Kutaisi - A view from our expert author

 Fountain Kutaisi Georgia by Baciu, Shutterstock The fountain in Kutaisi's central square © Baciu, Shutterstock 

Georgia’s second city is the jumping-off point for beautiful monasteries, mountains and prehistoric sites.

The city’s great sight is the Bagrat Cathedral. It was commissioned by Bagrat III in 1003 as a huge triconch cruciform church with a central dome. It was roofless since its destruction by the Turks in the 17th century, but is now being restored by UNESCO. The centre of the city is the City Garden, a park full of trees where old men gather on benches and cafes serve the young. At its east end is Davit Agmashenebelis Square, dominated by a statue of King David the Builder by Elgudja Amashukeli, Georgia’s best-known monumental sculptor. 

There are other interesting churches to the east of the centre, such as the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin. This is a Georgian Orthodox church, with an interior that seems at odds with its Baroque exterior and Latin inscription.

It is worth making the excursion from Kutaisi to Gelati. Wonderfully set in the hills just to the north of Kutaisi, the monastery of Gelati is one of the most beautiful spots in Georgia. The centrepiece is the great Cathedral of the Virgin, built by King David the Builder in 1106–25 (though in a style typical of the 11th century). Burnt by the Turks in 1510, and by the Lesghians (from the north Caucasus) in 1579, it was restored, then closed under communism, and reopened in 1988. The interior is full of light, and painted in fantastic colours (although a blue background is unusual in Georgian churches). 

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