Gamajorba (hello) Georgia!

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August 30th 2019
Published: September 5th 2019
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We departed Sheki for the Georgian border early on Sunday morning (which happened to be Bill's birthday!) Our leader Balash was a very good leader, shook all our hands individually and left us at the Azerbaijani- Georgian border where its approximatley a 700m walk to Georgia. We met our new leader, Tamari, on the Georgian side and were taken go our homemade lunch in the Kakheti region (which happens to be wine region). We feasted on delicious Geogian food and sampled homemade chacha, a vodka-type spirit made from grape skins. Afterward we visited a traditional winery where the wine is produced using the traditional methods of fermenting the wine underground in claypots, the wine prodded with a rake type implement and skins, stems and all thrown in which gives the white wine an amber colour. The delightful old man who owns the winery (I assume) gave us some generous samples and we were on our way to our next stop, Sighnaghi.

Sighnaghi is a beautiful cobble-stoned little town which Georgians dub ‘love city'. The group walked through town to the fortess where we got magnificent 360 degree views of the town and surrounding mountains. That night we ate our first Georgian dinner at a wonderful restaurant where we tried the Kinkhali – massive Georgian dumplings filled with delicious broth – yum! And then the lights went down – a surprise birthday cake complete with corny music for Bill , topped off with an explosion of party poppers! Before our walk around town, Tamari was late as she was organising the cake so this was all pre-planned (but not by me!) On the way back to the hotel someone randomly placed fireworks in the middle of the street – we joked that the town must have knew, its all for Bill! The next day, enroute to Tbilisi, we drove up the mountains close to the Georgian-Azerbaijani border to the David Gareja cave complex. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing border disputes between the two countries the David Gareja caves were closed, however we were able to do a short hike to the Udabno monastery which overlooks the vast semi-arid mountains below. As we were hiking further up to the lookout where some of the caves are, we came across some of the Georgian army staking out ‘in case' there's a flare up by the Azerbaijani’s. One of the ladies on our trip got a photo with an Army officer – kind of wish I did too! We had lunch at a hostel at a nearby village, and continued on to Tbilisi.

When Bill and I stepped out of our hotel we thought oh no, Tbilisi is dirty and grungy and we booked extra time here after the trip! We went on a search for coffee, then went out for dinner to Kinkhali house with our group to eat Kinkhali, and to see a Georgian dance show. Unfortunately, it was just karaoke singing so after dinner we crossed the street and we were in the main old city which is beautiful and vibrant – we were just staying in the wrong part of town! We found one of many wine bars, had a sample of the chacha and wine, then settled for some glasses of wine and good conversation overlooking the river. The next day we went on a city tour with Tamari, which ended up being a very very long day but we went for a good walk through the old city, past the domes of the famous Georgian sulphur baths, and tucked away a stones throw from the city centre is a gorge and a waterfall – a beautiful surprise. We then continued on and walked through the backstreets up to the Narikala fortress which dates back to the 4th century, and scaled the fortress walls taking magnificent photos of the view before circling to the Mother Georgia statue. After lunch, we strolled more around the old town before ending the tour at Freedom square, saying goodbye to Tamari and me and Bill went shopping and had an adventure on the Tbilisi metro to get back to the hotel (its really deep underground!) That night was our last night with this particular Intrepid group as half were finishing their tour. It was a good trip with the group and sad to see those who left as we had gotten along pretty well. Me, Bill and one of our Intrepid mates leaving us, Sylvie, went back to the wine bar for a nightcap.

The next day, me, Sylvie and another Intrepid lady Janet, went to the sulphur baths for a soak in the 47 degree waters and enjoy a scrub and massage. The baths we chose was the Orbeliabi baths that has an Islamic architecture facade, which is very beautiful. Leave your dignity at the door!! It was very relaxing. Afterward Bill and Janet’s husband George met us and we walked to the Jewish museum which was closed. We then walked to the Georgian national museum which was also closed which we later found out was because it was a national holiday. The large street in front of the museum was closed off as well as they are filming The Fast and The Furious 9 – how exciting!! Later that night we met up with the extra Intrepid crew for the rest of the trip – 5 new people and again we were a group of 12. The next day, while the new group were having their walking tour, we slept in and then wandered the city. We did go to the Georgian national museum , which was filled with archaeological artefacts, including skulls and bones, jewellery and earthenware. There was also some exhibitions of traditional Georgian costumes and weaponry too. On the top floor was the museum of Soviet Occupation which was very interesting. That night we enjoyed dinner on the rooftop near our hotel enjoying a live singing performance and discussing our new Georgian adventure ahead.

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