Nukri Maghradze
4 years 10 months on Pinsteps

I am a professional guide and a Georgian. More precisely, a Kartvelian – that's how we call ourselves. Don't be surprised, for me, being a professional Kartvelian is not a way to make money, but the meaning of life. I love my country, our traditions, culture, and food; most of all, I enjoy sharing them with people. And the most authentic thing, in my opinion, is the feast. Because it's not just a break between eating food and wine; it's a liturgy that makes this world a better place.

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Tsopa, Katskhi, Mravaldzali
Georgia. Jeep Tour to Imereti and Racha, Day One, May 13, 2022. (co-author)

Imereti has a unique history, situated in the heart of Georgia at the crossroads of the eastern kingdom of Kartli and the western kingdom of Colchis. It has been influenced by Pontic culture from the Black Sea coast to the west and Iberian culture in eastern Georgia. Serving as a major trade route from east to west, it is surrounded by fertile low mountains.

Arab conquest engulfed the entirety of Georgia up to Abkhazia. However, during the reign of King Bagrat III in the 11th century, who unified and liberated Georgia from Arab rule, Imereti emerged as a center bridging the gap between the West and East. The capital became Kutaisi, the modern capital of Imereti. Despite periods of division when the West and East struggled against external threats, Imereti maintained its independence, boasting a distinct history, culture, influence, and politics. Surrounding regions to the north and east became subject to Imereti's influence, forming alliances or engaging in conflicts. Racha, the ancient land, to the north, was one such area.

Racha, Imereti's northern neighbor, is nestled in higher mountains, primarily at an elevation of around 1,500 meters above sea level, in contrast to Imereti where settlements are found in valleys and mountains up to a thousand meters high. Imereti features a mild climate, fertile hills, highlands, deciduous forests, and a continuous string of small villages, creating a unique atmosphere.

We will explore the region around the town of Chiatura, where nature has concentrated more than half of the world's manganese ore reserves. Our journey includes visits to the Pillar of Katskhi, enjoying the views of the Cave Monastery of Mgvimevi, savoring the famous imeruli and mchadi, and crossing the breathtaking Shkhmeri Pass to reach Racha. There, we'll encounter the legendary Rioni River, the Lake of Love in Cholvi, and the secluded mountain village of Mravaldzali, surrounded by snowy mountains, bear forests, and otherworldly tranquility. Our day will conclude with a sunset in the pristine forest, where trees will be embraced by the crimson hues of the departing day, and the spring blossoms of medunitsa will remind us that spring has arrived in the mountains. Of course, we won't miss tasting the most delicious Rachin bread and the secrets of the beloved Rachin cuisine, considered the best in all of Georgia.

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