In the midst of my Middle Eastern wanderings through arid desert countryside of Merzouga, quarreling in the spice markets of Istanbul, and navigating ticklish political climates beneath the walls of Bethlehem; Georgia, with it's mountains and rivers, was a comfy jump back to my wilderness roots as a Canadian.
Tbilisi first inspired me with it's snaking streets and abundance of castles perched in precarious places. A fairy tale city with modern flares, and a culture warmer than it's hot sulphur baths. My time in Georgia came unexpectedly when I needed to briefly fly the coop for a Visa Run from Israel. Given four days to explore, I was determined to devour as much of the country as possible, as well all of the Khachapuri I came across.
With an easily acquired year-long visa on arrival, Tbilisi is the perfect spot for long term travelers looking for a serene place to escape the hostel grind for a while. Nestled on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River south of the Caucasus mountain range, Tbilisi is a fantastic jumping-off point for those looking to trek the snowy peaks of Kazbegi, hike the green rolling hills of the west, or get plastered on the cheap and delicious wine of Kakheti.
Post-Trek, after your long bus ride through the Georgian countryside back to civilization, you'll want to hit up the city. Tbilisi nightlife is unexpectedly alive regardless of the country's ultra-orthodox label, and the clubs are extremely fun. The Fabrica Hostel in particular, is an excellent place to meet locals and travelers alike. In the event you happen to stay the night, be sure to check out the amazing free walking tours provided. I took advantage of all of them and was seriously impressed by the quality of touring and the amount of fun we had running around the city.
I'm a person of calculated risks. I enjoy being absurdly spontaneous while remaining off the statistical lists of tourists that fall off mountains and step in-front of buses. But my hand shot up, and stood painfully alone amongst the other tourists the moment we were offered a chance to paraglide off the cliffs of Kazbegi. The guide, feeling a bit awkward that he would now need to change the itinerary for this one determined Canadian girl, shuffled me off the bus and pointed me in the direction of an unusually nice Honda Civic full of Georgians, waiting just off the road.
Judging by my sandals alone, I was not prepared for this; but with a quick exchange of money I was squeezing myself into the car between a smiling bearded man wearing dark sunglasses and what I guessed was his paragliding gear. By this time, the initial adrenaline rush of making a quick decision was beginning to wear off, and the nervousness of realizing I'm currently alone in a car with strangers, driving towards a cliffside we all intend to hurl ourselves off of, set in.
Out of fear of looking uncomfortably un-cool, I decide it was too late to back down now. The man next to me, completely disguised in a blanket of beard, curly hair, and sunglasses introduces himself as Beroshvili and we begin suiting up. Strapped awkwardly close to one-another, and ready for take off, Ber asks me how old I think he is. I answer, maybe around 31-32; he laughs and exclaims he's 21. At that moment we catch an up-draft, lift our feet, and we're off.
Now, I've only been to Kazbegi once for a few hours, but I can confidently say that best way to see the true beauty of the Caucasus' is while sailing nervously high in the air with your life in the hands of a Georgian stranger. I had many fantastic experiences in the mountains of Georgia, but this by far stands as the best.
Go paragliding with @beroshvili1st in Georgia
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