Thursday, 26 November 2015

Georgia Part II: The Mountains

The Irish chef feels a deep connection to water-no surprise considering his hometown, Cobh (Cove), in County Cork is a major port. Growing up in a city far from a major body of water (in my mind, Thames River doesn't count), and deprived of mountains, I lack a history with either. However, I absolutely love being close to both! In Georgia, the mountains were SO prevalent that they were a major part of our trip.

After visiting the wineries, the Georgian lady and her sister, the revolutionary Georgian, took us to a very special place. To the east of the capital city, we drove into the mountains. The ladies must have thought I was drunk from all the wine I drank as the place we went to, the "Love City" (Sighnaghi), is renown as a place where people elope-like the Las Vegas of Georgia. Let me assure you, I was NOT drunk enough to do anything that crazy. I left the city, still-legally-single.

A couple on their way to get married??? Maybe. Lol.
Leaving the main square (walking away from the clock tower) and strolling around the city which was strangely lacking tourists.
Maybe those two are going to get hitched?!?
One of the six gate entrances to Sighnaghi. Love all the brick! It was dusk and absolutely beautiful.
  The sun setting on Tsminda Giorgi Church
You can walk along the city walls and the view is stunning!
Selfie gone wrong! Would've been successful if I'd had a selfie stick, hahaha!!!
 The view from the top #1
The view from the top #2

Following our trip to the city of love, we travelled north along the Georgian Military Highway which, as it's name suggests, was used for military purposes. I won't go into the history, but it's interesting and I suggest you read up on it: http://www.mircorp.com/georgian-military-highway-a-road-for-all-time/
http://jackandjilltravel.com/scenes-georgian-military-highway/
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/georgia/the-mountains/georgian-military-highway
This trip took us a full day as we drove from Tbilisi right up to the Russian border (towards Vladikavkaz). It was full of the most incredible scenery and if ever I wished I owned a camera that professionals use, this would have been the journey. *This is the point where I stopped writing this blog and kicked myself because my sister, who used to photograph professionally, HAS a beautiful Nikon with lenses that would have taken my pictures from meh to AMAZING!*

I already knew in my heart that I would have to return to Georgia, but if any doubt remained, then it quickly dissipated on this journey. A former Georgian colleague at ACM in Kuwait (we taught at the AUM campus), offered to take us on this journey and brought his daughter along.

 The start of the journey and I was so excited at the mountains. I clearly had NO IDEA what was to come!!!
Beautiful scenery!
 A quick stop for food!!!
 How about that for a view to enjoy at brunch?!?
 Hot AND delicious!
 A shot on my camera.
The same shot on the Irish chef's camera on his phone.
 One thing that shocked me: animals ALL OVER the roads not bothered or scared by all the vehicles or people. By the way, these animals actually belong to people and will eventually go home, or so I'm told.
 How to navigate roads that are completely obstructed by cows that will NOT move?!?
 It wasn't JUST cows we saw. These donkeys were ALL OVER this station just hanging out.
Horses grazing, unfazed by the cars passing by.

...And then there were mountains!

Jaw-droppers that never ceased to amaze!
 Can you just imagine sitting here and eating lunch, or doing your work? I feel like I'd be waaay more productive for some reason.
 Sorry to the random guy in the pic who I, unintentionally, captured!
Looking down doesn't look so bad in the pics, but in real life? Scary drops!
Gorgeous!!!!

 We stopped at this lookout point (the Soviet-Georgian Friendship Memorial) and browsed the AWESOME winter apparel! A panoramic view of the mural :)
 Gorgeous!
 Georgia's history in technicolor! I think anyone younger than 35 won't get that joke (> _ <)
So unique-like the country!!!
 I seriously wanted a hat and/or coat, but fear of PETA prevented me from it.
 SOCKS!!! I bought a pair for the Irish chef and I and we LOVE THEM!!!
Look at all that colour!!! I wanted to get these as Christmas gifts, but we had NO room in our suitcases :(
 See the castle in the background???
UGH! Selfie sticks everywhere!!!! Wait. Where were these people the day before when I needed one of these things?!?
 A quick stop along the highway where thermal water runs down the side of a hill. Over time, the calcium has hardened, and people walk up the formation.
 Cooling down!
A spa treatment before getting back into the car!
The mountains became a lot bigger and a lot more imposing!
 Stunning!
 Scary-looking at times, but gorgeous nonetheless!
 Gergeti Trinity Church, Tsminda Sameba, the church on the top of the mountain was where we were going :)
At the top! Unfortunately, there was a BIG cloud obscuring my view of Mount Kazbek (T _ T)

The drive into the mountains was so idyllic and scenic. There's history steeped in these mountains and for the first time in a long time, I could stand and just feel it all coursing through my veins. I thanked my lucky stars I even got to enjoy this moment as the journey up the mountain felt like a perilous one. We couldn't take a regular car because there was NO WAY it would make it up the hill. The journey up and down can only be made on a narrow, one-lane road. There were times I couldn't open my eyes, and only after receiving assurance from our driver that he'd made the journey hundreds of times did I breathe a little easier. We saw cars stuck and abandoned and even had to reverse back down the mountain well into our journey as if it was commonplace because, well, it is. The drivers all know each other and help each other and the sense of community made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It seemed a completely foreign thing to me as Canadians are losing this wonderful part of life more and more every day.

 PHEW! We arrived safe and sound! Lol!!! The Georgian lady reminded me that when she gets married (in that church specifically!), I'll have to make the journey again!
 The drivers hanging out and waiting. These men are AMAZING!
 View from another top :)
 It's like something in a fairy tale. These places have only ever existed in stories for me.
 The church bells!
Someone (the Georgian lady!!!) took this hilarious shot me! LOVE that weird face I'm making!!!
 Maybe I was a bit nervous standing so close to the edge!
A group shot!!!

Now, there was NO WAY we could go up into the mountains and NOT eat khinkalli (recipe HERE: http://georgianrecipes.net/2013/03/29/khinkali/). Sooo, off we went and found an amazing place to eat! The khinkali was WELL WORTH the wait!!!

 The starters were starting to feel very familiar!!!
 MMMMMM!!!!
The moment we'd been waiting for!!!
Best with some finely ground pepper!!! We didn't finish them all and were told to fry them in butter and garnish with (full fat) sour cream/yoghurt and they were DELICIOUS!!!
 Look at all that fencing and barbed wire!!!
The entrance to mother Russia.

The drive home was just as enchanting as the drive there!

Just out, roaming freely!
 Break time!!! Enjoying the water :)
Me saying something, likely trivial, and including hand gestures just in case. Weirdo!
The Georgian lady: a solitary creature who has always challenged Georgian societal norms and expectations. I miss her again already.

Shockingly, I'm not finished blogging about Georgia, so I'll have one more post!!! It makes me smile when I re-live the trip. Georgia on my mind.