The Georgian town of Borjomi was developed after a Russian governor discovered a health giving mineral spring in 1810, and it subsequently became a fashionable resort when the Tsar’s brother built a palace nearby in the 1890s. A bottling plant was established, and the water, which became world famous, was said to be drunk by all the Soviet leaders as it was particularly good for vodka hangovers.
Since arriving in Georgia, I’d enjoyed drinking Borjomi water, which was served in most restaurants. But like Marmite, it’s said to divide opinion with its salty-sour, love-it-or-hate-it taste.
We arrived in Borjomi after a long day of travelling and stretched our legs by wandering the full length of the town’s main street, with a river through down one side. Souvenir shops and stalls sold a range of goods including hand knitted items, rain ponchos (it’s around 800m above sea level with inclement weather), and a plethora of medicinal potions and lotions designed to cure all ails. Interestingly large empty plastic bottles were on sale, and we discovered why the following morning. Old army jeeps lined the streets offering tours of the local area.
A pre-breakfast visit was our only opportunity to stroll through Borjomi Central Park, also called Ekaterina Park, conveniently right next to our hotel. We’d checked the opening time of 7am and were told the entrance fee was a nominal 5 Lari (£1.50), however, on arrival, the entrance was open, but the ticket booth unmanned. A map of the park highlighted the various attractions, including the source of the mineral water, Ekaterina Spring, where locals were filling up their empty plastic bottles – warm Borjomi followed by a walk is said to do wonders for the gall bladder – a sign suggested it could be used for the prevention and treatment of ‘chronic gastritis, gastric and non-severe duodenal ulcers, colitis and enterocolitis, disorders of the liver and bile-expelling ways, pancreatis, metabolism related diseases and diabetes mellitus’. Apparently all this was because the water was of the ‘medium-saline, acidulous, hypo-thermal, hydro-carbonate, sodium variety’. Personally, I just thought it was pleasant, fizzy water.
Whilst there were lots of beautiful tall trees, and signs talking about the history of Borjomi and its water, there was an abundance of kiddie rides and amusements including a cable car. However, because it was still early, they were closed, and families were still in bed. Bridges crossed the river several times and eventually the park gave way to a concrete path where in 3km there were Sulphur baths for relaxation (10 Lari), but we turned around and headed for a well-earned breakfast.