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Borjomi, Georgia

ornate carved wood balcony framing a mirrored Persian-influenced ceiling
Firuza Balcony, Borjomi, Georgia

The first rule any good performance adheres to is “leave the audience wanting more.” As Corie and I are going through the apartment getting our lives packed back into six suitcases, two carry-ons and two cat carriers, Georgia is taking its final bow for us, and one day, we want to see more.

This last Monday, Corie and I took an encore day trip to three places on our must-see list, a resort town famed for its mineral water, a castle that tells an architectural story of the region’s history, and a 12th-century cave monastery still inhabited by a handful of monks.

During the next three newsletters, I’ll take you along to these amazing places, starting with Borjomi.

Our friend Giorgi picked us up at seven in the morning Monday for two reasons: we had a full 14-hour itinerary planned and to avoid the morning commute, where one can spend a couple hours sitting in slow moving traffic just to get out of town.

After we left Tbilisi, I saw one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in our two years in the country, Jvari Monastery, a sixth century structure perched on a hill overlooking the small city of Mtskheta, was aglow in the dark, thick fog. It was a ghostly mythical scene that foreshadowed the wonderful places we would soon be visiting.

When we arrived in Borjomi, the resort town was just waking up. Souvenir vendors were setting up their small shops, and teams of municipal workers were busy sweeping the town’s sidewalks.

I’m not much of a fan of resort towns. Perhaps my dislike originated from visiting places like Vail, Colorado, which a friend of mine who worked at its local paper once described as “Disneyland without the rides.”

My apathy towards resort towns was a large factor in why Corie and I hadn’t visited the little town, nestled in the tree-dense Borjomi Gorge.

I quickly discovered my misconception about the town almost cost me a memorable experience.

white door and balcony framed by a magnolia tree
Sanatorium Doorway, Borjomi, Georgia

As the three of us walked along a quiet street lined with turn-of-the-century cottages and dachas, a number of street dogs joined us. Like many other cities in the country, street dogs tend to be reasonably well taken care of and most are very social. Corie quickly met a small pack of the most social street dogs in the town and spent the rest of the day covered in their muddy paw prints.

The town is known for Georgia’s number-one export, Borjomi mineral water. You can find bottles of it in every restaurant and grocery store in the country, but in Borjomi you can have your fill from the original mineral spring in the town’s Central Park.

The curative properties of the town’s mineral springs made it a go-to destination for Russian nobility in the early 1800s and later, under Soviet rule, the town’s mansions were confiscated and converted into sanatoriums for the party elite.

Today’s Borjomi is layered with its history, including new modern hotels that try to blend in with their 18th-century neighbors. But try as they can, the new buildings pale compared with the town’s older architecture, especially Firuza, a residence built in 1892 and now a hotel. Its intricately carved woodwork and mirrored ceiling combines Georgian and Persian influences, making it stand out in a country known for its balconies.

Many guides suggest a two-day stay in Borjomi to appreciate everything the town has to offer, but we had a full day scheduled so after a two-hour stay, we were on our way to one of Georgia’s best-known castles and a relaxing lunch of unique regional fare. I’ll take you there next week.   

Brightly colored and patterned fabrics hanging neatly on a market stand
Souvenir Stand, Borjomi, Georgia


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