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Experience Georgia by Erica Deramo

My love affair with Georgia (or Sakartvelo as it refferred to locally) began in 2006 when I was assigned to a project there as a young engineer. With no idea of what to expect, I showed up wary and a bit hesitant, only to immediately be drawn in by the people, culture, food and natural beauty of this ancient land. While I was surprised that I’d never heard about Georgia as a traveler’s destination, I was also relieved that this majestic realm had retained and preserved so much of its deeply rooted identity and history. Georgia’s distinct culture, with its traditions of hospitality and honor, its lineage of artistry and its graceful and striking architecture, has endured through invasions, occupations, the Soviet era, and our current internet-enabled and globally connected world.

Over the years that followed, I found myself recounting my stories of Georgia to anyone that would listen. I spoke of returning, and bringing my husband along to show him why I was still in love with this storybook land and its people. When I eventually set the firm intention to return, it felt a bit daunting. I sought out a guide with whom I could entrust this love of place - someone who would do justice to the pilgrimage I was seeking. I found that guide in Nataliya and the Experience Ukraine and Beyond tour of Georgia.

Our journey began in the storied capital city of Sakartvelo, where we explored the labyrinthian Old Town with its ancient walls and ornate sulfur baths still intact. Every little nook and ally, every corner or ornate door, holds a potential discovery, whether it’s a beautiful piece of forgotten artistry or hidden gardens brimming with fruit. We spent time with the impressive collections of the local museums learning about the art, culture and history of the region. In the evening, we sampled the famous flavors of Georgia at some of the locals’ favorite spots, toasting “Gamarjos!” between glasses of pale gold Mtsvane wine. From Tbilisi, we ventured out to Kakheti - Georgia’s famous viticultural region, where the grapes spill from the vines and the wine is poured generously from the carafes. One particular highlight was a visit to a local wine producing family, where we got to practice our khachapuri making skills and partake in a traditional Georgian supra (or feast). The next day, we headed westward on a train to Batumi as we made our way to the mountainous and breathtaking region of Adjara where we stayed with an incredible family of musicians who hosted us as if we were part of their own. Our time in Adjara was a lifetime highlight. It included mountain-top cheesemaking, leafy hikes to waterfalls, spectacular views from cable cars, and of course, endless culinary delights. But most importantly, it was the warmth of the people who invited us into their homes and welcomed us at their tables that has stayed with me the most. When we eventually bid our hosts adieu, we made our way back to sea level and the bustling cultural crossroads of Batumi, a port city on the coast of the Black Sea. There, we were able to peruse the bazaar for spices and treats to carry home and remind us of the flavors and friendships of our Georgia adventures.

Our September trip was everything that I could have hoped for. It struck the perfect balance between exploration and absorption. Nataliya curated a suite of engaging and immersive activities and experiences, while also providing opportunities for us to settle into the culture and soak up what Georgia and its people had to offer. It felt welcoming and familiar while also fascinating and new, and we could rest assured that we were in excellent hands with Nataliya

She is organising 2 tours this year. One in May and one in September. Groups are very small, so sign up for this excellent experience now.


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