14 November 2016

Kakheti, Georgia - More Adventure Than I Wanted Part 1

In September I went on an amazing* trip to Georgia with my friend KMac and somehow totally forgot to write about it!

We arrived in Tbilisi separately, and quite late; me at around midnight and KMac at about 3 AM. Just as the flight attendants were giving everyone the death glare to turn off their phones on my flight I received a message from KMac saying "Don't take a cab! You'll be met at the airport!". And sure enough, after waiting what felt like an hour for my bag I entered the arrivals terminal where I was greeted by a Georgian Orthodox priest.

That was definitely a first for me.

We would see a lot of Father N. during this trip but for the time being I was grateful for the lift.

After a good sleep in, KMac and I stretched our legs on Rustaveli Avenue on our way to meet the team behind Exotic Wine Travels. We'd connected through social media and it turned out we were going to be in Tbilisi at the same time; me just starting to learn about Georgian wines and them promoting their fantastic book, Uncorking the Caucasus.

We met them at Vino Underground, a great wine bar owned by a group of Georgia's leading natural wine makers where we proceeded to enjoy three, or was it four? amazing bottles of Georgian wine. Unfortunately between then and catching our ride with Father N to Sighnaghi, neither KMac nor I had time to eat. Combine that with major car sickness from the windy mountainous drive and I wanted to die. I don't think I've been that car sick since the drive from Sarajevo to Belgrade.

It was late when we finally made it to our guesthouse and we were ready to sleep. I had booked us rooms at the most highly rated guesthouse (the most common type of accommodation outside Tbilisi) in Sighnaghi-David Zandrashvili's Guesthouse. We knew we weren't in for five start treatment but we were a little shocked by what we found. To start, apparently there was a 10 PM curfew that wasn't listed in the house rules online. That curfew would explain why the guesthouse, at capacity, was practically shaking with the loud music, singing, and stomp-dancing of other guests. I settled into room while KMac was shown to hers: downstairs, through the common room, through the dining room, through the kitchen, then outside again, down some unlit stairs that had no handrail, and into another building.


Streets of Sighnaghi

Five minutes later I got a message from KMac: "There's a huge spider in my room! I tried to kill it but it got away!" Not a fan of spiders myself I told her that if she wanted, she was welcome in my (assumingly) spider-free room. No, no, she assured me; but several minutes later I got another message: "Now there's another, completely different spider. I'm on my way!" Between the noise of other guests, paper thin walls, and the loud, creaky bed it was hours before we were able to get to sleep.

We were up early the next morning with two missions: attend orthodox liturgy since there are no Catholic churches in Sighnaghi, and find a new hotel. Luckily we were successful in both endeavors and in the afternoon dragged our suitcases up the hill to the posh, and pricey hotel spa where we stayed three years ago. What a difference.

Sighnaghi city walls

View of Sighnaghi from our hotel

Happily ensconced in our new hotel, and after a brief rest to make up for all the sleep we missed the night before, we headed out to find two of the most important things you could ever want in Georgia: food and wine. For dinner we headed to a restaurant called Wine World. You call a restaurant 'Wine World' and there are certain assumptions, right? As in, lots of wine. No. There were three house wines: red, white, and green. We went with the green which wasn't too bad as long as we thought of it as ice tea instead of wine. The food was killer though. We had mtsvade (grilled pork and onions), lobiani (bread stuffed with slow cooked beans), eggplant with walnut garlic paste, and sulguni cheese stuffed mushrooms baked in a clay dish. So don't go to Wine World for the wine but it's worth it for the food.

We bought a bottle of wine to take back to our hotel and drank it on the hotel sky terrace playing with the astrology star app on KMac's phone. Then it was time for bed to rest up for our tour of Kakheti the next day-a tour that included us accidentally climbing a mountain!

*All trips to Georgia would be amazing but traveling with KMac comes with extra experiences; but more on that later!

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