After five days of rain and wet weather, the sun was shining when I left Kutaisi for Borjomi. What a shame! I had a backpack full of dirty clothes, which would not have dried in the humidity and wet weather of Kutaisi. I had booked a guesthouse in Borjomi, but when I arrived I was not impressed with the store -room the old lady wanted to put me into. I thanked her, and walked on. Higher onto the hill were more and more guesthouses, although, most catering for two and more people! One person was NOT welcome! I had not encountered this before, so it surprised me.
Then I walked by a lovely house with gladioli in planter boxes, making me think of Dame Edna Average! A sign from above! Temo, the young owner, cleaned out his room, put clean sheets on his bed, and voila, my room was ready! First things first! Washing! Doing domestic chores is un -avoidable, although I do as little of it as possible. I mainly do hand washing on a daily basis, but my travel pants and fleece jacket were long overdue for a proper washing machine wash!
Afterwards I sat on the balcony and met Salome, a young Georgian film maker, who just a week ago opened the first night club in Borjomi. I would have loved to have seen some of her films and visit the night club, but alas, the old body gives up around nine at night! Bummer!
The first explorations were to visit the Romanov Palace, about three kilometres out of town. The weather was pleasant, and the walk easy. Along the river with wonderful views it was not long before I found the Palace! It was not my lucky day! It was closed! I met the first rude person in Georgia, a young guard who was too busy texting, probably his girlfriend, to tell me if it was only closed on Wednesdays or what. Could also be that he spoke no English it was hard to tell as he just grunted ” closed” before going on with his important task.
Next door was a luxury hotel, and I decided, since I walked all this way to have a sticky beak into how the rich people live! It was unbelievably beautiful! I pretended that I was interested in a major overhaul, eg. Facials, massages etc. I received the price list, didn’t choke, kept a poker face and asked if I could see the facilities! The rooms were U$155 per night, this included breakfast and free use of every thing on offer! The Hamman was stunning, the swimming pool amazing, but not warm enough for my liking! The young girl showing me around was very friendly, she left me when I asked to go yo the toilet. Afterwards I wandered around on my own, found a lovely quiet spot and used their excellent wifi to update all my homework and social media. Pleasant, very pleasant!
I took a marshrutka back into town, bought some groceries and visited the local museum. There the young girl spoke excellent English and she was able to explain the the Palace will be closed indefinitely. The very rich owners of the hotel, Arabs I believe, bought the property six years ago, and the palace was on their property! Now they kept it closed to the public. The museum was pleasant, in a hundred year old building, with amazing staircases and ceilings.
The next day I planned to visit the famous mineral baths. Borjomi is famous for its mineral water. I quit like it despite the slightly salty/ sour taste. As my maps.me was not working, for some reason it refuses to tell me where I am, unless I have wifi, I was lost. I asked the young woman at the cafe where to go and she sort of waved her hands in a general direction, indicating that I should go up the mountain. Great! All I needed was another five kilometre walk up a mountain. My legs had not yet recovered from the last ones I visited! But, hey, I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, so what is another five or ten kilometres up a hill!? So I started walking, and walking, it was hot, I was sweating like a pig and just contemplating if I really needed to see these mineral baths, when a car stopped and offered me a lift.
Not one to look a given horse in the mouth, I accepted gracefully. It was a young Azarbijan family, going to Bakuriani. Amin, the husband, was intrigued by the fact that the mineral baths were so closed by and his young family decided to join me. This was marvellous, as the path down had been washed away by the heavy rains of the last week. His wonderful wife Nara, and young Ismail ( five years old) enjoyed the slippery slide down the path.
Ismail and I went into the bath, the water was pleasantly warm, but filthy and overcrowded. I had to sit in the sun to dry out my bathers, and the three of us discussed how we could get back to the car! It was impossible for me to climb up the muddy slopes, when Nara asked an old woman how she got up here, and was shown a broad path that led all the way down to the mineral park! Oops! That was where I was supposed to take! It was agreed that Amin would climb the path back to fetch the car and meet us down at the park entrance. The way down was much easier, but also three times as long!
Borjomi mineral water park occupies a narrow, wooded valley and is a lovely place to go for a stroll. This was where the original mineral water was discovered and named Yekaterinsky Spring after the governor’s daughter who was cured here. The park itself dates from 1850. Warm mineral water flows from taps in the magnificent pavilion. There are many attractions , a funfair attractions, cinema and a cable car to take you up to the Ferris wheel on top of the mountain. Ismail’s eyes couldn’t take it all in, but he was keen to get back and find his father.
We finally arrived and I was invited to come to Bakuriani with them. Bakuriani was about thirty kilometres away and is a winter skiing town. There was very little to do or see, although the drive there was stunning. I was invited to lunch and was not allowed to pay a penny. What a wonderful day this was. I regret not taking a photo of the family. We were so busy chatting away, that it didn’t occur to any of us. Little Ismail was so tired that he slept all the way back. The rains had started again and Amin dropped me off all the way back to my guest house. Lots of promises to visit the next time I come this way, in Baku, Azerbijan, they went back to their hotel. Such a wonderful young family, full of love and laughter, it was great meeting them.
When I arrived back in my room, and collapsed of total exhaustion, I received a message, Filip and Ewa had arrived, would I meet them for a drink and a chat! After a lot of back and forward messaging, I walked to the restaurant, and had a pleasant couple of hours. When you re-meet people while travelling, it is like a meeting of kindred’ souls. It was just wonderful. Tomorrow Akhaltsikhe