We arrived at Georgia 5:00am. First thing we did is exchange our few dollars to some Georgian Lari – you can find exchange centers upon exit from departure gate. The airport is not that big so you won’t miss it. During our stay there, exchange for 1 USD is going at 2.67 Lari.
It was raining and still dark when we have exited the airport. Taxis are everywhere, you can see sign how much taxis will cost going to the city. It ranges from 20 lari to 30 Lari. However, we opted for this guy who has a private car for 35 Lari as our place is a bit far from the city – it’s actually expensive for the taxi but as was very early, we are not yet awake enough to negotiate haha! We had difficulty finding the place, good thing Pikria (our Airbnb host) has given her number and the taxi called her for directions.
We decided to leave our things at Pikria’s place as our check in time is still 2pm. We have scheduled a pick up with Shoti (our tour guide) at 9:00am to start our tour. Pikria have recommended a 24/7 restaurant in Freedom Square for breakfast while waiting.
With the direction given by Pikria, we reached Tsereteli Metro Station, 2 – 3 blocks away from our area (7 minute walk) Actually, it was 15 minute walk for us as we did not noticed the metro itself, didn’t realized it was underground 🙂
We bought our Metro Card for 3 Lari – was a bit confuse as they only gave 1 card for 2 of us. Later we realized that they are telling us that we can use 1 card for both of us. The card has an initial credit of 1 Lari, and 1 trip costs 0.50 Lari.
Their metro station is a bit old, remind me of old movies in the 60s and 70s. Here I found the longest escalator I have ever ridden, like 3x of regular escalators (not exaggerating here)
The metro tunnel quite fascinates me as it feels like I have taken a time machine and went bank 200 years back. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take a good picture underground. It was a bit awkward as well as people are staring at us. I guess they’re not used with tourists. I can’t help but notice that all of them really looks alike, they have certain features that’s common to all locals – blond, deep eyes (blue or grey) and white skin. So no wonder, seeing black-haired Asian couple make them stare.
To reach Freedom Square from Tsereteli Metro, we have to change lane in Union Metro first. Freedom square is a big roundabout. In the center is the statue of their patron saint – St. George.
We had our breakfast at Samikitno-Machakhela. I have tried the famous Kachapuri for 5 Lari and Kenneth took the egg and sausage breakfast for 6.50 lari. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the Kachapuri (Georgian delicacy consists of bread, cheese and egg) much, I guess I’m used to Cheddar Cheese and not the soury type one. It was quite big as well, even though I ordered small size only, I wasn’t able to finish it. There’s wifi in the restaurant as well, so we were able to message Shoti to just pick us up there. We waited outside, it was still raining and the day is still gloomy.
Shoti picked us up as discussed with him, and we met Yousra, another tourist from Dubai who will be our company in the tour. Due to misunderstanding during reservation, we were surprised when we realized that we are going to Kazbegi instead of Kakheti. I am in a dress and Kenneth is still in his clothes from Dubai. Not really the appropriate outfit going to mountain in a rainy day.
It was an hour drive but never a dull moment. As we go further away from the city, the more we get near the mountains and its magnificent view, especially when we reached the military highway.
We had our first stop at a Lake I can’t remember the name. It was here that I confirmed that I’ll be freezing to death with my dress when we reached our final destination.
Our next stop is Ananuri Fortress, a castle originally for the Duke of Aragvi from the 13th century.
Before entering the caslte, there are “ancient” clothes for Rent (2 lari) that Kenneth tried on for fun.
The place is quite big for 15 minute tour so we took in a hurry. Here we get our first in one of the hundreds of churches in Georgia. The place was very solemn and you would feel how sacred the place is for everyone. The place has some towers as well (of course, it’s a fortress! ) which are still accessible. However, as the stairs go steeper, I can’t go further anymore. I might not be able to come back down haha!
Going back at the car, I found some stores selling handmade socks. Hoping it will help me from not dying (exaggerating here, I know hahahah!) I bought a pair. They do not perfectly match my dress, but hey, I can’t afford to choose. At least you will know the story how I look the way I look in the pictures so I don’t need to explain and hoping you could sympathize with me and not laugh at all…. lol! But with the socks on, I feel like a Georgian local..(feeling meh!)
Next stop is a river. As per Shoti, this is where the 2 river of Georgia (Black and White River) meet. If it was not raining, we will see the big difference of the black and white river meeting. Sadly, it was, if not for Shoti’s info, I would not even distinguish the blurred line where the 2 river meet.
Due to tiredness from travel, we didn’t realize we fell asleep on the way. Shoti woke us up when we reached the Military Highway where I’ve seen the most scenic view in my life. We are surrounded by green mountains.
We had stopped over as well at the skiing area – Gudauri. However, it’s not winter season yet and no snow yet to appreciate the place. Then we had a quick stopover going down, where we had a taste of their natural mineral water. It does not taste as water at all, like soda water but better 🙂
After half an hour, we reached the town of Stepantsminda. We need our pee break so Shoti took us at Hotel Kazbegi, the most famous hotel there. It is also famous for its veranda, where you can get the best view of kazbegi mountains. As we are there just to pee, we weren’t able to go in the veranda, but was able to get a peek 😀
Back to the town, we have to transfer to another car to take us to the mountain itself. This is where we met Shariq – the dog. Who run around following our tour guide driver (his master). We were instantly charmed by the dog!
From the town, you can have a glimpse of what has become a symbol for Georgia – the Gergeti Church.
We decided to see the falls (the biggest one in town) and of course Gergeti Church. We have to pay 20 USD to the falls and another 20 USD to Gergeti church. Quite expensive, but we have to take the opportunity in the fullest as we are already there, so, why not?!
We went to the falls first ,where we still have to trek 20-30min to get to the falls. Was not prepared with this trek at all, I feel like I was dying! I am on a dress, cold to death and breathless! But the view was worth it. Not the best falls I have seen, but definitely worth it. Even the surrounding area, where the trees are starting to get yellow due to autumn season is mesmerizing. I always love autumn, and this place made me love it even more.
Then we went straight to the famous Gergeti church. The place is located at the top of the hill.
The Gergeti Trinity Church is built in the 14th century, and is the only cross-cupola church in Khevi province. The separate belltower dates from the same period as the church itself. Its isolated location on top of a steep mountain surrounded by the vastness of nature has made it a symbol for Georgia. The 18th century Georgian author Vakhushti Batonishvili wrote that in times of danger, precious relics from Mtskheta, including Saint Nino’s Cross were brought here for safekeeping. During the Soviet era, all religious services were prohibited, but the church remained a popular tourist destination. The church is now an active establishment of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church. – WIKIPEDIA
After a very roughy ride, we have reached the most amazing view. Surrounded by mountains and had a bird’s view of the town itself. It feels like I was inside a painting, never thought I could be so blessed to be able to be there and look at the beauty of God’s creation. We took our time taking pictures, feels like not enough to put justice on the background’s beauty.
Wasn’t able to take pictures inside the church as it’s now allowed 😦
From afar, we could see the mountain peaks covered with snow. First time seeing snow, though from miles afar, I will consider it the first time that I have seen snow! Haha!
Going home, me and Kenneth are dead tired and fast asleep, but before going back to Tbilisi, Shoti stopped at a local restaurant, where we had our first taste of the famous Georgian delicacy, Khinkhali. We have tried Khinkhali in 4 restaurants in our whole stay in Georgia, and this restaurant has the best Khinkhali. For a total of 16 lari, we have bought 25 pcs of Khinkhali already, for 4 persons. Khinkhali looks like siomai, with thicker wrap and with soup inside. Usually has meat and some herbs inside, but you can find other varieties in restaurants like with shrimp or crab.
There’s a certain way how to eat it. You have to turn it upside down, bite a bit at the edge and drink the soup inside. Once there’s no soup, you can finish eating it J You can put pepper to taste as well. Oh my, I’m getting hungry thinking of it. This is where I found my new favorite drink as well. A Grape flavored soda. Best so far!
When we arrived at Tbilisi, we are greeted by heavy traffic. It was Friday and rush hour so it is expected. It’s only past 8:00pm but it’s already dark on our block. We would love to go out more and roam the city but we are really tired, so we decided to buy some beer and some snacks and went back to our room to rest.