9th October 2019
Georgian cuisine is very healthy and includes a lot of salad type dishes such as tomato and cucumber or aubergine, pomegranate and walnuts, flavoured with herbs like dill and parsley. My absolute favourite dish was Khinkali, also known as the Georgian dumpling. They are typically filled with minced meat, onions and spices, and are best paired with a glass of red wine. They are deliciously juicy and you eat them with your hands, so it is helpful to have a napkin nearby!
My favourite moment came during my stay at Rusiko’s Guesthouse in Telavi. After a sumptuous dinner, I decided to get an early night. As I was lying in bed I heard the sound of a guitar and a man’s voice singing a beautiful song in Georgian. I peered out my window and looked across to the neighbouring garden, where I saw a small group of people, men, women and children, gathered around a table. The man at the head of the table was singing to his companions as they ate and drank together. As the night progressed and more glasses of chacha were consumed, the singing and joking became livelier (and louder), but it put a smile on my face as I lay there in the dark listening to this gathering of family and friends having fun. Sometimes it’s the smallest, simplest of things that stay with you.
Whilst in Stepantsminda we went to a little shop/factory to discover the art of felt making, one of the oldest methods of creating fabric using sheep’s wool. The lady giving the demonstration was very friendly and informative, and we were each offered the chance to have a go ourselves at rolling and decorating the material. It was interesting to learn a little more about Georgia’s cultural heritage and how traditional crafts are contributing to the economy.
No trip to Georgia is complete without a visit to Vardzia Cave Town, a series of caves that were dug out of solid rock in the 12th century. As we explored the many different features I imagined what this place would have been like in its heyday, with its sleeping chambers, kitchens, wine cellars and theatre. There is also a small church here, which has some amazing wall frescoes. Looking at the site from across the Mtkvari River offers a stunning panoramic view.
After a challenging two and a half-hour walk up to Gergerti Trinity Church, we were rewarded with a breathtaking view of Kazbegi. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, which was warm and sunny with blue skies and not a cloud to be seen. The mountain peak set across this backdrop was truly spectacular.
Staying at Valodia’s Cottages is like being in a fairytale. Everywhere you look there are flowers of all colours and varieties, and the pergolas that cover the pathways are draped in grapevines. All food (and wine) is produced onsite, including fruit, vegetables and honey, and fresh fish is caught in the river that runs alongside the farm. It was so lovely to disconnect from the hectic world we live in and enjoy the peaceful tranquillity of this location.
I bought a Kantsi, which is a traditional Georgian drinking horn, typically made using the horn of a goat. I really enjoyed learning about the role of the tamada, or toastmaster, who is in charge of introducing each toast at a Georgian supra (feast).
Talk to the locals as much as possible! They are very friendly and proud of their country, and they enjoy sharing their stories with others.