Churchkhela - the "Georgian Snickers"
A popular sweet snack in Georgia is Churchkhela.
Nicknamed the "Georgian Snickers", Churchkhela is a string of nuts covered in a thickened sweet grape juice with a slightly rubbery texture.
You will find them hanging outside many shops or being sold at markets, from stalls in the streets or by elderly ladies in underpasses. When they are hanging together, they resemble sausages hanging outside a butcher's shop. You will find them in various shades of brown, red and black.
I tried Churchkhela a couple of times during our visit to Georgia in February 2013. First, I was given a piece to sample at "Coffee House" cafe in Tbilisi and then I bought a full one from a lady at a stall outside Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.
We paid 3 GEL (£1.20) for the Churchkhela in Mtskheta and another 3 GEL for a folded sheet of grape candy, similar to the exterior of the Churchkhela but thinner. I suspect we were overcharged – not least because the lady we bought them from gave us a couple of complimentary smaller Churchkhela when we walked past her again a short while later!
They are very nice. If I lived in Georgia (or one of the other countries in eastern Europe and the Middle East that sell similar products), I would happily eat them as an alternative to chocolate bars.
Salty mineral water
I had read in our guidebook that Borjomi is considered the most popular non-alcoholic beverage in Georgia, and that it is something of an acquired taste.
I must admit, the description of it as a "salty mineral water" didn't sound very appealing (I imagined drinking a bottle of sea water!) but I was determined to give it a try during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013.
I first sampled it at a small restaurant called Metekhis Khidtan, accompanied by a plate of khinkali dumplings and a large helping of khachapuri cheese-filled bread. I really enjoyed it; it was more interesting than still mineral water, much less fizzy than carbonated water, and not nearly as salty as I thought it would be.
I drank Borjomi quite a few times during our stay and I began to understand why it is so popular. I found it to be a particularly enjoyable drink after spending an hour soaking in one of Tbilisi's hot sulphur baths.
As well as Borjomi, there is a slightly less salty alternative called Nabeghlavi, which I sampled one evening in a cafe next to the Royal Bath. While it was apparently less salty than Borjomi, I found it to be fizzier. Of the two, I preferred Borjomi.
During our visit to Tbilisi in February 2013, we soon learnt that the term "lemonade" on a Georgian restaurant menu doesn't have the same meaning as it does in much of the world!
Ordering a lemonade gives no guarantee of getting a lemon flavoured drink. Instead, the term lemonade acts as a capture all for various flavoured soft drinks.
We sampled a variety of the "lemonades" produced by Natakhtari and Zedazeni brewing companies during our stay in the country. They ranged from apple, pear and orange flavours to a green tarragon flavoured lemonade, a bright yellow vanilla flavoured lemonade and a deep red saperavi grape flavoured lemonade.
I don't think we ever saw a lemon flavoured lemonade during our stay!
During Soviet rule religious life was not encouraged in Georgia, writing this is an euphemism. Way more than where I live, religion is still deeply integrated in every day’s life; you can observe people making cross signs sitting in a bus when passing by a church, of course, signing when walking past a chapel or a cemetery; churches are open all day long and there are always worshippers.
The Orthodox Church takes care the future generations will have their priests (picture 2), is “back in business” as far as marriage is concerned, and religious marriages can be observed in every corner of the city; here two pictures taken at Metekhi church ( pictures 3 and 4); priests seem to be important persons and one can see the respect people have for them in churches or outside.
We are here far from djilbabs, burkhas, abayas, hidjabs and other alike clothes protecting the women from the concupiscent glimpses of men; a simple scarf, and only near the church, or inside are religious signs and these simple headgear enhance the beauty of the persons (picture 1) who smiles at this handsome (oooops!!!) foreign photographer.
- Arts and Culture
Streets, balconies. . .
The streets of Tbilisi are well known for the balconies which give them a real special character; you can see balconies almost everywhere (and certainly have seen already on some of my pictures on this page), but the most interesting area for balconies are the old city districts, in the small narrow streets of backyards.
In the old city, the houses and balconies are old too. . . . It is just a pleasure to look at some works of art, like this finely carved façade (picture 1).
Other balconies in this quiet isolated backstreet (picture 2), which is also a perspective to a church dominating from far. . .
There are tips about balconies in the “to do” section, but they are real local customs too, that is why you find some balconies here!
- Arts and Culture
Allo! Iossif Vissarionovitch? . . . .
During the Cold War there was a direct telephone link between Washington and Moscow, at least that is what we learned from the press and history books; the phones on both sides were red, as these phones were the last resort before the nuclear war could break out!
Here in Stalin’s country you can find this red telephone in some bar or restaurant and I cannot prevent myself of thinking they had, may be, red phones to call directly the NKVD. . . . but what the lady was telling in the wire had probably nothing to do with war, spying, or alike when I noticed her.. . . :)
- Arts and Culture
Faces of Tbilissi
I must confess that I like to walk in places where I am sure I will have some nice unexpected (but I secretly expect, of course) encounter, meet locals far from the tourists herds; so walking in small streets, backyards, parks, river banks, visiting a “local” café or a hidden church. . . . all that gives me the pleasure to meet people.
This old lady (picture 1) was very curious about the foreigner who visited the backyard of where she lives and we tried to explain each other who we were, what we did and where we travelled; she was very happy to learn I liked her city a lot and she surprised me talking about Paris!
Elsewhere I met a young lady having a rest (and a smoke) in front of her little shop (picture 2) and another one decided to pose her profile for the tourist (picture 3); don’t these young girls (picture 4), at the entrance of a church look “typical”? And lets finish the “review” with older ladies dressed in black (picture 5) selling religious items not far from the cathedral.
Here are a few of the persons I photographed (asked for pictures); it is a pleasure to try to interact with locals, and photographs are generally the only contact we have with them, but sometimes it can be the beginning of a longer story.
- Arts and Culture
Trictrac and parks
Life is cool in Tbilisi and in the shade of the trees during the summer days people like to have a rest, relax a bit, playing trictrac, a variety of backgammon (picture 1). Ladies, generally do not play and prefer a chat on a bench (picture 2) and in general, in every park you see people in the shade, chatting, observing, laughing or having serious discussions (pictures 3 and 4), and even more serious (?), flirting is also an occupation in a shady place (picture 5)
Wine is the most popular alcoholic beverage followed by "vodka". Another Georgian specialty which is nonalcoholic are fresh juices where are sold at stands and kiosks throughout Tbilisi.
At a supra or dinner party one experiences the full extent of Georgian drinking. A toast maker or "Tamada" is selected and they'll conduct toasts throughout the dinner, and at certain points may ask guests to drain their glasses. A supra may last for hours and be followed by singing. The meals have a series of courses and usually liters of wine are emptied. In restaurants it is common for customers to individually order multiple bottles of wine.My Favorite is "Separavi" unforgettable red..
Try it )))
Oriental influences came during the periods when Tbilisi was under Turkish , Mongol and Persian rule. The most notable influence is the the "verandah". Almost every traditional house in Tbilisi has a verandah.
Acharan Khachapuri - Oven baked cheese pie where raw eggs are added after beeing pulled out of the oven. They are cooked on a simmering bed of cheese
You have to try them with a cup of tea..mmmmph mmmmph mmmmph ....
How Georgia became Western
The new trends of the current power of the day in this rather cute Caucasian republic are to move West as fast as possible. The reality shows that such hurry can produce comical results. Moreover it starts right away at the border so any unsuspecting foreigner is slammed immediately with the local customs manual. Long story short, when crossing in Georgia from Armenia on the way to Tbilisi, the Georgian border control point looks new and flashy as if to teach somebody across the demarcation line how things are supposed to be managed. Once inside, hardly inside though because an area of hardly 2m is cordoned off and guarded by a policemen ensuring that people stop at the line and wait for the wicket officer to summon them to the last judgement. Needing a visa or not everybody is photografed on the spot! What immediately impresses is the fact that the government officials are in new uniforms freshly minted from the New York police department. If somebody has any doubts about the influences of this border guard fashion and where it comes from, the sign “police” is nicely knitted on the front very close to the heart. This is rather bewildering considering that Georgia has had an alphabet of its own for centuries but no, it has to be written in English as if the bulk of people crossing at this point are from Massachusetts. Next comes - the communication with the proud Georgian/American-wannabe officials who have to ask you questions about your stay. This is where the most unexpected action takes place. He suddenly starts to talk to you in RUSSIAN. So, whoever paid for their uniforms did not bother to pay for their language training – how cheap.
- Theme Park Trips
Blending in - not exactly
Blending in with the locals is always good idea and the opportunity in Tbilisi is the new pedestrian bridge. The masses have come here with their digital cameras and cannot stop clicking. Evenings are particularly crowded.
- Luxury Travel
- Beer Tasting
- Wine Tasting
Double standards by Mother Georgia
Mother Georgia is a huge metal statue standing majestically over Tbilisi old quarters offering protection and hope to the subjects below. A plain level approach in one particular moment reveals the duplicity of this creature by advertising somebody’s wealth in a shiny Mercedes and somebody else’s misery in an old Volga.
- Beer Tasting
- Wine Tasting
- Luxury Travel
Taste of Georgia..wines
Historically,well known winemaking regions in Georgia is Kakheti,with Alazi river valley in it.Alazi Valley is located at 200-500m above the sea level and is spread from northwest to southeast at 110 km,its average width is about 20 km.
From the left bank Alazani Valley is walled by 3000-4000 m high mountains og Great Caucasus and from the right bank by Tsiv-Gombori mountain ranges.Such a unique geographical location and diversified soils,from clay mild fertile to low fertile sandy-stony,presents ideal terms for vineyards
- Wine Tasting
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