The Second Largest Ski Resort.
Bakuriani, the second largest ski resort in Georgia after Gudauri, has had an influx of visitors due to the recent building boom and the addition of new pistes and ski lifts. While most European winter sport fanatics would probably think of the ski and snowboard opportunities as a joke, Bakuriani mostly draws local crowds and also some keen Russians.
There is Some Good Hiking in the Area
Having driven through the Bakuriani valley en route to the incredible Lake Tabatskuri, we decided to make a stop on our return to Borjomi for an ice cream and a drink. In summer, the small ski resort also makes a good spot for hiking, although we would certainly recommend staying in Borjomi, where the proximity to the Borjomi-Khagurauli National Park is the preferred option for serious hike aficionados.
A Charming, Traditional Village
While Bakuriani might be a bustling, ski resort in Winter, during the rest of the year, the traditional village has largely kept its charm and we can only hope that the traditional architecture, with the wooden houses, front porches and winter gardens will be spared the wrecking balls of greedy investors building concrete hotels. It is delightful to walk along the streets, taking a peek between the wooden fences and over the metal gates. Locals sell their fruits and vegetables in stalls on the pavement, wooden huts have been turned into make shift shops and cafes, offering souvenirs of pine cone jam and the ever present, vast quantity of honey pots, a paradise for hungry bears. There is a small cinema, with an information map of the ski slopes and a few supermarkets and pharmacies around the corner.
The smell of freshly baked kachapuri was in the air, as we wandered to a small side street and square, where further stalls had been set up. We could see women knit and crochet beautiful, traditional scarves. I would have loved to buy one, but sadly the wool felt too scratchy for my liking… There were plenty of cheap, plastic toys for sale, which makes a walk past with young kids probably impossible!
Fun at the Stalls
Thankfully Jerome is past an age where he would be interested in these toys and he rather would have given the shooting range a go. Watching an Arabic women have a go with the large gun, we were surprised to find that she shot all the cans and was able to choose a soft toy from the large, but sad looking selection. In the end Jerome gave the shooting a go and although he did not hit all the cans, the stall owner wanted to gift him something for his efforts. Jerome declined the kind offer, I think he was all too aware that the soft toys had been on display for a long time, some of them looked bleached by sunlight and others succumbing to dust.
Take the “Kukushka” Train for a Day Trip
Bakuriani definitely was not the built up ski resort we had expected, but is still a charming, small town. It was lovely to wander through the streets, see the local architecture and people. I am not sure it is worth a special trip from Borjomi, or even further away, but if you are passing through like we did you should definitely stop and experience the laid back atmosphere. Another option for a day trip would be to take the old narrow gauge railway, the “Kukushka“, up the valley from Borjomi to Bakuriani – definitely an experience for those with lesser hiking legs and of course fun for kids! The train takes a scenic route as it wanders up the valley through tunnels, following the river and even crossing a bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel. It ends close to the centre of the town.