Kutaisi: The Fabled Medea’s Hometown

Decorative elements on a new fountain seen on Agmashenebeli Square in Kutaisi, Georgia. Designers created oversized replicas of golden figures found in sites associated with the ancient Colchis kingdom.

KUTAISI, Georgia — Until last fall, I had never heard of Kutaisi, a city of about a quarter of a million people more than 100 miles west of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia (the country).

Street scene in Kutaisi, Georgia.

It turned out to be a pleasant place with some surprisingly charming center city attractions, and it is home to a church and monastery that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I visited Kutaisi in September 2012 as part of a weeklong tour for

Houses overlooking the Rioni River in Kutaisi, Georgia.

travel agents and travel journalists. We arrived after dark, which dictated the kind of sightseeing we could do before eating a fairly quick dinner.

However, nighttime was a good time to see a new fountain in the middle of town — on Agmashenebeli Square in front of the city’s theater — because it puts on quite a light show.

Georgia’s new Parliament Building, in Kutaisi, Georgia. Relocating the seat of Parliament outside Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, was controversial, but meant to spread resources around the country.

The fountain features much enlarged versions of tiny gold animal figures that were found at an archaeological dig at Vani, a city in the ancient kingdom of Colchis in western Georgia. The original objects are in a Tbilisi museum.

As for the fountain’s life-sized replicas of the gold treasures, they are dramatically highlighted with lights that change colors every few minutes.

The fountain was new as of the last couple of years; Georgia’s newly built (and controversial) Parliament building is also in Kutaisi.

I learned more over dinner.

First, about that dinner: As with many meals in Georgia, it included tomato-and-cucumber salad, cheese bread and other bread, a beef dish, pork shashlik, fries, spreads (for all that bread) made from things like spinach, crushed walnuts, eggplant, plum sauce. After all that, dessert was fresh fruit.

Between bites, I chatted with our trip host, Maia Mdivnishvili, who operates a new travel company, called We Love Georgia. (She is at macamdiv@yahoo.com. Her website was still birthing at this writing.)

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