food is obviously the other one in which I’m far more interested. Georgian cuisine is mainly quite heavy. It contains different breads, potatoes, meat and vegetables mixed with walnuts. Above all, Georgian food comes in large quantities. Breads come in a few varieties, namely khachapuri (bread with cheese), lobiani (bread with beans) and of course, plain bread. In Svaneti they serve their local bread named kubdari which is bread stuffed with lamb meat. The bread is baked in an oven related to the tandoor known from India. No need to say, Georgian bread is delicious!

left: Ojakhuri and spinach with walnuts, right: Ostri and eggplant with walnuts

The main dishes of Georgian cuisine consist of potatoes and meat mixed with local spices. Ojakhuri is a dish I tried on several occasions. It is a mix of potatoes and pork and is served in a big portion. Another favorite of mine was the meat stew which I believe was called ostri. Very tender beef in a delicious sauce. These dishes can perfectly be accompanied by a nice vegetable side dish. Georgian cuisine adds walnuts to their vegetables, creating an interesting flavour. Needless to say that the locals wash these dishes away with wine, chacha and more vodka. I preferred a cola or a local lemonade…

Mestia already has an authentic and ancient feel but to go really back in time I had to go to Ushguli, which is a community of four villages in Upper Svaneti. With a population of 260 people it is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe and due to its inaccessible location has kept its own timeless feel. In other words, if you want to experience skiing in the medieval times, Ushguli is the place to go!

From Mestia there are no regular buses to Ushguli in winter and therefore private transfers are the way to go. Such transfer costs 200 lari (roughly € 70) so it makes sense to share the transfer in order to drop the costs. Finding other people to visit Ushguli is easier said than done. After a couple days of asking around there was finally a Chinese fellow who was interested. The next morning I was in the car for a 3 hour journey on a bumpy and snowy road back in time…

Ushguli with its medieval feel

Directly on arrival I realized I had made the right choice to go there. The striking beauty of the place is hard to describe. The authentic feel is even harder to write down. Let me give it a try. Surrounded by big mountains you’ll find a collection of Svan towers and other old buildings and ruins while a bunch of cows are inspecting you. At the same time local men wander around town from one farm to the other. Dogs are barking for their territory and the odd horse is looking for leftovers in the thick layer of snow. In the meantime several generations have fun on an ancient sledge. All this is happening in a comfortable -10 to -15 degrees Celcius, during the day that is. Does that sound like a unique experience or not? To make things even better, tourists are not around this time of year so there is no need to worry about backpackers or hippies interfering with local culture.

Without a reservation but with the name of a guest house on my phone, I arrived around noon. The driver contacted some people to get the phone number of Gamarjoba guest house. Shortly after Teimuraz Nijaradze, the owner of the place, would arrive to pick me up and walk me to his house. After a tour through his property I realized I would be up for an interesting experience. The bedroom was upstairs and had no heating and the toilet was not working. Downstairs was the living room of Teimuraz and his wife Lela. Luckily that room was heated. Teimuraz’ brother, a self proclaimed schizofrenic artist, slept on the sofa. The only working toilet was a squat toilet and the shower only worked in the afternoon. Did I mention it was -22 degrees Celsius during the night?

sliding down 1st Avenue in Ushguli

Although the facilities of the Gamarjoba guest house might sound outright miserable to many of you, the warmth of Teimuraz and Lela made up for any possible lack of comfort. Seated closely around the wood-burning stove, Lela prepared delicious food and we had many conversations. A combination of some English and German words in combination with a Georgian-English dictionary significantly helped our communication. Tourism, sports and especially politics were the main topics. Many times, while Lela was enjoying a Turkish television soap opera, Teimuraz started a new conversation about Georgian politics. He was clearly, and understandably, happy with the improvements in recent years. Every now and then he took a shot of chacha, simply because winter would be too hard without it. “Little bit of chacha every day, no problem. Viel chacha every day, big problem”, was his motto. Every now and then his brother joined the conversation with some odd and undefined statements. After a moment of silence we all ended up in a big laughter.

The cultural experience was one of the reasons for me to visit this ancient part of the world, the skiing being the other. Ushguli is surrounded by big mountains and is a true ski touring mecca. However, being this remote, internet connectivity is extremely limited and information regarding snow and avalanche conditions is non-existent. Add the fact that I was on my own and I could only draw one conclusion: I had to play it very conservatively!

look at all that terrain…

With consistent temperatures of -15 to -20 weak layers are a serious issue in the snowpack. Typically a temperature gradient, the difference in temperature within the snowpack, of more than one degree every 10 centimeters transforms the snow into facets resulting in a weak layer referred to as depth hoar. Looking around from the guest house I could see evidence of avalanche activity in almost every direction. The best thing to do in such situation is to stay at slopes with a gradient of less than 30 degrees because avalanches are very unlikely to occur on such slopes. The mountain nearby the guest house offered exactly what I was looking for.

The first full day in Ushguli I had to get out, even though it was -15 degrees Celcius, snowing and had very low visibility. At least I could get some exercise after the intake of so many calories the previous days. The vertical difference I had to cover was about 800 to 900 meters, so nothing too shocking. After about 2,5 hours of zigzagging my way up the mountain I couldn’t see a thing. Conditions were quite brutal to be honest and I decided to turn around and ski down. At times I simply followed my skin track. Other moments allowed me to make some decent turns due to a breakthrough of the sun. Satisfied and tired I returned at the homestay where Lela had made some delicious tea for me in order to warm up.

The next day I would repeat my first day except this time it was sunny. Also, I wasn’t alone. A group of Polish freeriders was aiming to ski the same mountain and they brought a special friend. A lovely dog (not all dogs are lovely in Ushguli…) followed in their footsteps and greeted me on my way up. Together we almost reached the top before we decided to turn around because of safety reasons. The views were absolutely stunning and the snow was seriously deep, too deep at times for my skis with a 97 mm waist. Honestly it is more likely that my ski technique, fitness or both were not sufficient. Anyway, a great day had come to an end, and to top it off, my Polish friends gave me a free ride back to Mestia. After a comfortable night there I would make my way to Batumi, also known as “little Las Vegas”…

Batumi, a city of huge contrasts

According to the lady who sold the bus ticket, it would take two hours to arrive in Zugdidi from where I could easily take a marshrutka to Batumi. However, the ride to Zugdidi took four hours and buses to Batumi were not available anymore. After some discussions at the train station, together with a temporary translator from Poland, it turned out my best bet was to take a marshrutka to Samtredia and catch another marshrutka from there to Batumi. This worked out surprisingly well as the connection went very smoothly. In Samtredia I was dropped off at an intersection and only a few seconds later the marshrutka to Batumi arrived. The driver of the first minibus took care of the luggage transfer and I only had to watch the whole process while both drivers were working in the heavy snow. Ah, those damned spoilt tourists…

Even though the total ride from Mestia to Batumi had taken about eight hours, I felt I had skipped at least 300 years on arrival in “little Las Vegas”. This coastal town is characterized by luminous hotels and casinos. It has to be one of the strangest cities I have ever visited. I would describe it as a city of contrasts. Signs of communism are still visible but capitalism is clearly taking over with Turkish investors creating modern skyscrapers. They say East meets the West in Istanbul, and I might have said that somewhere on my blog too, but I guess Batumi is a much better example of this encounter. Poor and rich, traditional and progressive, communism and capitalism, old fashioned and modern, various buildings of all sorts of religion…Batumi has it all. For me it was nothing more than a place to relax and eat some other food than the Georgian dishes I had been eating the previous ten days. Variety is the spice of life, remember…

typical Goderdzi scenery with the old cabins covered by a thick layer of snow

Last year a new ski resort opened, named Goderdzi. Huge snowfalls and a lack of people are its main assets. After three days of snow in Batumi and the surrounding mountains, the road was finally cleared and I was good to go. Infrastructure is basically non-existent so the road to the nearby town of Khulo was in horrendous state. From there it was another 20 kilometers or so to Danisparauli where my homestay was located. The road leading up to the tiny mountain village was a narrow one with huge snow walls on both sides. I found them to be just as impressive as I did when I was a little kid!

Danisparauli is located only three kilometers from Goderdzi and offers a nice cultural experience. I stayed at the Sami Dzma guest house owned by the Paksadze family. They have quite a big place where several generations live together. Looking at the different members of the family you can clearly see the consequences of eating a lot of white bread and cheese every day. The father of the family could not get out of bed, mother could only make it to the sofa before rolling over to her side and both their sons looked like Georgian heavyweight wrestlers who were completely out of shape. But, they were as friendly as people can possibly be. Of course, they didn’t speak a word of English but they were waiting for me every evening with big smiles and … a lot of food. The star of the family was Osman, a two year old black cat who was always in for some games…

the Paksadze brothers with their cat Osman

On arrival in Goderdzi all expectations were met; there was a huge amount of fresh snow and the only people around was a group of passionate skiers and telemarkers from Denmark. They invited me to ski with them and we explored the area together. Goderdzi has a lot of flat terrain so soon we found ourselves skinning into the adjacent backcountry. We found some pretty good lines within 30 minutes of skinning. We decided to ski down from the ridge and quickly noticed a nice area in the trees a little bit further down the ridge, this had to be our next run. We were the only people looking for the goods and earning our turns, so powder stress is not really an issue in Goderdzi considering conditions were as good as they get. In the afternoon we ended up in the trees and found a section that was both long and steep enough. One by one we enjoyed the deep powder and finished with big smiles and happy faces!

The next day my Danish friends had something different in store for me. We were going cat skiing! No, we didn’t go skiing with Osman. Cat skiing means a piste bully or groomer with seats in the back takes you up the mountain and you ski down in hopefully untouched and soft snow. This is typically a rich man’s activity but not in Goderdzi. For roughly € 80 a person we could tell the driver where to go as long as we accepted to be in the middle of a terrible diesel smell the whole day. In between getting nauseous during the ascents, we had some nice adventures in the wilderness surrounding Goderdzi. Some runs were better than others but that was all part of the adventure. Seven runs later team Flatland was done for the day. My new friends invited me to join them to Gudauri, the main ski resort of Georgia for the next couple of days, an offer impossible to decline. So, the next morning I said goodbye to my overweight family and their lovely cat and two marshrutka rides, a taxi and in total 14 hours later I arrived in Gudauri at exactly the same time as my Danish friends…

inspecting the impressive Bidara area in Gudauri on a beautiful afternoon

With recent visits to Svaneti and Goderdzi in the back of my mind, Gudauri seems to be one big crazy circus. Being located nearby Tbilisi with its excellent connections to the major Russian cities, it can’t be a surprise that this resort is loaded with Russians. New apartments and outdated hotels form the town and on the hill you’ll find a combination of döner kebab restaurants, dj’s playing house music, paragliders and overweight freeriders from the country mentioned before. This might all sound pretty bad but this circus takes place in the middle of fascinating mountains. This part of the Caucasus is simply a huge playground and the freeriding options are endless, in stable conditions…

Unfortunately this winter has been a strange one in terms of snow falls, turning many areas in the backcountry of Gudauri into potential death zones. That doesn’t mean of course that there aren’t many idiots around skiing without any safety precautions. Why would you ski in a group, inform at local guides and be at least equipped with a beacon, shovel and probe? Also, skiing with a beer in your hand at 11 am while you’re heading into the backcountry doesn’t significantly improve your safety. I guess these guys like to play Russian roulette or roulette as they would probably call it…

Luckily team Flatland was not depressed and every member of the team wanted to wake up the next day so we played things safe, at least in our opinion. We explored the backside of Gudauri, the Kobi valley, and the West face of Bidara. Both areas offer multiple descents that all lead to the Jvari Pass or military road where you’ll be picked up by a taxi in order to go back to the resort. Other areas looked very tempting too, but, after talking to some local guides, were better to avoid due to avalanche danger. After 20 to 30 cm of new snow at high elevation we had to be extra careful. Thanks to good group dynamics and safety precautions we were still able to make some great turns and, more importantly, be able to dream about them the next day…

the signatures of team Flatland in the Kobi valley of Gudauri

In between the skiing we tried to have lunch. This turned out to be more challenging than one would expect. Service is a word that doesn’t exist in every dictionary in Georgia and Gudauri in particular. We waited for more than 30 minutes to just place an order in the first restaurant we tried. We obviously left and went to a fast food restaurant. The name turned out to be misleading since we had to wait for 40 minutes to get our kebab. If you want to make the most of your day I suggest taking a sandwich with you and have lunch in the gondola…

My Danish friends had to go back home (thanks for a great time guys!) and the following days I skied with Vladimir from Moscow and three people from France, Michel with his ripping 12-year old son Marco from Briançon and Eric from Marseille. On one of the last days in the area we decided to pay a visit to the Lomisa monastery. This monastery is built in the 9th century on a ridge at 2300 meters and is serving as a place for private devotion for five orthodox monks due to its inaccessible location. From Gudauri it’s about a 15 minute drive until you reach the village of Kvemo Mleta from where the ski touring starts. In roughly 3 hours you can cover the 800 meters of vertical until you arrive at the ridge in order to check out this fascinating little monastery. I’d say this is as good as sightskiing gets!

ski touring up to the Lomisa monastery at 2300 meters

The skiing in Georgia had come to an end and together with Vladimir I went back to Tbilisi. After a great dinner Vladimir flew back home to Moscow but I still had a couple days left to explore the capital city. For a few nights I chose Tamar Guest house in the Chugureti area as my base to check out this city with 1.4 million inhabitants. Walking around in Tbilisi it’s notable that people are more modern. It’s a little bit like traveling back to the present or almost present. Where in Kutaisi everyone is dressed in grey and black, colors are much more present in Tbilisi. Also, the nowadays very hip torn and ripped jeans are visible on the streets. Nobody seemed to care about holes in their jeans in Kutaisi…

The majority of the sights are located in the Old Town, located approximately two to three kilometers walk from the guest house. It’s convenient that they named the area like this because many areas in Tbilisi could be referred to as an old town. Basically 90 percent of the city feels like an old town. Anyway, one of the obvious places to check out, is the Narikala fortress from where you have a great view of the city. From there, another sight, the Sameba cathedral, is clearly visible on the other side of the Kura river. This Georgian Orthodox church can be seen from anywhere in the center of the city and is one of the largest religious buildings in the world measured by total area. From the outside it’s quite spectacular, from the inside however, it’s nothing to write home about. I guess just wandering around in the Old Town was the most fun!

the Old Town of Tbilisi is really old…

The city has several areas with restaurants and bars. There is the modern area around Marjanishvili square with all the famous fast food chains, some fancy restaurants and many shops in between. In the Old Town, clearly aimed at tourists, one will find many restaurants and nightlife entertainment as well. Of course you’ll have to be careful which one to choose because many don’t care about service. I enjoyed a decent steak at the Josper Bar where service was surprisingly good and had a really good dinner at Sanjha Chulha (of course I had to eat some Indian food while I was in Georgia!) but this came at a higher price. Near the Old Town the Fire Wok offered great lunch options for only 6,5 Lari (just under € 2,5). Obviously, I was done with Georgian food by now…

In the evening popular activities in this capital city are gambling, looking at a striptease or drinking. Since I prefer not to lose my money on a roulette table and since Georgian women are not the prettiest by a long shot (who wants to see a striptease of a woman with a moustache and dark hair all over her body?!?!), I opted for some alternative ways to fill the evening. I have always enjoyed listening to some live jazz music and Tbilisi has a great spot to do so. The Jazz Cafe Singer in the Old Town is a cool little place with a nice ambience. Being in Georgia it’s of course filled with smoke from the many cigarettes but the music made up for that. Every night they have a performance and things seemed to be pretty casual. My last night in Georgia was filled with entertainment from the “Banda del Mundo”. They probably thought to have an original name but I’m afraid they’re not unique in this regard. Nevertheless, their music was a little experimental and above all, fun to listen to…

good vibes in Jazz Cafe Singer in Tbilisi

Georgia has been a great experience and definitely one to tickle the senses. The people turned out to be very hospitable although they might not look that inviting at first. The homestays in both Ushguli and Danisparauli were great experiences. The skiing has been pretty good although conditions were not optimal. Yes, there has been a fair amount of fresh snow but stability was a serious issue wherever I went. Thanks to the Danish people I had a great day of catskiing. Together with them I was also able to ski the backcountry of Gudauri in a safe way. The same is true for the French guys with whom I skied to Lomisa. At the same time other people ended up in serious avalanches and we managed to stay safe. Thanks everybody, group dynamics were essential here in my opinion!

One of the negatives of Georgia has to be their extremely unhealthy lifestyle. They eat huge amounts in general and white bread with cheese in particular. Alcohol is (ab)used as if it is lemonade and they smoke cigarettes as if it is candy. Of course, that’s all their responsibility. Unfortunately however, many Georgians insist that you join them which I found really annoying. Also, waking up and realizing your clothes smell like cigarette smoke, was a rather unpleasant deja vu…

Another interesting fact is the state of the country and the attitude of the local population. A Chinese owner of a restaurant in Batumi told me she could never work with Georgian people because she found them to be extremely lazy. The Georgian economy is not a great one but the locals don’t seem to care. They are happy with their mobile phone and cigarettes but education and work are not part of their vocabulary. They seemed to care about the short-term only, or live in the moment if you will. I guess this attitude can be applied to their eating and drinking habits as well…

To end on a positive note, I hope Svaneti remains the place it is today. It’s a special place and still untouched by mass tourism. I’m afraid this will change in the near future but let’s hope it does in a good way. Tetnuldi is a ski resort with huge potential and Ushguli was beyond expectation. I’d love to go back there one day with a trustworthy ski partner and explore the backcountry in stable conditions, possibly a bit later in the season. Stepping into your skis in this medieval village, remains something truly special!

Click here to see more pictures of my trip to Georgia!

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