Imereti is a place with a charm all of its own. It is part of the country that was known to the ancient Greeks as Colchis – the land of the Golden Fleece, and there is certainly something mythic about its lush mountains and fertile valleys. It was here that King Aeetes, keeper of the Golden Fleece, had his capital. Some think it was where the current port of Poti is located, others that it was at the regions current capital Kutaisi, but archaeological digs in the small town of Vani have revealed the remains of a massively rich and thriving Hellenistic culture. Bronze and gold statues of incredible workmanship, jewellery and glassware confirm that, since the Bronze Age at least, Imereti has been a place of highly sophisticated culture. Kutaisi, Imereti’s main town, is Georgia’s second city after Tbilisi. It was once the capital, and the magnificent churches of Bagratis and Gelati – both UNESCO world heritage sites – testify to the importance of the region. In the 19th century, Kutaisi was at the centre of a Georgian cultural revival, and many of the country’s best-loved poets and artists hailed from here. Kutaisi suffered badly during Soviet times, but now the city is being revitalized, with the magnificent Art Nouveau mansions of the 19th century merchants, and the historic Jewish Quarter on the banks of the Rioni river being restored to their former glory. An economic boom is beginning in Kutaisi – the area has been declared a free economic zone, and sittings of the Georgian parliament will move here in a few years. Amongst Georgians, Imereti is best known for its spicy, delicious food, it’s crisp white wine and the friendliness of its inhabitants. It is literally impossible to travel in Imereti without being invited into somebody’s home, feasted, toasted, and in general treated like visiting royalty. When the Greek hero Jason came here to retrieve the Golden Fleece, he wasn’t exactly greeted kindly by the locals – but as any visitor to Imereti today will tell you – that’s all changed!