Category: visitas

Georgia on film

Há meses e meses que não pegava na Pentax K1000 e a viagem ao Cáucaso foi o mote para comprar mais rolos e levá-la a passear.

Fotografamos muito e a toda a hora. Infelizmente só depois na revelação nos apercebemos que máquina tem uma pequena fuga que queima o lado esquerdo, e que dos três rolos que entregamos, apenas um sobreviveu a estas queimaduras.

Quem fotografa com rolo sabe como isto nos deixa tristes. Investimos muito ao transportar o peso da máquina, ao escolher os momentos certos, ao comprar rolos e ao pagar uma revelação, alimentamos uma expectativa de que vamos ter fotografias espectaculares e depois…não temos.

De qualquer forma, ficaram estes registos da subida aos Koruldi Lakes, Chalaadi Glacier e o Mosteiro Gelati. E que diferentes que são em relação às fotografias que tirámos com o telemóvel!

Anúncios

Fra & Catte

Recebi na minha casa duas visitas muito especiais, amigos de dois momentos muito importantes. O Francesco, que conheci em Brdárka e a Catte que conheci em Granada. Tê-los por perto fez-me sentir algumas saudades e nostalgia, mas soube bem mostrar-lhes como vivemos agora, o que gosto e o que faço.

A caminho de Xertelo

Com o Fra fomos ao Gerês, um trilho bonito que passa pelas sete lagoas de Cabril.

A fazer gnocchi

E, como sempre, deu-me de comer. Comida simples, feita desde o início: gnocchi com molho de tomate e manjericão.

Hola Catte!

Com a Caterina a visita foi mais rápida. Entre um acampamento meu e um casamento dela no dia seguinte, pudémos apenas conversar muito e muito rápido, desenferrujar o meu espanhol, e tirar fotos tontas.

Foto estúpida, what else

Que bom que é receber os amigos em casa.

Landescape

You have probably wondered who are the `we` I kept talking about in my descriptions of Georgia and Armenia. Me and L. went with a group to the Caucasus.

Seeing that Landescape was doing a journey to the places we wanted to visit basically made us say – let`s do this, now.
We are happy we did. With us were five more people plus a leader, an experienced portuguese traveler who knew deeply the region from several solo exploration journeys. The people in the group were very different from us and from each other, but we got along well, and we listened and learned from their stories and experiences.

The agency took care of every accomodation, visits to museums, taxis, rented cars, transportation and experiences in general – that home concert in Gori, for instance. The food, we took care along the way, and the incoming and return journeys were our responsability.

We have never travelled like this, but we honestly liked the experience very much. We felt very free to do whatever we wanted, if that involved a different track from what was planned with the group. We hiked, we visited museums, sometimes with the entire group, sometimes with just some. The tour leader was very present and a very good company. To be honest, it felt good to be able to be light-headed about accomodation, a big weight that disappears!

We would like to repeat the experience (the name Uzbejistan has been pronounced) with the agency, and we recommend it to anyone who might be interested. For us, we are happy we have made these acquaintances, and we will all meet again to drink the chacha we brought. Actually, we just ran a trail with one girl we met there and our team was called the Khachapuris! Is there a better hommage than that?

Food in Georgia

Let’s start with this statement:Food in Georgia is delicious. If you like cheese, coriander, cheese, bread and pies, cheese, dumplings, then this is the place. I am only sorry I didn’t take more pictures of everything I ate, but I know I ate it all.

To begin with, the beers. They were good. Light. We had a few, some were craft beers, others not, all good – but not particularly fresh!

Another drink that we saw everywhere, and a good alternative to alcohol, was Lemonade. They had it of all colors and flavors, lemon, pear, blueberries, a green herbal one. It’s a fun drink, some rather sweet.

The breakfasts. They must have a khachapuri (cheese pie or pizza), and these were always homemade and always different. We had scrambled eggs, pancakes, tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese, homemade butter and jams. Milk, tea and coffee. So good.

Georgia is a good place for fruit, and it was sold everywhere on the streets. You see those tiny apples? They were sold in plastic bags everywhere. Those things hanging are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and chocolate and sometimes raisins which are threaded onto a string, dipped in thickened grape juice or fruit juices and dried in the shape of a sausage. Its name is Churchkhela.

Fruit booths

I have mentioned before the mexican fries rush in Armenia? Well, in Georgia the same, every place had its mexican fries.

Mexican fries – a serious business

Now, the main dishes. Georgians eat a lot. Really, they order so much food, eat so much, and even so they never manage to eat it all. It is usual to leave food on the table. To eat and to drink is a slow activity (also because food never comes at the same time!), that we did very well in Georgia.

Here we have the national delicatessen, the khachapuri, which we ate in all types in manners. Here we have a classic cheese khachapuri which we ate on a great restaurant by the road.

Cheese khachapuri

And here another khachapuri with spinach and rhubarb. We brought them inside plastic bags because we couldn’t eat it all!

Spinach khachapuri

Just look at this. There is nothing wrong in this dish: bread loaded with cheese and an egg on top? The butter was not usual, but unfortunately I only caught this Adjaruli Khachapuri on camera. It is SIMPLE and GOOD.

Adjaruli Khachapuri

Just like in Armenia, Khinkalis are very common. These big dumplings are usually stuffed with meat, mushrooms or vegetables. In the picture we see fried khinkalis with soy sauce, which were my favourite.

Fried Khinkalis

The soups were also so good! Here we have soup with meat dumplings and fennel. Very good for lunch – I was full from a late breakfast probably.

Dumplings and fennel soup

Here, lamb soup with loads of coriander in a pretty plate and with a big beer.

Lamb and coriander soup

The only sweet I tried (L. ordered it) was not particularly good. I mean, I didn’t love it. Pelamushi is a favorite Georgian dessert made mainly with pressed, condensed grape juice (badagi).

Pelamushi, traditional georgian sweet

Then, the coffee. This is coffee in Georgia, turkish style, which you must not, by all means, stir (in a starbucks cup!!).

Coffee

To order food, to understand the menus was always an adventure. Fortunately, it always went well, and it is cheap to eat in Georgia. Here we have our favourite bill from a roadside restaurant: 100 Lari. About 30€ for a lunch for 8 people.

A bill for an 8 people lunch – 100 Lari

If you’d like to try something, Lisbon now has a Georgian Restaurant, Treestory. While we’re at it, there’s also an Armenian one, Ararate.

I will need to eat some khachapuri and khinkalis soon!

Georgia: Tbilisi, again

Our last day in Georgia was a free, relaxed day in Tbilisi. We got a house right in front of the sulfur baths, with one of “those” balconies.

Our house in Tbilisi

The plan was to relax, but the news in the previous day reported thousands storming the parliament over a Russian MP’s speech. Sergei Gavrilov was taking part in the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a body set up by the Greek parliament in 1993 to foster relationships between Christian Orthodox lawmakers.

Opposition MPs in Georgia’s parliament called for protests in response to his decision to deliver a speech from the speaker’s seat. He addressed delegates in Russian, angering politicians and Georgians vehemently opposed to Moscow’s presence in the country, and about 10,000 protesters breached the police cordon. Some were carrying EU flags and placards reading “Russia is an occupier”.

We were there the next day, and things were rather peaceful, but somewhat seething.

One of many “Russia is an occupier” signs

We started seeing hundreds of mostly young people walking in the middle of the busiest street. It was a peaceful demonstration against Russia’s occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia has ambitions to join the European Union and Nato.

Young people agains Russian occupation marching in a Tbilisi main street
The Georgian Parliment

Because of all these demonstrations, Vladimir Putin announced on the same day Russia would stop having direct flights to Georgia, for the safety of russian citizens. As Russia is the main source of tourists in this country, this decision has already taken its toll in Georgia’s economy.

End of day light in Tbsilisi

And this was it. I loved this journey, I absolutely loved the Caucasus and am really happy we finally made it. Now we want more!

Georgia: Sighnaghi

Our trip was heading to an end, but before that we did a one day stop at beautiful Sighnaghi.

The day’s route

That meant we had to go through the Georgian Military Road again, which of course we didn’t mind.

Georgian Military road, again

We were very well received at our B&B with melon, cheese, homemade wine and, of course, chacha. All that with Stalin overlooking us from the fridge.

Inside our B&B fridge

Although it is one of Georgia’s smallest towns, Signagi serves as a popular tourist destination due to its location at the heart of Georgia’s wine-growing regions, as well as its picturesque landscapes, pastel houses and narrow, cobblestone streets.

Street market in Signaghi

Located on a steep hill, Signagi overlooks the vast Alazani Valley, with the Caucasus Mountains visible at a distance.

View from Signaghi

Signagi as a settlement is first recorded in the early 18th century. In 1762, King Heraclius II of Georgia sponsored the construction of the town and erected a fortress to defend the area from marauding attacks by Dagestan tribesmen.

View from Signaghi

The streets were lively with handcrafts commerce, and being inside the fortress walls, it really reminded me of Valença do Minho.

Signaghi inside fortifications
Georgian tapestry

The city sits on top of a hill overlooking large kilometers of plains which abruptly end with the Caucasus mountains.

Signaghi’s fortifications
High School of Powerlifting
Street detail in Signaghi
Street in Signaghi with the always gorgeous Georgian balconies

We got to visit Sighnaghi’s Museum, part of Georgia’s National Museum. There is the permanent exhibition of Niko Pirosmani’s works, a great georgian painter. Pirosmani was born in the village of Mirzaani, in Kakheti. His early works represent the culture of this region, known for its beautiful landscapes and winemaking. His distinctive works are of paramount importance not only for Georgian culture, but for global art.

My favourite painting from Pirosmani and Signaghi’s Museum

Leaving Sighnaghi we stopped by Bobde Monastery, a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex located 2 km from the town of Sighnaghi. Originally built in the 9th century, the monastery now functions as a nunnery and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia, due to its association with St. Nino, whose relics are shrined there.

Nuns from the Bobde Monastery

The Bodbe Monastery is nested among tall Cypress trees on a steep hillside overlooking the Alazani Valley, where it commands views of the Greater Caucasus mountains.

At Bobde Monastery

According to Georgian tradition, St. Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Georgians to the Christian faith, withdrew to the Bodbe gorge, in Kakheti, where she died c. 338-340. At the behest of King Mirian III, a small monastery was built at the place where Nino was buried.

Bodbe Monastery

The monastery gained particular prominence in the late Middle Ages. It was particularly favored by the kings of Kakheti who made choice of the monastery as the place of their coronation.

Final destination: my beloved Tbilisi, again.

Georgia: Stepantsminda

The day’s route

We were warned before: we were about to see one of the most spectacular roads in the world, the Georgian Military Road.

The Georgian Military Road (212 km) runs between Tbilisi and Vladikavkaz (Russia) and follows the traditional route used by invaders and traders throughout the ages. After the highest part of the road, one can find the Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument, a large concrete monument built in 1983 to commemorate relations between the two countries and the bicentennial of the Treaty of Georgievsk.

Friendship Monument between Georgia and Russia

The monument is a large round stone and concrete structure overlooking the Devil’s Valley in the Caucasus mountains. Inside the monument is a large tile mural that spans the whole circumference of the structure and depicts scenes of Georgian and Russian history.

Detail of the Friendship Monument

My first thought when I started seeing these bumpy mountains was: Iceland! You can understand why, just look at this!

The mountains beside the Georgian Military Road
Georgian Military Road

We then reached Stepantsminda, the center of the Kazbegi Municipality, at an elevation of 1740 m. The town is dominated by large mountains on all sides. The most notable mountain of the region, Mount Kazbek, lies immediately to the west of town.

Mount Kazbek (5047m) and the Gergeti Trinity Church

According to tradition, Stepantsminda, literally “Saint Stephan”, was named so after a Georgian Orthodox monk Stephan, who constructed a hermitage at this location on what later became the Georgian Military Highway. It came under the control of a local feudal magnate, the Chopikashvili clan, who were in charge of collecting tolls on travelers in the area in the late 18th century.

The name of the city was officially changed to Kazbegi under Soviet rule in 1925 but in 2006, the town reverted to its original name of Stepantsminda.

View of Stepantsmida

After a good night’s sleep, we hiked our way up to Gergeti Trinity Church (Hike).

Climbing to Gergeti Trinity Church

Gergeti was built in the 14th century. Its isolated location on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the vastness of nature has made it a symbol for Georgia.

Gergeti Trinity Church

In times of danger, precious relics from Mtskheta, including Saint Nino’s Cross were brought here for safekeeping.

View from the Gergeti Trinity Church

During the Soviet era, all religious services were prohibited, but the church remained a popular tourist destination.

View from the Gergeti Trinity Church
Admiring the view from the Gergeti Trinity Church

The church is now an active establishment of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.

Gergeti Trinity Church
Descending from the Gergeti Trinity Church

After a funny lunch on a trailer, the afternoon was free to roam around the small city. Since I had a few postcards to send, written already in Armenia, I searched for the Post Office.

Stepantsminda Post Office – you would not believe how it was inside

It was funny, as I entered I faced a cluttered hall with closed doors everywhere. I shyly knocked on one, and heard a voice. I opened it and saw two ladies staring at be, very The Shining-like. They just waited for me to talk.

Nice or not, the service was efficient, all postcards arrived their destinations!

Google Market – you may find there everything you need. Like, everything.

The newest bar in town was the Autobus bar, you know, a bar inside a read bus. The service was great and it had nice cakes and drinks…we found it all normal until we started reading spanish?!

A bus from A Coruña in Stepantsminda

Turns out we were inside an old spanish bus from A Coruña. In Stepantsminda.

Ah, familiar language

Once we got home, we got a glimpse of Mt. Kazbek’s peak, which remained hidden for the entire day.

Mount Kazbek showed its peak by the end of the day

And then it was time to rest in a nice restaurant in Stepantsminda’s centre.

Cafe 5047m
Cafe 5047m

Next destination: Signaghi!