25th July 2017
Junior Operations Manager Ruby-Tiger has recently returned from Georgia on our 9 day Land of Myths & Mountains group tour. Below she talks about her favourite moments from the trip, including hiking to reach Gergeti Trinity Church in Kazbegi, sampling traditional Georgian dishes and her top tips for travellers...
On the penultimate day of the tour we visited Vardzia, a fascinating 12th century cave town carved out of the hillside. On the drive back from Vardzia to Tbilisi we stopped off for lunch by Lake Paravani, which was the perfect picnic spot (above). We sat amongst wildflowers, surrounded by mountains under a clear blue sky.
Where do I begin?! We sampled so many amazing dishes, but I think one of my favourites would have to be the walnut aubergine rolls - thinly sliced roasted aubergine, rolled around a delicious creamy walnut paste and traditionally seasoned with garlic, coriander, dill, parsley and fenugreek.
Best night's accommodation?
Towards the end of the tour we spent the night at a local homestay called Valodia’s Cottage (above), in the Aspindza district, located 2km from the Vardzia Cave Monastery Complex. I loved the varying character and style of the rooms, surrounded by a colourful garden with home-grown vegetables. During dinner we sampled organic products from the farm and fresh trout from the Mtkvari River.
After breakfast on day five we began our hike up from our hotel in Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church. We were blessed with perfect weather to catch a glimpse of one of the highest mountains of the Caucasus, Mt Kazbegi. We walked through beautiful woodland to reach Gergeti Trinity Church at 2170m. Whilst it was rather breezy, the views over Kazbegi and the Caucasus were incredible!
While driving away from Kazbegi we stopped at a picturesque spot by the side of the road to take photos of the breath-taking valley in front of us. However, our eyes were drawn to the ‘honesty box’ that lay beside the road (above) and we were pleasantly surprised to see a considerable amount of money sitting within it. Whatever this money was for, we all felt it reflected the honest and generous nature of the Georgian people we had experienced during our trip.
Dario, our tour leader, always made a point of telling us to pace ourselves with the food as Georgian people have a habit of presenting more and more delicious dishes throughout meal times. Food in Georgia is usually ordered mezze style, with large dishes put in the middle of the table so that the group can help themselves. Whether it was lunch or dinner, the food was way too tempting and without fail I would fill my boots with scrummy starters such as Khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and chicken salads, so I would be suitably full before the main courses even came out. Well-seasoned main courses included mincemeat dumplings, veal casserole, bean stew, barbequed pork and several chicken dishes accompanied by new potatoes. You will certainly not leave Georgia hungry!
Tips for travellers
Pack a sketchbook. In Georgia there are so many beautiful churches, each one completely different from the last. One of the members of our group, Olivia Keith, produced some amazing sketches which inspired me to try my own (above). I found that sketching allowed me to appreciate the architecture and fine detail of the churches in a different way, through my own eyes rather than just through a camera lens. No matter how much or how little you rate your artistic talent, I strongly advise you take a sketchbook.