Disclaimer: After seeing the above title, if you think I am one of those cool travellers who is ready to explore the world with their backpacks on, then you are terribly mistaken. I am definitely not one yet. In fact, I am a very lazy person by nature so travelling and all that jazz are too much work for me although I like the idea of seeing new places.
Okay, let’s begin.
Nowadays, travelling is one of the most important fun activities for many, thanks to our visual and social media platforms for promoting it to an extent where everyone wants to become a nomad now. Don’t get me wrong I am not against it. I just really don’t like living out of a box even if it’s for a few days. I get really cranky doing that. So as an adult I never really bothered going for trips, unless it’s an official one or for some other purpose. Yeah, I am that lazy but in my defence, as a kid, I used to travel a lot with my parents and I loved it back then. However, growing up took a whole new route for me when it came to travelling.
Anyway, the good thing is, after a long time I think I am back on track now. I don’t know whether it was my curiosity or the urge to follow the trend, somehow I started this year by visiting Georgia. Yes, a leisure trip finally!
Georgia is a beautiful country located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia with the most mind-blowingly diverse landscapes. It was once a part of the Russian Empire but has now joined hands with Europe. This is what Nino Zhorzholiani, our tour guide and a good friend told me while we were trying to explore Georgia on a chilly afternoon. What she said is right the diversity in its landscape is amazing. From coastal plains to freezing Snow Mountains, from desert to vineyards, you name it they have it.
We started our tour with Tbilisi the capital of Georgia where we stayed during our visit. It’s a small city that tells you stories by itself. Amidst the city lights and busy traffic roads, you will see the historical remains in the background creating a beautiful blend of ancient and modern times in one frame.
The first morning in Tbilisi greeted us with a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel. It was the usual American breakfast spread with toast, eggs, muffins, yogurt, coffee etc., but what made it so special was the fresh and unadulterated taste I got from every single bite. Trust me I have never enjoyed scrambled eggs as much as I did in Georgia. I must say their food and water is something to experience.
With our happy tummies, we began our tour with an air car ride which gave us a good glimpse of the city underneath. We spent the entire morning seeing both old & new Tbilisi, the statue of Mother of Georgia, Bridge of peace, beautifully done chapels and botanical garden which is said to be more beautiful during the spring.
By noon, we stopped for lunch at an authentic Georgian restaurant to explore the much heard Georgian cuisine. Food again yay! When it comes to food, I always do my homework so I had a vague idea of what to expect and try there. Also, with the help of Nino, we managed to order some of their traditional dishes from the menu.
What did we order?
I don’t eat any meat so the things I ordered were limited to veg and chicken. I started my lunch with Chikhirtma – Chicken soup with egg and lemon, quite lemony I felt with big chunks of chicken pieces in the broth with aromatic herbs. It was good to sip some warm soup when the outside temperature was dropping.
While I was still sipping on my soup, the much awaited Adjaruli Khachapuri came. It is a cheese & egg bread pie in the shape of an open boat with bubbling cheese & raw egg in the middle. Nino asked me to swirl the cheese and egg vigorously with a piece of bread torn from the corner of it before starting to eat. Tearing, dunking and eating the khachapuri was quite an experience for me.
Then came the famous Khinkali, Georgian soup dumpling with different types of fillings such as meat, mushroom, and vegetables in it. They say a good Khinkali will have folds not less than 20 and eating the same requires some skill too. Traditionally, you are supposed to take a small bite first to slurp the broth inside the dumpling and then eat the whole thing relishing the meat flavours in it. Since I ordered the veg ones I didn’t get to eat them that way.
That’s all I ate but my friend ordered some beef dish too called Beef chops in spicy sauce along with the above items, and it had more of an Indian flavour to it.
That was our lunch for the day and I have to admit that Georgians are very generous, which you will understand when you see the portion size they serve. That one bowl of soup alone could serve 3, not to mention the rest.
Since we had a heavy lunch we decided to take a walk through the city pathways, visiting small souvenir shops and looking at the roadside wineries with wooden interiors & funny signs hanging onto the doors to lure the wine lover in you. In the evening we visited St. Nicholas Church at Narikala, a huge architectural wonder which was built about 1000 years ago.
Forgot to mention that our first evening in Georgia was Christmas Eve there, as the Georgians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar. So the streets and Churches were already in a celebratory mood when we got there. And, the best part is just when we thought Christmas was over we got to celebrate it again that too in the traditional Georgian way by having their homemade Christmas pie and Chacha (an alcoholic drink made out of grape juice). I don’t have enough words to thank Nino and her dad for treating us like family.
Towards the end of the day, we finished our Tbilisi tour by hopping onto the funicular train which took us to the Mtatsminda Park, the third most visited entertainment park in the USSR during the Soviet Union days.
The next day we visited Kakheti a beautiful city located towards the east of Georgia filled with vineyards and monasteries, where we started seeing snow. There we tasted homemade wines, Chacha, honey and their most popular Churchkela – a traditional sweet made of grape juice and walnuts. The following days we spent in Gudauri and Kazbegi exploring Snow Mountains that form the border between Georgia and Russia.
Experiencing snow was a great deal in the beginning. While I was travelling towards Kazbegi I felt I reached some kind of wonderland made of snow. It is different from how you see snow in a city. Here, it gives you a feel of fairy tales and mythical places. It was that beautiful till I felt it on my skin.
I am not a winter person and this trip definitely made me realize that once again. I couldn’t stand the cold even though I looked like a pile of jackets. When everyone went for skiing and other snow sports I settled in a coffee shop with a cup of hot chocolate watching them playing with the snow. One of the main reasons why I didn’t do a good job with my photography as well this time. Forget photography, I could barely put my hands out of the gloves. Blame the snow I say.
Although I feel I would have enjoyed this place more during the spring or summer, Georgia was still a great experience. Once you are in Georgia, be it the people, their simple lifestyle, the wineries, their food or even the snow, you will find an unspoken charm in everything there.