This is post #100! Didn’t realize I’d even done 100 things. All this traveling apparently hasn’t made me any smarter, because this week in the hostel I made the brilliant move of dropping my glasses behind the shower wall. They dropped about eight feet to the inaccessible area behind the showers into the abyss of random clothing, shampoo bottles, and other items lost forever. I climbed up, and luckily could see them. So I Macgyvered a contraption with the towel hooks and some medical wrap and fished them out. I’m sad to admit it was the greatest sense of accomplishment I’ve had in a while.
But anyways, after a few days in Tbilisi working it was time for my next adventure. Plus it was Thanksgiving so I had a long weekend. The tourist trail runs a bit dry in November and December so I had to more or less go it alone. So I was off to the Kheti region, which can be done in one long day if you have a car and are ambitious, but I was taking my time.
I took a marshrutka from Tbilisi, and it dropped me off just outside Sighnaghi. I decided to walk the few kilometers into the town and grab some fresh air, which was nice until I misread a sign and decided to take a shortcut. But it was a beautiful little detour.
At this point, I probably should have realized I was going in the wrong direction. But I plowed ahead anyhow, down this icy road wearing my runners. Before going I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to wipe out at least once, which managed and then one.
It was the wrong way, so I had to turn around and make my way back. The turn to Bodbe Monastery was of course only about 1km up the road. And here it is.
It was cold and foggy, which didn’t make for very clear views. But, it did make things look a bit surreal, and the place was empty (aside from a few monks or whatever), so that was unique.
And then from Bodbe Monastery I walked a bit farther down to the town of Sighnaghi for the night. Here’s the view walking into the town.
I stopped in Pheasant Tears winery and got a presentation of wine making in Georgia (where it originated in 6000 BCish). It’s a very cool little winery and presentation, having a more authentic feel than just the “come in and taste our wine” gig.
I stayed in a small guesthouse run by an older couple. The man didn’t speak any English but brought me into this (unheated) room for breakfast. It seemed adorable so I took a picture.
The breakfast was a few pieces of different cheeses, bread, a glass of wine, and what appeared to be a double shot of the local shot called “Chacha” (a strong grape vodka or brandy) – he made both himself. It’s the worst thing in the world.
Another marshrutka ride brought me to Kvareli. Had an entire hostel room to myself. I did a little walking tour of the town on my own and stopped in the tourist office, who I think were happy to see a person. I even went next door to the “money/currency museum” where the guy gave me a free private tour of the things in there.
But here are pictures from walking around.
This is Ilia lake. During the summer, people like going here. During the winter, no people go here, but I did see a couple stray dogs, and even they didn’t seem to thrilled with it.
There was a winery next to my hotel, so I stopped in. They were giving a tasting presentation so I listened in for a little bit.
The next day I started early because I planned on walking a lot. Which I did (18miles, which I think should stand as the record for this trip). My first stop was Nekresi Monastery, as I wanted to see if this group had a different take on the whole Jesus situation.
Once I finally got there, you had to hike up another 1.5km, which was not fun. A stray dog joined me for the journey, as they often do, and guarded my backpack while I walked around up top.
The walk was pretty nice. There were a few pretty big wineries along the way that I skipped, but here’s a vineyard with mountains in the background, which was the view for the majority of the way.
Next on the list was Gremi, the old country center during the 16th century. There were two weddings that were here for pictures, so it must be a nice place.
There was a little “museum” inside, and the people were really talking up the old toilet. It cost 3 Lari (a little over $1), so I had to take a picture of the toilet to make that expensive investment worth it.
I had to taxi from here to Telavi, because I was tired and it was still a long ways. The start of the journey was delayed by a stampede of sheep.
Telavi is a bigger city, and I got dropped off right near the market. I never seem to get dropped off in useful places that I want to be. But the market was pretty cool to look at, so that’s nice I guess.
This Giant Plane Tree got street signs and made lists of “things to do in Telavi”. Couldn’t skip an obvious must-see like this. Nothing makes a trip worth it like a 900-year-old Sycamore.
They have weird statues all over the place, just like in Tbilisi, and I was having trouble finding WiFi or a cheap guesthouse. I figured appreciating their efforts to improve the city with public art installations would provide me with good karma
Ended up in a nice little hotel with a great free breakfast that was reasonably priced (under $30), and actually warm. Found a little restaurant and had some khinkali while watching a couple locals get absolutely hammered watching Georgia get pummeled in a rugby match.
The next morning the transportation wasn’t easy to the other “must see” monastery, and I didn’t feel like getting a taxi. Also, I’ve had enough of monasteries, so I just wandered around Telavi a bit more and then took a marshrutka back to Tbilisi through the mountains. Nice views, and I got back a little early so I could get caught up and ready to get back to work.
So, after that long Thanksgiving weekend of adventure, I needed to recharge. I got a modern, black-and-white-Marilyn-Monroe-inspired Airbnb in Tbilisi for a couple weeks (desk included!) and hung out in the city.
Out my front door was a very cool modern skyscraper. Out my back window was an old lady feeding chickens out of a dilapidated shack. Weird. Anyways, here are a few randoms I snapped.
There are a bunch of little Art Cafes like this around the city. Alright to work out of, and very quiet this time of year. They get busier at night it seems.
Here’s a modern coffee shop in a park on the bank of the Mtkvari. It’s another Book Corner Cafe.
The good news about Georgian cuisine is there are quite a few vegetarian choices. The bad news is, it’s mostly bread and cheese and eating it makes me feel like I’m dying. There are a chain of “authentic” places scattered around Tbilisi, which are very popular and I like. My go-tos are the eggplant khachapuri and a mushroom and vegetable-filled khinkali.
I had the acharuli khachapuri the day before I left (for the first time), because it’s the famous one always pictured when you search for it. I put it off because it looked like a real artery-clogger, which was 100% correct. It’s a bread bowl filled with cheeses and butter and topped with an egg. Pretty delicious though.
Not much else, more or less just pretending to live in Tbilisi. I successfully completed my rewards card at the The Tea Leaf & Coffee Bean cafe and celebrated with a free fancy coffee. Did a lot of wandering around to other parts of the city. Plenty to see and the people are nice.
Tbilisi is OK. I’d go back (and I want to in the summer to do more hiking), but probably won’t make it a permanent destination.
So, Saturday morning I jumped in a marshrutka to Yerevan with a bunch of Armenians. They stopped every 30 minutes for a smoke, which was infuriating because it was so freezing. But the road wound through the snowy mountains and the drive along lake Sevan was very picturesque, so it was a pretty trip. We didn’t stop in any pretty places though, so I couldn’t take pictures (unless you wanted pictures of Armenian men smoking, which I didn’t).