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If I learn what I love from my dreams, its GEORGIA!

In Georgia by Maggie

I was struggling between two post topics “Georgia in the eyes of a Hong Kong girl” or the one I used now, finally I picked it because literally it shows how much I like this country and, it sounds sexier, isn’t it? I expected a little bit explanation is needed though. 

I dreamed of myself being in Georgia for some 8 consecutive nights since I left the country to home on 21st Oct. I have no idea how could I miss this piece of land so bad as that was already the 5th time I experienced the sadness of leaving this lovely country. (Um… I thought I could manage it but it turned out I couldn’t!) It was 2012 the first time I visited Georgia, the mind blowing experience has been remarkably staying in my head so far.

My HK friends always put me questions like “Why Georgia?” “ What to see /do there?”  “Only wine?” (because all of my friends know I am addicted to the Georgian wine :p ). Well, its understandable, some of them can’t point Georgia on a map or even can’t speak its name in Chinese correctly, may be it is still too exotic to majority of the HK peeps.

I have to confess that I am kind of ‘love it to the extreme’ and ‘exotic’ person. I even took pictures of myself in bridal gown in Tbilisi so that I can remember this beautiful place with the beautiful me! 🙂

Who doesn’t know the best thing in life is to share what you love? Thats why I go back to this country again and again, I explore, I observe, I feel, I record and I share, as the passion of my life.  Here below a tiny piece about what touched me so much in Georgia.

1.The Nature is just Unspoiled and Vigorous

“Treasure the moment when the peak let to be seen, be patient if the peak plays with you hide and seek, so does life. “

“We are just an insignificant speck of dust ”.

I remember so much of such reliefs came across my mind when I stared at the Caucasus mountains. I remember how good I felt to open eyes in the morning with the snow capped mountains view. When I visited Svaneti and Kazbegi, not only mountains, flowers, lowland marshes, pipe forests, oaks, lakes, rivers and glaciers alongside with the coloured village houses, spiritual churches, cows, sheep and shepherds, all imprinted some unforgettable beautiful paints in my mind. 

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Kazbegi (view from the Rooms Hotel)

Georgia is such a small country with all kind of natural wonders, while lacking of sophisticated infrastructure to reach makes its nature more mysterious and admirable.

Davit Gareji cave complex


Katskhi pillar, there is a monk living up there!


Georgia~Signahi (people call it the City of Love)


Another amazing cave complex Vardzia


Vashlovani national park. It is the Georgian Africa with lot of bedland liked landscape and you can walk under the sea (it was sea!! xxx thousands million years ago)


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Ushguli, at the foot of Mt. Shkhara

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Mestia- UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Dominated by stone defensive towers


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Starting point of the Chalaadi -Glacier Trekking


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After an hour of stoney trekking Svaneti Georgia


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Ancient Svanetian tower and the Caucasus Mountains


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Georgia~Mestia from the water to the mountain


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Looking towards Mestia Glacier


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Looking towards Chaladi Glacier


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Mestia-Autumn color is round the corner


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Patara Enguri River


Prometheus cave


Okatse Caynon, it was like walking in the sky

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Georgian Military Highway and the mosaic of Friendship

2.Nostalgic Tbilisi

I am never good at history but unlike any other hundreds cities i have been, Tbilisi is the only one I could see the history so vibrantly stands in front of me. It is an open air movie studio with all sets from 4th to 21st century. While you are still imagining the scene which Persians attack through the Narikala Fortress in the 6th century, just 2 mins away by cable car you are standing on an 2010 Italian architect’s master piece- the Peace Bridge. The old town is nostalgic charm with winding cobbled streets, tilting houses and wooden balconies.

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The Old City Wall


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Narikala Fortress


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Tbilisi Peace Bridge


Tbilisi from a secret view point

For a person come from metropolis sphere like myself, what’s even more astonishing is the slum-like or ruin buildings at the heart of the old town. I still remember the very first time I had an moment of hesitation not to walk deeper inside the streets due to the oldish look. However, now they all seem to me the most beautiful bricks in the citythey are the evidence of how tough were Georgians walking through the path of power changing, natural disasters and poverty.

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I can imagine the ‘ci ci’ sound when walking up the stairs


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Not bearable to live in


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It doesn’t look as strong as it is

3.The Scents

I did not notice how firm  “Georgian scent” attaches with my brain cells before the last visit. I rented an apartment at Leonidze street. Like many other streets in Tbilisi, street sellers are full on the street, I like them in a way that they make the street so alive and full of scents. I walked back and forth the street couple times a day and I noticed the scent come from the fresh herbs selling along the street. Be it parsley or tarragon, they just smell so different from those I could find in Hong Kong. What’s more are the scent from bakery and cheese stall, and, for sure, the aroma of the Georgian wine, they just attacking my nose all the time. And they make me feel like saying “Gamarjoba, I am back”.

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Cheese stall


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Streets are alive with these sales Mama

 

4.The Timeless Feeling

I have no sense of time when I am in Georgia, the sky only tells day and night. 

One day, I came out from a 19th century building where my apartment located, it was time to lunch, I passed the fortified Old City walls which protected the city from 7th to 8th century and got in a quirky cafe with modern interior deco. 

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My host tried her best to renovate the outlook , it (the white one) does stand out from the rest


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Cafe Leila , quirky beautiful

After a nice fusion dish, I wandered without set destination, all of a sudden, time flashed back to the old time as soon as I reached the Dry Bridge bazaar where whole lot of oldies are presented. I spent nearly 3 hours in the treasure hunts. It was just too much walking, I headed over to bath house at Abanotubani, sending myself back in the Ottoman time and expecting a Turk masseur to relief my tiredness.

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Abanotubani (bath house area)


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Dry bridge bazaar


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the best way to present a carpet.

What’s better than a glass of wine and saxophone music after the hot bath? I chilled in-front of Vinomania, it was too relax to think about how many glasses I had, time just stopped. “Ring Ring”, my friend picked me up by car and we drove up to the middle of the hill. “Am I too tipsy?” I thought, I looked down and I saw millions golden stars moving around. I could not take my eyes off the beautiful illuminated Tbilisi panorama night scene, but, my physical clock was still working and it reminded me time for food. It was almost 12 at the midnight, I was craving for khinkali (Georgian giant dumplings)! No worry, it is so easy to find places to eat 24hrs back down the old town. “How could I sleep with a full stomach”? I yelled to my friend. We headed to “Cafe Gallery”, where no tourist would notice it is a party place only when sky goes dark. And, the night just never ended… ……

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A very strategical spot to enjoy wine. To see and To be Seen


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Guess what was happening inside?


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I was too tipsy to hold the camera tight!

5.The lovely Georgians- Best hospitality ever

Every Georgian would say “Guests are gifts from the God” . I cannot remember how many times I have been invited to walk in stranger’s house in village, being served by their home made bread and wine. How many times I could not manage to leave the dinner table because of the cordial hospitality they accorded me. How much food and wine they offered which created a battle with my stomach. How many times I received a toast which wishing all the best things come to me. How many time I was moved to tears because of the Georgians.

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There is no stranger in Georgia! I didn’t know him, he just invited me to his home and offered me home made wine


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We could not communicate by words, we communicate by heart. He was showing me his ‘assets’


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She taught me how to make bread, and of course, I ate a lot!

6.The lovely Georgians- Passionate to keep tradition

Yes, this is another point about the Georgians again!

There are some common says like “every Georgian can make wine”, “every Georgian can sing and dance”. In restaurant, if you see people singing and dancing at the middle of a meal and show them a curious face,  they would say “WHY NOT? its our tradition”. In a typical Georgian feast (they call it Supra), you can simply feel yourself embraced by tradition and love, the never ending wine and the meaningful toasts are actually very spiritual, representing nowadays people still doing the same way as their ancestor did in the past.  I can feel how much Georgians love their country and dedicated to keep tradition alive. A friend of mine is a very typical example, he is a protector of antique traditional drinking vessels, advocate of traditional polyphonic music, last but not least, he made the rebirth of high quality traditional costumes happened.

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Shop Samoseli Pirveli showcast a beautiful collection of Traditional Georgian Costume


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This is the traditional way to drink, with crossed arm. I was just too short to him 🙂


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Close your eyes and drink the ChaCha like a shot


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one of the highlight in a supra, georgian polyphonic singing

7.Khachapuri and Khinkali


Khachapuri

Khachapuri


Khinkali

Khinkali

Khachapuri (cheees bread) and Khinkali (giant dumplings) are the two Georgian pronunciations I learnt first and would never forget. Hold on! How could I not know more (and love more) other Georgian dishes as being so many times in Georgia? Of course I do, but the list may go forever. Georgian cuisine is rich and diverse. I hope its not my bias, even as basic as cucumber, tomato, parsley, chicken and eggs,  those grow in Georgia are way more tasty for me. Their agriculture and farming are just blessed by God.  Here comes my MUST eat list:

  • Matsoni (sour yoghurt) is always my choice for breakfast.
  • No proper table doesn’t set with bread and Georgian cheese, Nadugi wrapped by thin Sulguni cheese is my favourite.
  • They don’t eat too much green leaves but still they have a wide choice of salad, egg plant wrapped with walnut, jonjoli (marinated plants) or pkhali (mash of vegetable with walnut sauce) are all delicious.
  • For meat dishes, pork mtsvadi (BBQ meat in skewer) and chakapuli (lamb stew in white wine and green) go very well with wine.
  • Something more fulfilling? lobio (beans) and corn bread.
  • If you don’t insist to stay healthy, order the high cholesterol cow intestines, or chicken liver salad, you can tell how healthy are the Georgian animals by these dishes.
  • Need some sauces? Tkemeli (plum sauce) goes well with nearly anything!

8.Qvevri Wine

Yes, I leave this topic to the last intentionally, otherwise I would just keep writing until I drop. Georgian wine is seriously something!

For any first time tourist, it is just too easy to notice the significant role of wine in Georgia, by the plenty number of wine shops along the street; by the amazingly big wine section in supermarket; by the uncountable huge choice of local produced wine; by the generous amount of wine being poured into your glass for free tasting, so on and so on. In conjunction with the Georgian hospitality, you need to spare one to two full day in Tbilisi for ‘wine shop crawling’,  enjoy the free tasting and talk with the people with wine in the blood. 

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You need a whole afternoon to talk with the owner about wine, life, Georgia, HK and whatever……


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Even the shop keeper could not tell how many different labels the shop carries.


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Wine Gallery in Tbilisi


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Antique drinking vessel with Chinese engrave?


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If you are lucky enough, sometimes the shop keeper will bring you his homemade wine


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Antique drinking vessel Azarpesha

Saperavi, Kindzmarauli, Tsolikouri etc etc are some common Georgian wine name. It took me a pretty long while to learn how to pronounce them, not to mention to learn the wine characteristics. While there is a word you must bear in mind- Qvevri. This is something that every wine lover should try at least once before you die. Can you imagine how wine being made in an egg- shaped clay vessel buried underground would taste like?

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This is skin contact in a Qvevri


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Look at the color,skin contact gives such beautiful amber color to the Qvevri wine

My love and affection towards the Georgian wine is something more than just the archaeological evidence proofing its 8000 years old age, its about the love and enthusiasm of the wine makers which I could feel through my nose, eyes and palate. I especially admire those natural winemakers who follow the organic principle to grow grapes as well as to make the wine by adding nothing chemical. Their wines truly and naturally reflect richness and characters of the Georgian soil and grapes. I asked winemaker Iago how could he makes such a good Chinuri, he said “don’t do anything”. After few shots of Chacha (a Georgian Spirit made by grape) with 80+ % alcohol, I felt him like a guard protecting those essences of a Georgian ’s life, the land, the religion, the language and the wine.

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Winemaker is preparing to show you his hand crafted wine


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Close your eyes and drink the ChaCha like a shot

One more thing I enjoyed so much is the winery visit. Unlike other wine countries which dominated by over commercialised wineries, where you even have to line up for a glass of free tasting. In Georgia, there are some artisanal wineries which give you a total different experience. They don’t have glamorous nor sophisticated settings, but the winemakers open their arms to visitors, show them their heartfelt crafted wine, food fresh from the garden and cultural activities. The visits were just so fruitful, from learning how wine being made in the traditional way, to making traditional food like bread, Khinkali and Churchkhela, not to mention tasting unfiltered wine straight from the Qvevri or freshly distill ChaCha. These interactions bring their enthusiasm straight to my heart.

Part of my trip in October 2015 was supported by the Georgian National Tourism Administration. As a token of gratitude, I have written this post in English to share my appreciation of and passion to Georgia.