Posts Tagged With: georgia

2 capitals, a museum and an inn

After 3 wonderful days in Tbilisi and one around the Kakheti region, we decided to spend a couple of nights amidst the mountains of Gergeti. After a lot of thought, we hired a car (ditching the cheaper but slower marshrutka) so that we could stop en route and check out a couple of local sights.Mtskheta Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day turned out to be wet & rainy but, coming from the desert, didn’t cause us any grief!

jvariStop 1 was Jvari Monastery atop a rocky mountain. This world heritage site has a lot of historical significance but what makes the visit even better is the beautiful view of the town below that goes by the name of Mtskheta.

Which then brought us down to Stop 2, Mtskheta, the erstwhile capital of Georgia. A pretty town completely deserted by the rains which (in my opinion) only accentuated its beauty. With nothing else open, said hello to yet another church, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and wore a skirt to enter (the demands of religions!), listened to a mellifluous chorus of nuns in soprano (me thinks) and rushed back to the car before getting drenched in a downpour.

Stop 3 was another historical ruin, the name of which I have no memory of. However, this was a Bollywoodish-movie setting where I posed and took ample photos before another shower sent us scurrying into the car.

Stop 4 was Gori, the city best (and only) known for being the birthplace of Stalin. We spent a princely sum to enter the Joseph Stalin museum and a stocky long-faced lady showed us around with a wooden cane and gave us a 40 minute lesson on the life history of the communist leader before showing us his fancy little travel tram after which she signed off with a once-in-a-lifetime-smile.

Stalin Gori GeorgiaStop 5 was mandatory. The stomach was growling and though our driver friend recommended a restaurant another hour away, we decided to stop at the next available place. Which turned out to be a small non-descript inn in the middle of nowhere. A group of drunken elderly men were busy with their cha cha and on our arrival, turned their attention to the 2 very distinct looking indians and started singing Raj Kapoor songs (you may recall that he was popular among some of the locals of the erstwhile soviet era). While the food was something I’d avoid mentioning, the company was nothing short of boring. The men not only gave us some country eggs to eat (a post-Easter tradition) but raised a toast to the dead-souls (another tradition) and yet another toast for our well-being!

The last part of our drive was spectacular with the changing scenery and we cha cha-ed our way through to our final destination, Gergeti. More on that soon…

Categories: Georgia, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Stairway to heaven

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Celebrating Georgian cuisine

I have concluded that one common thread runs across citizens of every country on this planet. They all claim that their cuisine is the best!

And Georgia is no exception to that.

As a vegetarian, I wasn’t expecting much. Though I must admit that the food (along with everything else Georgian) won me over. Stereotypes at work again. Like I assumed a Germany that served only sausages and potatoes, I imagined a Georgia with Russian styled meat soups and vodka. But I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. For a start, Georgians are proud of their chacha – the vodka-equivalent which they proudly gulp at one go. We tried it once and even the husb’s face changed into a zillion expressions in a matter of 3 seconds. So you can imagine how potent that was!

But this is a post about food and unsurprisingly I have liquefied it. Let’s get back on track.

Georgian Easter breakfast

Georgian cuisine, the way I see it, is a wonderful mélange of food from Europe and Asia with Russian influence. The best way to introduce it is through a Khachapuri. The analogy to this is our very own paratha or naan. So this is a bread, the shape and type of which varies depending on the region it is from. The distinct and the must-definitely-try is the Adjarian or Adjaruli Khachapuri. To me, it looks like a ‘yellow eye’ but is more famously known as a love-boat because of its shape; this bread oozes loads and loads of gorgeousness (read calories) with the amount of butter used as well as a raw egg in the centre! If you ever get around to finishing one, you will realise why I emphasised so much about the importance of walking in this country.

Khachapuri

Oh, by the way, I did turn a meat-eater for one meal. The story goes thus: I was told that vegetarian Khinkalis were available (analogy: dumpling/momo). So I happily ordered for some mushroom khinkalis and attempted eating it the georgian way which is to suck out the broth and only after, bite into the whole thing. A couple of days later, over a meal with a Georgian cabbie, I was informed (mockingly, of course) that that there is nothing such as a vegetarian khinkali and the mushrooms were likely to have been cooked in meat broth. Why, thank you very much. End of story.

One very essential and delectable ingredient in georgian cuisine is walnuts. Satsivi or walnut sauce (I find no analogy to this!) is essentially a paste and when smeared on fried slices of eggplant and consumed, can give you a momentary glimpse of heaven.

The other important ingredient is Lobio or Red kidney beans. Cooking this in two popular ways can produce a Lobiani (analogy: rajma paratha) and clay pot-cooked Lobio (rajma dal!). On a day that both of us had an enormous rice craving (georgian food is predominantly bread-based) we found a place that served it and mixed it with steaming hot lobio. Yum!

Lobio - Georgia food

And then there is Tkemali or plum sauce – I loved the tartness and managed to bring back a small bottle of it!

Of course, there is a lot more of Georgian food since i covered only a minuscule vegetarian portion of it. I only know that the Chakhokhbili that the husb had, chicken-and-boiled egg-in-tomato gravy, looked delicious and apparently tasted great too.

Noteworthy among the desserts is Churchkhela – what I thought looked a bit bizarre and assumed to be some type of kebab. It was well toward the end of our trip that I (fortunately) asked a shopkeeper who told me that they were nuts, mainly walnuts, threaded onto a string and dipped into thickened flour and grape juice and finally dried to give a sausage-like appearance (analogy: halwa?). I bought two made of white and red grapes and while I dint fancy the former, loved the latter!

Churchkhela

For more on the cuisine, visit this site I came across.

Recommendation (in Tbilisi):

  • Machakhela (one of the few places that’s open 24/7 and a great place to pass time)
  • Cafe Kala (I thought the place was pricey but nice ambience and has a few more veggie options than the rest)
  • Carrefour – to buy local sauces, yoghurts and chocolates!
  • Not sure about other areas but Kote Abkhazi street had tons of shops selling churchkhela

 

Related posts:

In love with Tbilisi

The where and why of Georgia

Categories: Georgia, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The where and why of Georgia

No no, not the north-american state. Georgia, the country.

And if you didn’t pay extra attention to your geography class on Soviet rule or Georgia’s independence in 1991, here’s where it is.

I chanced upon a travel blog of Georgia a couple of years back, looked up all possible flight options and instantly wanted to visit it. I’ve been told that if you really really want something, the outer forces conspire to help you achieve it. Yeah, it actually worked!Georgia Kazbegi

So why Georgia?

  • Visa-on-arrival for Indians in the UAE. There are just a handful of ’em countries that allow us so easily, so make the most of it! Add to this, a cheap direct flight from Dubai and being in the same time zone means no jet-lag, only a tbilisian hangover on return.
  • Cold country. From 38 deg to 8 deg in just 4 hours!
  • Relatively untouched by tourists, especially from Asia (in fact, I was told there were a handful of indian students studying medicine at the local university!) So get ready to Gah-mahr-jobah!
  • Half as cheap as western Europe. A tad cheaper than that.
  • Snow-clad mountains. Vineyards. Churches. Caves. Beaches. And eggplants with walnut paste. What more do you want?!Georgia food

In Brief

7 days of Georgia. 2 of us. And that helped in un-planning and going without a fixed schedule. It also helped that most places were available, April being off-season. We booked accommodation for only 2 nights and off we went. They said 7 days were enough to see all of Georgia. They were wrong. By the end of the week, we had not covered even half the country.

Georgia photoAnd so, our itinerary eventually turned out like this, touching three prominent regions of Georgia:

  • MtskhetaMtiaeti which has the gorgeous gorgeous (yes that was repeated) capital of Tbilisi, the erstwhile capital Mtskheta and the mountainous Kazbegi
  • Kakheti with Sighnaghi as its signature city now positioned as the ‘Love City‘!
  • Shida Kartli that has Gori, a city famous for being the birthplace of Stalin

Georgia castleOverall, the weather was wonderful (and my idea of wonderful is a gloomy chilly 10 deg C), the locals were friendly (though at first instance, they appear to be cold), and the food and drink just adequate to keep us happy. I liked all the little towns and villages but was besotted with Tbilisi, the capital.

A lot more georgian love coming soon!

Georgia Tbilisi

 

Categories: Georgia, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Georgia – First cut

Las Vegas is passé. Tbilisi is the Now.

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The first in a series of upcoming posts on Georgia. You have been warned.

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