New east travel diaries
Off track
A guide to getting lost and finding yourself in Georgia without really trying

Located in the Caucusus and bounded to the west by the Black Sea, Georgia is gradually becoming a popular travel destination due to its unique combination of outstanding natural beauty and well-preserved historic culture.

Polish photographer Michał Sierakowski travelled to the country in winter 2015 to catch an off-season moment of tranquility. With landscape as one of the main aspects of his creative practice (see his documentation of former uranium mining sites in Poland here), Sierakowski sought out the mountains and remote towns of Georgia.

“I travelled with my younger brother to Tbilisi. But even off season the capital was quite annoying. On every corner there were crowds of guys trying to sell us trips to local attractions or inviting us to try wine. So I decided to just take pleasure from riding marshrutkas (local minibuses), experiencing the view and getting off in more or less random places,” says Sierakowski. “We swam in hot springs in the middle of forests, contemplated the landscapes while trying to hitch a ride on the side of the road and squeezed in between goats, potatoes and oranges during a ride on a local train. Eventually we rented a small 4x4 and set off for Svanetia, a mountainous region in the northwestern part of Georgia. It took 130 kilometres and dozens of hairpin bends to get to Mestia, a small town surrounded by mighty mountains, desolate in the middle of winter.”

In Sierakowski’s photos, mountains rise peacefully in the hazy winter light. Even in the remotest of locations though, silence and tranquility proved hard to come by. “I remember standing on a bridge for 40 minutes and just staring at mountains on the horizon and flowing river beneath while everything was slowly flooded with red light coming from the setting sun,” he says. “At the same time, there were the sounds of honking marshrutkas, scraps of Georgian pop-folk-disco coming from taxis, the sounds of people yelling and arguing at the nearby market, all of it in the background to the epic view.”

What differentiates Sierakowski’s imagery from similar travel stories is the drifter’s eye view that he seems to brings to his projects, perhaps because, for him, the journey really is as important as the destination. “I pursue the feeling of being lost,” he says. “When I don’t know where I am, when I don’t know the places or people — that’s when I feel completely free and I am most happy. In my photos I try to reflect that mixed feeling of being lost, alienated and free at the same time”.

Text: Anastasiia Fedorova
Image: Michał Sierakowski