Telavi, the capital of Kakheti may not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking of Georgia, but it is the perfect location for lovers of wine, culture and nature.
What will strike you first is the amazing view on the Caucasus Mountains. Telavi is located on a hill and surrounded by the Alazani valley that you can also easily admire from above. In a few minutes you can reach Gremi, the famous church and castle; you can visit Tsinandali with its wonderful garden and even Sighnaghi, the city of love, is not far from there.
But you can also spend wonderful days in Telavi without much travel. The city centre has great restaurants and you can take a walk in the park which I would describe as little Mtatsminda – it gives you a nice view on the city and the valley, it has attractions and little stalls for toys and food. I loved to just sit on a bench with friends, eating sunflower seeds and watching the sun go down.
My favorite activity in Telavi is shopping. The central market and bus station leads onto a street where dozens of cute little shops are found. You can find perfume, all sorts of bags, really cheap cosmetics and if you have time, you might even find nice dresses or shoes. What makes the shops so unique and fun is the owner’s kindness and the marketer’s motivation to find what you were looking for.
I had just broken two pairs of shoes by excessive walking and sightseeing and needed a new pair of sandals, so naturally I went to an indoor market with heaps of shoes. I browsed a little, but there was no big choice for sizes so we asked whether they had anything in 42 (I know, I have ridiculously big feet). I was seated on a little chair and two women started looking for shoes and had me try them on without minding my opinion on them. The problem was that Georgian women naturally have rather small feet and my German size seemed absolutely unrealistic to them. I was struggling to fit into size 39 shoes, wanting to please those women and finally getting to buy some, but it was impossible. We started to joke and they gradually brought me more undesirably looking shoes about which I was glad they didn’t fit.
After around ten minutes one of them said she wouldn’t let me go home without shoes and it felt like they presented every single big-looking shoe to me. One time I actually fit into a shoe I realized that I had a similar pair at home and told the woman, upon which she answered: “I also have a piano at home!”, which I interpreted as “Just take them already!”. However, they were making me many compliments about my height and were surprised that I knew a little Georgian and I tried to look as polite as I could when declining their offers. In the end, we left the market without shoes and found some sandals in a Chinese shop that were only two sizes too small.
Buying bags however, is very pleasant and I was warmly welcomed and complimented of either my tallness, German-ness or my little knowledge of Georgian. In one shop I even ended up hugging a woman, without having understood very much, but my boyfriend mostly introduced me and translated everything.
What you should be careful about is that many items that are being sold have little flaws, but the good prices mostly excuse that. If you like, you can also negotiate about the prices in most shops and you can always expect people to be friendly and helpful.