Imereti

Imereti is a place with a charm all of its own. It is part of the country that was known to the ancient world as Colchis – the land of the Golden Fleece, and there is certainly something mythic about its lush mountains and fertile valleys. Archaeological digs in the small town of Vani have revealed the remains of a massively rich and thriving Hellenistic culture. Bronze and gold statues of incredible workmanship, jewellery and glassware confirm that, since the Bronze Age at least, Imereti has been a place of highly sophisticated culture.

Amongst Georgians, Imereti is best known for its spicy, delicious food, its crisp white wine and the friendliness of its inhabitants. It is literally impossible to travel in Imereti without being invited into somebody’s home, feasted, toasted, and in general treated like visiting royalty.

Kutaisi, Imereti’s main town, is Georgia’s second city after Tbilisi. Old Kutaisi is a very attractive place to stroll around after taking in the wonders of Bagrati and Gelati. The elegant, tree lined streets of the 19th century houses stretch down to the banks of the fast flowing Rioni River, and there are several of attractive parks. In the old Jewish Quarter a number of Synagogues demonstrate the long history of the Georgian Jewish community. The town’s largest synagogue was built in 1866 and can seat 500 worshipers.

The magnificent churches of Bagratis and Gelati both UNESCO world heritages sites – testify to the importance of the region.

The lovely little monastery of Motsameta(6 km from Kutaisi) is perched on the top of a wooded hill, looking down into a verdant gorge. The monastery is dedicated to the brothers David and Konstantine Mkheidze, who died heroically fighting the invading Arabs in the 7th century, the name Motsameta means martyrdom. The relics of the brothers have wish-granting properties, so if you want to make your dreams come true just crawl in the space under their tomb three times and make your wish.

Katskhis Column near Chiatura is jaw-dropping 40 meter finger of rock pointing up into the sky. A tiny church on top is home to a religious hermit, who can only access the outside world by means of a ladder. He’s so keen to cut himself off, however, that he has asked the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church permission to remove the ladder and stay all-alone. Currently though, Christian men only are allowed to climb to the top. Women and people of other faiths or none are politely requested to enjoy the column from the ground level.

Standing on the main road connecting Imereti to eastern Georgia is the Shrosha pottery market. Here astonishing array of terracotta goods are available, from wine making pots big enough to climb into to chimney pots to cooking ware.