All this time, you’ve had the wrong GEORGIA on your mind. It’s time to DISCOVER the Far Eastern European nation, which, as far as its well-known EXPORTS are considered, you’ve actually known all along.
get a glimpse of georgia, the eastern european nation that first created wine and is now on the brink of start-up success
What’s in a name? Years of confusion for the country of Georgia, for starters. Although the small mountainous country forged its independence from Russia 15 years ago, there are still a few stumbling blocks when it comes to getting its name out there. For one, it’s the same moniker as a southern US state, where peaches and the world’s largest fake peanut lay their claim to fame. Stepping out of the shadows of a difficult political past has also proved to be a constant challenge.
At the intersection of Europe and Asia, with Turkey at its southern border and Russia at its north, the former Silk Road stopover has historically been somewhat of a grab bag for surrounding empires. Now, emerging from the shadows of centuries of oppression, Georgia is finally spreading its wings.
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, a former Soviet resort, sits two and a half hours north of the capital, Tbilisi, amongst the crags of the Caucausian uplands that divide two continents. The sleepy town of Stepantsminda and its 2000 locals are mostly dependent on agriculture. But during the Soviet Era, the town – and the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi – served as a popular retreat for government officials (and no wonder; the area is nestled beneath the stratovolcanic peak of Mount Kazbegi, the 5033-metre-high summit standing seventh-tallest amongst the spiked ridges of the Caucausus region).
“[Stepantsminda] was traditionally a place for backpackers and was poorly developed for a wider range of tourists,” says Tata Chumburidze, sales and marketing coordinator for Rooms Hotel Kazbegi. As such, the Rooms Hotel founder (the property is owned by Adjara Hospitality Group and there is one other Rooms Hotel in the country), Russian casino entrepreneur Temur Ugulava, was inspired by New York hoteliers to bring something a little more special to the area. The other property, in Tbilisi, is an eight-story former print house that can withstand a 9.0 earthquake.
Temur selected local design firm Adjara Arch Group and two local Tbilisi-based architects, Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia, to execute his vision, and the hotel has now made the small mountain town a stopover spot in its own right. >
The area is NESTLED beneath the stratovolcanic peak of Mount Kazbegi, the 5033-metre-high SUMMIT standing seventh-tallest amongst the spiked RIDGES of the Caucausus region.
Following an extensive refurbishment, which left only the basic structure of the building intact, the newly modernised Kazbegi hotel opened in 2012 and, like much of Georgia, the ghosts of its Soviet past can still be seen inside the hotel, most prominently in the form of vintage Soviet and Georgian film posters dotted throughout the 156 guest rooms.
Thanks to its geography, the impact of visiting Russian, Persian, Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani cultures has helped make Georgia (known as Sakartvelo to natives) a veritable melting pot of influences. The hotel’s architects worked to embody this very notion with the interiors, keeping a minimalist design that reflects the country’s Asian and European heritage.
The Rooms Hotel Kazbegi also has a very proud local influence. The woodenclad exterior and the 150 year-old oak floors were reclaimed from disassembled local houses and serve as a nod to the surrounding woodlands, while the abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows reaffirms the connection between the inside of the hotel and its stunning surrounds.
It isn’t just the trickle of tourists that have benefited from the construction of the hotel – there’s also been a positive charge throughout the local community as a result.
“The [hotel] is playing an important role in the economic development of the region,” says Tata. “Locals are employed at the hotel, the number of tourists has increased dramatically and a big portion of the supplies for the restaurant come from locals.” Not only that, but local villagers have now started to create rooms and homestays themselves in order to cater to the growing numbers now visiting the area (upwards of 25 such listings now exist on Airbnb).
The food at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, named in honour of a 19th century Georgian poet, is also proudly local, with guests invited to visit the kitchen for impromptu cooking classes in order to learn more about traditional cuisine. There’s a fireside cigar menu and a sweeping sun terrace. Most impressive, though, are the surrounds visitors can explore – if heli-skiing isn’t your thing, you can easily trek to the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church or the nearby trail that leads to the Devdoraki Glacier.
But no trail is as important as the one left by Georgia’s long and troubled history. Fortunately though, there’s plenty of space for visitors to tread a new one (and plenty of places to rest your head when you decide to do so).
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