Kakheti Region

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Today we head out to the East of the country toward the Azerbaijan border.  The East is supposedly hotter and drier than the West, but not this week.

We stopped in the town of Telavi, which is the capital of the Eastern province of Kakheti, and did the rounds of another local market before having a coffee and visiting the local Ethnographic museum which actually had a few carpets and kilims along with other interesting bits and pieces from the past.

Our second stop was, you guessed it, a church within the Gremi complex, composed of the Church of the Archangels, a castle, bell tower and wine cellar, whose claim to fame now eludes us but it did have an interesting 16th century toilet room with a window which had a pleasant view out over the countryside.

The East is famed for its wine production.  Georgia is apparently one of, if not the, oldest wine producing places in the World and they have a unique method of production where they ferment and age the wines in clay amphora (qvevri) buried below ground.  Maybe one has to grow up drinking it because it is not a taste that is easy to like or acquire.

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Our third stop for the day was at the famous “wine tunnels” at the Khareba winery which have been excavated into the foothills of the Caucasus at Kvareli.  The tunnels apparently extend for 7 km but visitors only get to go in a few hundred metres and up a side tunnel to have a short explanation of their wine producing methods and a tasting.  The tasting was of two whites (one made the Georgian way and one the “European” way) and two reds (ditto).  The whites were like diluted vinegar and the reds were akin to a very cheap and nasty $4 beaujolais nouveau.  Sorry, just being honest – even our guide (who got to taste Cheryl’s wine) agreed that it wasn’t the best.

Our accommodation tonight is at a “resort” on one of the wine estates.  You would have thought that you could have ordered any of their wines by the glass with dinner, but they only had one red available by the glass on the whole card!


Monday, 16 September 2019

We headed back to Tbilisi today by a different route – past Sighnaghi a hilltop town whose modern claim to fame is that it has a wedding hall open 24/7, although who would want to have a wedding reception at 3 in the morning?  The town was one of the stops on the ancient Silk Road and has a good view over the Alazani Valley.

Next was a short detour to the Bodbe Nunnery, a 17th century convent and church complex (note that I said convent not monastery).  It is still a functioning nunnery and houses the grave and relics of Saint Nino, who converted Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century.  The church was small and very gloomy and you were not allowed to take photographs (but lots of people were anyway, and Germans at that!).

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Our last stop before the heading for Tbilisi was to a small village co-operative and another felt making exhibition.  Despite having seen one only two days ago it was interesting and a little bit different.  It is a very old and basic technique which can produce some useful and durable items.

Also on display was a bread making demonstration in a tandoor oven (a tandoor is a huge clay pot, either in the ground or above ground surrounded with earth, clay, concrete etc).  A fire is made inside the pot with branches and allowed to die down to embers and the bread is stuck to the inside of the clay pot.  When the bread is done it is “hooked” off the wall with a metal spike.  Straight out of the tandoor and still hot the bread tastes delicious and we chomped on one accompanied by some grapes off the trellis overhead.

Back in Tbilisi the traffic was as bad as ever.  We have stayed at different hotels on each of our visits.  They have all been good, in fact all our hotels in Georgia have been good and a lot better than either Iran or Uzbekistan but, unfortunately, the country has been a lot less interesting than either of those.

In the afternoon we went for a walk to a carpet shop in the old part of town we had seen the other day with Nino our guide.  It is apparently the best (and just about the only) carpet shop left in Tbilisi, or even Georgia.  The young lady remembered us and she confirmed that carpet trading in Georgia is basically a thing of the past and there is little of any value left in the country.  We chatted for quite a while and she showed us a few old rugs that she did have.  One was nice but we have others like it so we passed. 


© Cheryl & Clive Miller 2019-20