The snow begins to float down through the surrounding hills as the marshutka makes its call at Borjomi’s Bridge of Beauty. Hauling on the backpacks again we register the drop in temperature from Kutaisi as we weave through the old town and Merab Kostava‘s Gardens to Natali’s Apartment., Obviously looking a little confused as to the exact location as we aimlessly wander about the complex an old duck sticks her head out of her window smilingly pointing us in the right direction.
Getting lucky again on a cheap deal through a favourite website of ours, Booking.com, our location is within a stones throw of Mineral Water Park, the original site of the world famous Borjomi spring. The only down side is our proximity to the spring means it’s a fair old trudge to the bus station in a couple of days.
The walk up to the park the next morning is a breeze and we meet a friendly local chap who’s on his weekly pilgrimage to the Tsar hot springs. Originally our intent was to catch the cable car up to the plateau and walk down through the forest, though it looks like at this time of the year the transport is out of commission. The walk takes you past the original outlet of the spring water where you are free to fill up as many bottles as you wish. We recommend that you drink it as fresh and as warm as possible for the best taste. Further meandering through an also closed children’s amusement park a crowd of youngsters come bounding thru, some leaders others followers, on their weekend run. In these slippery conditions they can have that, we’ll stick to being the tortoises.
A few bridge crossings and about three kilometres later the Tsar Baths appear. We’d been expecting a rundown rustic experience and were greeted with the contrary. Three large, well designed pools, a terraced seating area and under cover patios for winter change rooms put some of the sulphur baths in Tbilisi to shame. With the place more or less deserted we soak in the therapeutic waters for an hour before the cold starts to take effect (the temperature only hovers around 25 degrees). This probably wasn’t helped by the still falling snow and watching our new pensioner friend exit the pool and roll around rubbing himself in it..
A dash back to the patios on the freezing pavement only makes for changing that bit harder. Hands not working, fingers like pieces of two-by-four timber trying to eat with chopsticks the battle for tying shoelaces is eventually won. We decide to walk the three and a half kilometres to Romanov’s Palace to warm up only to find the place is closed, something we could have found out from Tourist Information though they never seemed to be open.
A disused estate entrance
The following morning we get up super early for the scenic train to Bakuriani, planning to return in time to get the afternoon marshutka over to Akhaltsikhe. After asking at the station the day before if the train departs from here we were given an affirmative.
Stupid us had forgotten that hand gestures in this part of the world are as illogical as tit’s on a bull
At six-bloody-o’clock we roll up to Borjomi Park Station with all our bags thankful that it’s a five minute walk from the apartment. We greet the same ticket lady from the day before and this time she informs us that we’re at the wrong station (in Georgian and Russian). Shit. There’s no way we are going to get to the other station so with weary legs we walk back to the apartment.
In hindsight fishing around in the safety box with a piece of wire trying to catch the door keys was probably a little suspect at 06:30, so we ditch the promise of warm comfort and a couple more hours sleep in favour of not having a run in with the local police. Sucking it up we heading for the bus station a couple of kilometres walk away where we have a freezing cold wait for 30 minutes until the transport pulls up and we’re relieved to be on our way to Akhaltsikhe.
Good luck pronouncing that one.
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Tips for Borjomi
- You can get a marshutka here direct from Kutaisi (our last destination) and they will stop wherever you need, just ask.
- Much is closed in the winter and the hiking trails will have a good coating of snow that may be slush or ice if you’re unlucky.
- Romanov’s Palace was closed at the time of visiting, check it out before you walk there.
- The train for Bakuriani leaves from Borjomi Railway Station and NOT Borjomi Parki Railway Station, even though the timetable is also posted at Parki.