AROUND TBILISI

After our sightseeing tour in far places, we’re now bound to explore the capital proper of Georgia which is Tbilisi. Unlike any modern city where we used to see high-rise building , wide road, congested traffic and too crowded, Tbilisi has a unique way of presenting itself without the use of glamorous decoration yet tourist will be left captivated with it owns natural beauty.

Our Tbilisi tour starts with Aerial Cable Car. With just 1 Lari per person, we can go for a shortest ride to Narikala Fortress and had a fantastic view of the city.

While we were in the Ropeway, these our views from above.

 

In a couple of minutes we reach the Narikala Fortress. Narikala is a symbol of Tbilisi’s defense.

Lighted Wall of Narikala. A photo taken during night time.

Narikala Fortress which is located in a steep hill gave us the perfect platform to see the city of Tbilisi in a different turn.

 

We also see up close the Kartlis Deda or Mother of Georgia. The statue holds a sword and cup of wine which indicate their warm welcome to guests and deeply fighting off enemies.

Inside the Narikala fortress is Saint Nicholas Church where we also pay a visit.


Our camera does not only focus on the church but on these walls surrounding it.

Who would have thought that there will be Falls in the heart of the city? Leghvtakhevi waterfalls is located in between Botanical Garden and Bath district. The stunning view of running water brush off our weariness.

Glad to witness another Georgian couple who choose this site as part of their nuptial photo.

On our way out, these colorful and appealing houses makes our walk more at ease.

We also passed by to Sulphur bath houses: Abanotubani.

Though we already saw the Peace Bridge early in the morning on our first day, now only we got the chance to walk on it. The bridge composed of  glass and iron connecting old Tbilisi with the new districts and boasts a 150m roof of steel and glass.

This Pedestrian bridge is also dazzling at night because of its LED lights.

There is still a lot to see in Tbilisi. By simply walking, our eyes fall in love with its charming environment that help us to invest a happy memories in this place.

Thank you Tbilisi…we also love you.

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UPLISTSIKHE AND SVETITSKHOVELI

We started our day 3 in visiting a Museum. Here, we watch a 10-minutes video on how Uplistsikhe cave town develop and some artifacts which they preserved until now.

Uplistsikhe which is known by now as ‘Fortress of the Lord’ is described as one of the primeval urban settlement in the history of Georgia. It was built on the rocky bank of Mtkvari river. Back then, it serves as a center of pagan worship in Kartli region and was believed as a royal residence of the Kings for some times.

The rock-hewn formation is visible on the foothill where we had a briefing for our preparatory climb. According to Giorgi, the complex is divided into 3 parts: a lower, middle and upper section which is all included in a 40,000 square meters.

Climbing in Uplistsikhe is a bit challenge especially for us who were mostly seen in corporate office. It requires a strong physical stamina that will test your endurance while traversing the rocky and narrow road. Besides, the cold and windy airs impede our comfort level as we began our steps.

As they said, each step upward requires lot of effort but this view of Mtkvari river is worth the climb.

Would you believe they even built a Christian Basilica on the upper section of Uplistsikhe town.

Georgians who lived here before create a tunnel for easy hike. Going down from Uplistsikhe is pretty easier for us because of this tunnel.

We take rest in the mini-forest opposite of Uplistsikhe.

Well, ‘rest’ is not the correct word to use because each group are seizing the opportunity to have a good photo souvenir.

Part of our itinerary is to visit the 2nd largest church building in Georgia-Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. All girls are required to dress properly. No sleeveless and skirt above the knee. Though, we’re wearing pants already Giorgi suggests to borrow the scarf/long skirt available on the entrance door.

 

Locals believed that Jesus robe was buried on this site.

There’s a stone built mini chapel inside the cathedral as a replica of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

We’re so lucky that when we visit the Svetitskhoveli  Cathedral, we found a couple who got married that time. We asked them if it’s okay to have photo-op with them and they are pleased to say yes to us.

 

GREMI CASTLE AND CALL OF NATURE

During winter season, some tourist appreciates the snow because of its massive existence in the area. The surrounding in Georgia became an instant canvass with pure white snow on its background. Well, that’s surreal when we were in the mountain but as we explore the Kakheti region, we had a quick stop in a not-touristy place which others might think as an ordinary road but for us who happen to see its natural beauty is something worth of stopover. Our tour guide, Giorgi, called it as his ‘secret place’. I don’t know why but we’re all grateful for he brought us here.

new found friends in Georgia….

Only few cars passed on this road so we totally owned it for some moments. The empty road gives us the opportunity to take a decent photo of jump shot, groupie, and slo-mo. Even the trees and dried leaves was all part of our photo session.

We proceed to the Castle on top of the hill. Gremi was once a  capital of Kakheti in 16th century due to its huge  contribution in the economy and silk trading activities in the region. Here in Gremi, we found a must-visit Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, Castle, Bell Tower and Museum roll into one.

The Castle is nestled on the hill so we take several steps to reach its entrance gate.

The architectural wall is outdated, maybe because it was built long time ago, but still it serves a great purpose over the years. It was believed that during those time, this castle was a royal residence of King of Kakheti. As of today, it houses a small museum where you can see the artifacts used on that era.

Look…this is an old comfort room in the castle….

One of the advantage of being in an elevated place like the Bell tower is your chance to see the ground in 360 degree. Whoahhh…this is a panoramic view of Caucasus Mountain.

A flock of sheep greeted us on our way back to our bus.

 

We also visited the oldest tree in Georgia-Platanus Orientalis which is 900+ years old.

The sun was almost set when we’re about to leave but this view remind us that Georgia is beautiful no matter what time it is.

Georgia is also famous for their Sulphur bath. The bath district in Tbilisi is called ‘Abanotubani‘. The subterranean water is high in Sulphur and other mineral which they believed that after soaking will leave your skin relaxed and soft.

After our tiring but fulfilling day in Kakheti, our team book for a Sulphur bath experience at Royal Bath in Tbilisi.

Since we are group of 11, they gave us a private room where there’s an actual pool with continuous flow of hot spring water, our own changing room and toilet plus a waiting area where they serve some free tea.

While 8 of them were on bath-mode in the pool, me and the other lady from another group is just enjoying our tea break.

Past 10pm when we leave the Royal Bath House. To cap off our day 2, we treat ourselves in super late night dinner.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF WINE

Not all country have the capacity to produce their own wine. Georgia has its own advantage after their soil has been recognize with enriching nutrients to grow almost 500+ varieties of grapes. As result, Georgia can enjoy wine in all season. Since we were in Georgia for our 4 day trip, we never missed the chance to visit some of its winery to acquire some knowledge on how a wine is made.

On top of our list is Winery Khareba which is located in Kvareli. This is the first place where we had our first educational trip about wine making. One lady accompany us in 7.7km long tunnel where they kept their wine. Since this is the first time we visit a winery, all our faces were painted with excitement. We eagerly listen to her as she explain the history of Winery Khareba, the process of fermentation and the different storage system they used to age wine.

Winery Khareba is situated in the foothill so no wonder why nature’s view is another breath of fresh air while exploring the whole vicinity.

We gain additional information when we spent some hours in Kindzmarauli Corporation Wine House.

From quite number of tanks we saw outside the premises, we are all hooked to a ‘corroded’ tank on the corner. We thought that it is something that management  will dispatch soon but we’re all surprised when our guide inform us that until this day those tank is in valuable use.

Most winery in Georgia used to bury their wine in qvevri/marani which is clearly evidenced here in Kindzmarauli Wine House. Each metal cover showing various color represent different stages of wine storage. Even the old tools which they used long time ago is on display on their site.

We also toured their wine storage in the basement. Again, wooden barrels and tanks are stored inside which is full use for wine fermentation.

We notice the different flags when we’re having a  photo-op in the main entrance. Another Pinoy teased our guide why Philippine flag is not included whereas she responded that those flags represent the countries whom they mainly export their wines.

 

Another highlights of our trip is wine-tasting in Wine House. We spent around 30 minutes for this activity. They actually offer us 3 different kind of wines which they believe is the most in demand in the market. I only  take a photo of this 16/16 wine which according to our guide contain 16% of alcohol. As expected, each one of us has our own bet but still, this 16/16 got the highest approval.

We end our trip by visiting Kindzmarauli Wine store. Here we saw a various flavor of wine and other alcoholic drinks . Some were locally produced by Kindzmarauli and other originated from different winery, also in Georgia.

 

While sipping your favorite wine in some special occasion, have you ever thought of asking how it is being processed to achieve the desired richness of flavor. Well, we can finish 1 bottle of wine instantly but what we don’t know is the number of aging days required before we finally consume it. From the vineyard, planting and harvesting grapes, tossing to qvevri for fermentation, and storing for six months or more than a year, it is proven that wines are product of golden effort.

Thank you Winery Khareba and Kindzmarauli for allowing us to learn something new about wine industry.

 

BEAUTY OF KAKHETI

Georgia is known as one of wine producing country so our tour guide, Giorgi, make sure to show their must-visit winery which is located in Kakheti region.

relaxing at the bus around 7:40am

Since Kakheti is in eastern part it took another 2 hours from Tbilisi. Unbeknownst to us, prior to our wine testing event we visited some place which makes Georgia rich in history. In every meal we had on our first day we notice Puri (georgian bread) is always included in our menu. We got the opportunity to learn how they make it  by visiting a traditional baker in the heart of their own home. Unlike any modern bakery, Georgian used circular clay oven called Tone and they knead the dough by using their bare hands.

My salutes goes to lady baker who teaches us how they make their Puri

The Baker was so generous also to share with us some of her freshly-baked bread. We got an instant breakfast as we ride back to our bus.

Or next stop is Alazani Valley that give us a a balcony of good scenery.

mandatory groupie at alazani valley

After as series of photo-op, we proceed to small but significant town of Sighnaghi which they called City of Love because more couple find this place romantic and intimate. Giorgi leave us for a while so that we can explore it on our own. He even advise us to order hot chocolate from nearby restaurant which he believe is the most delicious hot chocolate in Sighnaghi.

Sighnaghi is known for its narrow and cobblestone street.

Since the town is located on the mountainside, we got the best viewing deck for Caucasus Mountain.

On our way to winery, Giorgi show us another important landmark in his country- Sighnaghi City Wall. I’m sure we’re familiar with the great wall of China but little did we know that even Georgia has their own version of it. He said it was built during the time of King Erekle to protect Sighnaghi from the invader. It has 8 gates and watch tower where was named after the nearest village so the locals knows where to hide in time of crisis.

Our winery escapade on my next post.

WINTER SEASON IN GUDAURI

This is my continuation post on our trip to Georgia…..

Do you wanna build a snowman? Come on, let’s go and play!”. A famous line from movie ‘Frozen’. At long last, I can able to see a real snow like what Elsa and Anna have in their film. Hmmm…does the snow melt in my hand if I hold it for long? Is it really cold in ski resort? We’re  so thrilled on our way to Kazbegi region where a snow mountain is located.

Oh Gudauri we’re so excited to see you…

We spent our afternoon in Gudauri on our first day. This is what makes us all excited. If we saw some scattered snow in Tbilisi and nearby place, here in Gudauri there’s one of the best place in Georgia to experience the winter activities and an all-white surrounding because of snow–the Gudauri Ski Resort. The moment we get out from our bus and felt that we’re finally walking in the snow, some of us smiled while other shouted, “this is it!”. We immediately take the chance of exploring the whole resort.

ready..get set…go snow…

There are lots of activities you can enjoy while staying in this resort. Some of the tourist came here for skiing but for some visitor like us who doesn’t have much time, we opt for gondola lift to have a good aerial view. One ride  is GEL 5.00.

 

Chairlift

1st batch of tourist on the gondola…..

happy face

Riding the Gondola Lift give us the opportunity to see the beautiful Caucasus Mountain from the top.

thankful for this view

We were busy taking photos, selfie, groupie and just looking outside that we almost forgot that we were in the peak already and we have to take off from the gondola.

are you building a snowman??????

If we are surrounded by sands in Dubai, on this trip to Georgia is our rare chance to experience the powdery snow and super cold weather.

After more than an hour above, we decided to go back to the first station and sip some coffee in the nearby cafe.

We also plan to try the chairlift but we believe the view is also same with what we saw during our ride to gondola. Instead, each one of us ride on this big snowbike.

Our Gudauri winter holidays is such a notable experience for all of us who came from a country where temperature escalate up to 36 deg, light jacket during cold season then all of sudden even for a short period of time, we were so fortunate to wear a thermal outfit in a negative (-) degree place.

Before we go back to Tbilisi, we cap off our day with a sumptuous dinner in a fancy authentic Georgian Restaurant. This place is also memorable for all of us as they played “Lupang Hinirang” after we got our table. To hear our national anthem in a native restaurant owned and managed by locals is really something we should be proud as Filipino. A double thumbs up for their warmest hospitality.

Happy Diners from UAE

DISCOVERING GEORGIA

The idea of exploring an snowy place is a big hit especially if you’re living in a desert country for years. I’m sure lot of us want to see not only a snow in ice rink but a real snow. When I got the opportunity to join a group of friends who will visit Georgia for 4 days then I automatically said yes to them. At first, I thought Georgia is part of America so we need to obtain a visa but then it’s Georgia in Europe or some say part of Eurasia where Filipinos can stay for some days without any visa.

There’s a sale on Fly Dubai that time so one of my friend booked our ticket online. We also try to book our hotel online but we got a better deal when we had a conversation with Giorgi thru email. Giorgi is our tour guide in Georgia  (mobile: +995 577 479947 and email: Giorgi.orjonikidze@yahoo.com)and he even help us to get an accommodation at a discounted price along with complete itinerary package. All we have to do is pack our things, fly to Georgia and he’ll meet us in Tbilisi Airport where a snowy adventure awaits us.

Around 3:15am when our plane landed in Tbilisi. After queuing in immigration, exchanging our dollar to Georgian Lari, we meet Achu, Georgi’s assistant who will bring us to our apartment, I really felt I was not in Dubai anymore when we step outside the airport and brrrrr…….it’s cold. ‘Ang Lameegggg‘, is what I heard from my group as we start walking in the parking lot. Most of our winter clothes are packed inside our bag so battling the cold air is the first challenge we encounter that day.

Our time were consumed with excitement so the urge of having breakfast super early in the morning come first in our list. Good thing Giorgi knows where to eat when we almost think that no restaurant is yet open that time.

24 hrs open…

After we dropped all bags in our apartment, take some rest, freshen up ourselves, put on right thermal clothes, we’re ready to go our official first day trip. We thought the tourist bus is big for 5 of us but eventually it was loaded with other group also. No worries as we are all Filipinos and all came from UAE.

Hello Mr. Sun in Georgia

Top of our priority why we visit Georgia is to see snow so that’s what we really expect on our first day, Unbeknownst to us, Georgi had other pre-arrange plan before our snowy moment.

9:00am Jvari Monastery

We quickly follow Giorgi when we saw the monastery nestled on top of the hill. As we walk along, we felt the breeze of cold air. Some of us believe it is a quick stop so they left their bonnet and gloves in the bus. Oh boy, the place is elevated so the is much colder as expected but it didn’t bother us because we’re more excited to see what’s inside this old place.

Jvari Monastery

Jvari Monastery means Temple of the ‘Holy Cross’ built in 6th century and listed as UNESCO Heritage site.

Jvari Monastery facade

The exterior wall is simply an evident of how this Monastery survived the challenges in the past decades.

Take a look on what we saw inside….

If the Jvari Monastery is already magnificent in our eyes, then we look at the surrounding and greeted us with a breathtaking panorama of Mstkheta where the river Aragvi from Caucasus meet the river Mtkvari from Turkey.

old Mtskheta

10:05am Zhinvali Reservoir

As we go on our trip, we got the opportunity to see the Zhinvali Reservoir which is important for the water supply in Tbilisi.

 

Oh, the snow blended on the water, bridge and mountain on the other side.

10:45am Ananuri Fortress

Not far from Zhinvali Reservoir is a castle built in 17th century which is Ananuri Fortress.

Road to Ananuri

We don’t want to miss the chance of exploring the viewpoint in the castle.

 

11:45am Lunch time

After an hour spent in Ananuri, we hop on our bus to proceed to our next destination but Georgi decided to have lunch first so that we’re all ‘busog‘ as we travel to ski resort.

Not only the food and wine we enjoy here but also the view in front of the restaurant.

And it’s time for our skiing adventure. This is on the way to Gudauri where we pass the zigzag road of the mountain with snow-capped on both side.

Our first snow experience on my next post….