We were sweating when we arrived at the enjoyably chaotic bus station in Kutaisi, still dressed in mountain weather-appropriate layers. There are palm trees in Kutaisi and an almost tropical humidity, which explains the omnipresent ice cream bars. This is a city of ice cream bars—multiple coolers of ice cream bars on every block. We’re not talking artisanal ice cream here either, just regular old grocery store ice cream, and plenty of people munching away on sticks. Many of these ice cream eaters were wearing white tee shirts with awkward English phrases printed on them, such as “Don’t bother me, I have WiFi” and “My other friend is Mickey”. (Note to self, never wear clothing that contains a language you can’t read.)
After a brief bus ride from the station (costing 15 cents each) we hopped off in the center of Kutaisi, on the edge of a traffic roundabout. Before we could sort out the directions to our hostel, we saw it, the Colchis Fountain, glittering away, right in the center of all that traffic.
While planning our trip to Georgia, I would sometimes see a photo of the Colchis fountain in Kutaisi, and my hair would stand up. “We’re going to see that!” I said to myself, with my usual sense of travel entitlement. Earlier in our trip we visited the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi for a bit of background research. Normally I despise treasuries, which I privately refer to as Shiny Shit for Rich People, but the treasury in the National Museum was more like a fascinating archaeological exhibit. The superstars of the museum treasury are gold jewelry and other artifacts from ancient Colchis kingdom of Georgia dating mostly 8th – 3rd century BC. They were found in Vani, a short distance from present date Kutaisi, in Western Georgia.
The Colchis Fountain is smartly designed, with about 30 enlarged copies of Colchis jewelry on blue mosaic pedestals, with, of course, spouting water.
You can’t tell from this picture, but getting to the fountain involves a death-defying sprint though roundabout traffic.
The centerpiece of the fountain is focused on a large-scale reproduction of horse earrings we saw in the National Museum.
The craftsmanship of these earrings, c. 400 bc, is outstanding.
Proudly standing at the foot of the fountain is this lion, another reproduction from the National Gallery collection. (We forgot to take a photo in the museum, so the image on the left is from Wikipedia.) The original gold lion was created around 2500 bc, and is much beloved by the Georgian people).
It feels like the hairy fellow we met in Ushguli has a few close relative on the fountain too.
I adore this fountain and commend the city of Kutaisi for investing in culturally relevant, beautifully executed public art. Any city with this many ice cream bars and the Colchis fountain, is clearly a winner. I urge you to visit.
How we got to Kutaisi: marshrutka ride from Mestia.
Where we slept: Hostel Paradise Road. Price: €23 for a double. Recommended: yes.