Georgia’s section of the Transcaucasian Trail is a mesmerising combination of romantic mountain villages and wild landscapes filled with a rainbow of colours – and dotted with quaint, ancient churches that only increase the trail’s quixotic appeal. This is only improved with Georgia’s hearty cuisine, punchy coffee, and easy-drinking wine and beer to help fuel your adventures.
For those intrigued to take on Georgia’s Transcaucasian Trail and explore its beguiling culture and scenery, I’ve shared my top eight weird, wonderful and practical takeaways from my time on the trail.
You will be adopted by stray mountain pooches on the trails – Many of Georgia’s dogs call the mountains their home, and will be keen to show you around. For hikers dreaming of having a furry best friend on the trail, think less Lassie, and more Scooby-Doo – this companionship will cost you a portion of your lunch. Hikers that prefer to explore the trails solo, take note; as soon as one dog disappears, another appears. Think of it like finding grey hairs or work emails; it’s better to succumb to the inevitability of your fate.
Kachapuri will become a staple of your diet – One of Georgia’s most popular regional dishes (although the country’s khinkalis, or dumplings, might have something to say about this), kachapuri comes in many variations, but its cheesy, carb-rich essence remains the same. It pairs well with a morning coffee, does not crumble in packed lunches, and makes an ideal accompaniment at dinner. Basically, cheese will course through your veins before you reach the end of the trail.
You will find yourself singing Disney songs at some point when hiking on the Transcaucasian Trail – Let’s face it, hiking in Georgia is like hiking through a fairy-tale. There’s an abundance of wildflowers to run through, clouds of butterflies float around you, and each remote mountain village has romantic watchtowers or ruins to explore. It’s only a matter of time before you envision yourself as a modern-day Snow White, revelling in delight as the local wildlife to perch on your shoulders, or help you pack your rucksack for the day.
You will become accustomed to seeing cows everywhere – Many Georgians keep cows to make milk, cheese and other dairy products. While they like to roam Georgia’s mountains, the cows usually find their way home to their owners at some point in the day. Essentially, don’t be alarmed if you find a heffer heading the same way as you after an evening at the local mountain bar.
You won’t mind buying rounds in Georgia’s mountain village bars – Enjoying an ice-cold beer in the sun with fellow hikers is an ideal way to round off a day of sweaty hiking. And with a 2.5-litre bottle of beer ringing up at a bargain of £2, there won’t be any awkward arguments over who’s turn it is to buy a round.
‘Fruit and nut’ bars are a completely different breed in Georgia – Head to any bazaar in Georgia, and chances are you will come across Churchkhela, a traditional Georgian candy/sweet made from nuts, grape juice and flour. Funny shape aside, churchkhelas offer a robust alternative to granola bars, and they result in less plastic waste. Not only that, but they come in a variety of grape and nut type combinations, so stock up before heading to the mountains!
Don’t bring massive notes into the mountains – Any notes larger than a 50 will get you some raised eyebrows along the trail kiosks and ‘supermarkets’. While the ATM machines at the airport dish out large notes, it’s best to get these divided into smaller notes at the earliest opportunity.
Georgia will keep you returning – With stunning landscapes at every turn and a huge diversity of flora and fauna, delicious food and wine, and friendly folks, Georgia is a place you’ll want to return to again and again to explore.