Halfway through planning this year’s holiday, I realised I hadn’t yet put up a blog about last year’s, which caused enough ructions. These went from my cousin’s son-in-law’s “They’re going where? Are they mad?” to daughter’s conviction that Putin’s thugs would be trying to shoot us out of the sky.
On arrival we were greeted by this lady:
Though she has a sword in her right hand to deal with enemies, she holds a cup of wine in her left to welcome friends – the Mother of Georgia.
She stands on a hillside overlooking the capital, Tbilisi. The outskirts of the city look much like any other former communist town, with rows of grim blocks of flats for the proletariat. In the centre, however, there is a mixture of old Georgian architecture and some amazing modern construction.
The bridge over the Mtkvari river was designed by an Italian group and is known as the Bridge of Light. The two large tubes on the right are an exhibition hall and a concert hall and the cluster of white petals in the background is a new adminstration building and court.
The oldest church in Tbilisi:
is a bit of a contrast to the very new cathedral, built by public subscription:
The Georgians are a very religious people and will stop in the street to cross themselves as they go past a church.
Our favourite street was David Aghmashenebeli avenue with this very striking frontage
A link to Tbilisi’s past as a stop on the Silk Road is the Meidan Bazaar, underneath the square where the original caravanserai and unloading centre stood.
This is in the centre of the old town with narrow streets and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Here I ordered a Georgian specialty, tarragon lemonade, not realising that I was getting a jug full and not just a glass.
Husband wisely stuck to beer and finally took pity on me and ordered some wine.
To visit the Kakheti wine region close to the border with Dagestan, we hired a car and driver and a guide, who took us to two monasteries en route. At the second one both the guide and I had to swathe ourselves in long skirts, so as not to shock the inhabitants, whom we didn’t see anyway. The grape harvest had started early because Georgia had had an exceptionally hot summer and we frequently found ourselves stuck behind trucks loaded with grapes. We were offered wine to sample before the tour of the winery with some of the old kvevri still in use.
Of the wines we tried, my favourite, a semi-sweet, red dessert wine had also been the preferred tipple of Iosif Dzhugashvili – husband looked thoughtful when I told him. There was a small open air restaurant attached to the winery where lunch for four including drinks came to about £40.
Unfortunately the weather changed on our last day which spoiled our drive into the Caucasus. There had been heavy rain the night before causing a landslide on the main road to Russia and there were low clouds still around. The higher we went, the lower the mist, until it reminded me of Scotland on a bad day.
This is a special present for Christina:
Because we turned back earlier than planned, we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant which our guide told us was renowned for its Khachapuri, which is cheese bread. Certainly the place filled up with locals very quickly. The khachapuri was very good, but once again I chose the wrong drink. Eager to help the Georgian economy, I ordered a glass of local wine, which husband described as the sort of “cottage industry wine” which no one would dare put in bottles to sell in a supermarket, but which was good enough for passing Russians.
Because of the Russians, or at least one of them, our flight home had to leave 30 minutes earlier than scheduled to take a longer and safer route to Kiev. Changing planes there, we held our breath until we were finally out of Ukraine’s air space and on our way back to Amsterdam, where I was able to reassure imagined-worst-case-scenario daughter that we were safe.
9 thoughts on “What I did on my holiday”
Great stuff, Sheona, I admire your courage and fascination with the unfamiliar.
PS your last pic qualifies for the Food Photo Comp.
Good for you for avoiding the usual holiday destinations. Enjoyed the pictures and narrative both.
Very adventurous, Sheona.
Really interesting account and photos.
So what are planning for this year?
Araminta, this year is to be very peaceful, I hope. Northern Spain and the Douro valley to check out the wine there, not to mention the tapas and whatever the Portuguese equivalent is. I have to say we were not very impressed with some of the cuisine in the Azores.
Tapas are petiscos on the non-lisping side of the border. If you are in the Braga, Vila Real or particularly Bragança (sorry – can’t do cedillas) areas, you’ll need to pack a big appetite. Look for roadside eateries that cater for workies in search of a substantial, well cooked lunch. Plenty of vehicles outside is always a good pointer.
Wonderful account, Sheona. Georgian wine is spectacular. My mum frequently goes to San Francisco to buy a small reserve of the stuff. The Russians carry a good selection of it.
Thank you for my geology pic, looks like some seriously old volcanics subsequently upheaved. Wouldn’t have wanted to have been around when that was happening!
Interesting fact about Russian tarragon. For some obscure reason it cannot be bred from seed, presumably doesn’t come true. All herb plants sold to those who want to grow it are propagated by cuttings. I have never been able to grow it either in Wales or the USA. I suppose it must require exacting horticultural conditions. You very rarely see it for sale. I have always thought the Russian strains superior to the French. Mind you round here you are bloody lucky to be able to buy it at all even dried. Not popular in the USA outside New Orleans.
A good filling- Hard boiled eggs, crush, add mayo and then some cider vinegar Ismall) and dried tarragon and black pepper, really wakes up an old childhood sandwich. Good on toast.
staggers me that Georgia even accepts tourists!
Georgia is very welcoming to tourists, Christina. A lot are Russian and Ukrainian as well as Azerbaijanis. We didn’t meet any other Brits.