is 8.30am, the sun is just about to rise behind the snow-capped Caucasus and our driver is listening to Sting’s ‘desert rose’ on repeat.
I am on my way to something way out of the ordinary. No fashion show, no campaign shooting, no hectic rush, no noise. Just me and Sting on our way to Kakheti, a region nestled in the mountainous province in mysterious Georgia. What a serendipity that my suitcase didn’t arrive, and I didn’t even have to worry about skin care routines and what to wear.
If you are looking for a save haven, a calm hideaway, then Georgia is the place for you. You won’t find an inrush of tourists here, but I can assure you that massive mountains, colorful forests and striking vastness will welcome you. On your way we pass by the occasional lost village or herd of sheep that already gives me a glimpse of the strong culture and character of this eastern European country.
After a two-hour drive, we arrive at our retreat for the next couple of days – the Lopota Lake Resort & Spa. The resort is located right on the fringes of a plain with a massive range of mountains right behind it, opening up striking views. Seeing the fog rise from the beautiful lake in the center of the resort, reflecting the colorful forest around it and feeling the first sun rays appearing behind the snow-capped peaks on this beautiful, sunny morning is like balm for the soul and exactly what I was looking forward to after a couple of busy months.
Georgia and especially Kakheti welcomes you with an array of fun activities and opportunities to explore. Whether you are looking for the ultimate thrill taking a quad to explore the rivers, forests and monasteries or taking a prop airliner to see the full beauty and wasteness of the landscape from above, including all the small villages, farms and cow herds grazing away – you can have it all. The best thing about it actually is the restrained kindness of the Georgians, who are so shy at first but then give you the warmest welcome, proudly showing you their home country. It is a country where you have to dive deeper and take a second look to grasp the full beauty of it.
The Georgian’s warm hospitality was particularly shown around food and meals. We had the honor to take part in a number of traditional lunches and dinners, cooking shotis puri, which is a kind of bread made in a clay oven, Chatschapuri and Chinkali. We then shared these dishes around a large table by a fireplace in a cozy, Georgian hut on the property. Singing Georgian folk songs and tasting a large variety of deliciously tasteful meals together with the Lopota Lake Resort & Spa team ended the first exciting day in Kakheti.
What I loved most about the Georgian food culture is that it is fairly casual and communal. All meals are shared and are being served on the table whenever they are ready. Munching my way through eggplant-walnut rolls, our self-made dumplings called Khinkali, roasted veggies and of course lots and lots of Khatchapuri (cheese filled bread – of course!). Mealtimes take hours and you get to enjoy eachother’s company, chat, sing, toast and of course drink wine for quite some time. Toasting is a central element of Georgian meals. Specific toasts towards god, the country, family, love, friendship and more are being made throughout the meal and are mostly done in a traditional way standing up, touching glasses and sometimes even chucking the glass! Help!
Wine drinking and wine making is a very important element of the Georgian culture, especially around Kakethi. I have explored wine regions in France, Italy, South Africa and Australia but honestly didn’t expect Georgia to have such a rich and historic wine culture and it is actually supposed to be the birthplace of winemaking! It can be dated back until 8000BC where evidence of grape cultivation has already been found. In any case, I loved tasting the traditional Georgian wine which is amber-colored and is made like red wine – so with the skin – just using white grapes.
Meeting many different wine makers and listening to their passion and connection for their country, their produce, their culture and heritage touched me deeply and was a unique experience I haven’t encountered to such a degree in any other country.
It also gave us the chance to explore the region around the resort, experience villages, meet people and of course enjoy nature. Often, the stunning Caucasus views suddenly open up and never fail to astonish us. The Georgians say it looks like “the heartbeat of god” as the peaks are all on a similar level and create a fairly even mountain range like a relaxed and calm heartbeat. With all these beautiful foods and wines that we got to taste in Georgia, I was very glad we also had many opportunities to move, going for a run around the lake, hitting the gym of the Lopota Lake Resort or going horseback riding. Although the resort is in such a calm area, there literally is nothing you cannot do – opportunities and activities are endless. And what would a good workout be without a calm and relaxing time at the spa afterwards. Of course, I went all out and enjoyed a Russian banya, massages with stunning lake views, the sauna, whirlpool and more. I think I could have spent weeks on end at this lovely place without getting bored – it is an oasis.
Back in the car, listening to our driver’s sting playlist, seeing the sun rise behind the beautiful snow-capped mountains, I am pleasantly surprised how much we got to explore from this beautiful and culturally rich country, named Georgia. I am going home with a deep appreciation for the kind Georgians, their stunning nature and of course their cuisine and wine culture.
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