Kakheti - wine and bread, the matrix of civilization

After a couple of  days in Tbilisi (I will tell you all about this in a later post) and two awesome tours, I felt it was time to visit Georgia’s famous vineyards in the Kakheti region.

The country’s first wine-producing region is the Kakheti. The lovely Alazani valley stretches east of Tbilisi, surrounded by high mountains. It has a subtropical micro-climate, great soils and plenty of water. Overall great conditions to produce the best grapes and, consequently, great wines.

Plus, it provides beautiful landscapes for a one day tour.


Vardzia: resistance in the Lesser Caucasus

The day after my soul search in the Greater Caucasus, I went south, to the Lesser Caucasus, heading for the cave city of Vardzia.

From the Greater to the Lesser Caucasus there is more than a change in scenery. There is a change in the overall mood. The green Greater Caucasus is in total contrast with the smaller mountains of the Lesser Caucasus, with its desert-like hills. If the first elevates the spirit, the second reminds us of the harsh reality of those who lived (and still live) there.

Georgia has a long history of conflicts. Surrounded by three big empires, at least two of them were always at the door, trying to force its way in: the Persian and the Ottoman empires.

Pushing its way from the south, the Ottoman empire launched countless attacks on Georgia, throughout History. But, mostly thanks to its geography, Georgia kept pushing them back.

One of the most important places of resistance was the cave city of Vardzia. An amazing place, excavated in the mountain rock.  In its Golden Age it housed about 50.000 people, in dwellings arranged over 19 tiers, in its highest part.


Sulfur Baths: a unique experience in Tbilisi

The sulfur baths are one of Tbilisi’s most unique experiences. One that you definitely shouldn’t miss.

It’s not a trip to the spa. Far from it. But it will cleanse your tired body (and, believe me, when the masseuse starts scrubbing, you’ll really feel dirty!) and relax your wandering spirit.

I did some on-line reading about the sulfur baths, before I went to Tbilisi. And I was simultaneously curious and a bit concerned, to be honest. But all the accounts I read agreed on one point: if you don’t feel comfortable with the public baths, go for a private room. It’s more expensive, but it will assure you total privacy.

And yes, you understood correctly: the traditional baths are a public experience, men and women in separate rooms, and you’re expected to go in buck naked.

And then, there’s that peculiar and not exactly enjoyable sulfur smell.

Well, I was there in Tbilisi. And it was part of the experience. How could I miss it?

On my last day in Tbilisi I finally gathered all my courage and went for it.


Kazbegi - Now this IS the Caucasus!

My first experience in the Caucasus was a one day trip on the Georgian Military Highway, all the way up to the village of Kazbegi.

I wanted to see the mountains. This is not a difficult task, anywhere in Georgia. Even in Tbilisi, all you have to do is go up to the Narikala fortress and you’ll have an impressive view of the mountains surrounding the city.

But I wanted to see the Greater Caucasus, go up a mountain and (almost) touch the sky.

Georgian territory includes the southern part of the Greater Caucasus range, in the north of the country, and part of the Lesser Caucasus (or Transcaucasus) in the center and south of Georgia.

Also, the very name Caucasus evokes centuries of poetry and mysticism.


Supra: Georgian philosophy of life

A post about Supra may seem an odd choice to start talking about my travelling experiences in Georgia. But, as you will soon understand, it is, in fact, the perfect choice.

While researching for my trip, I read a lot about Supra and Tamada. In a very simple way, one may say Supra is a Georgian feast and Tamada is the toastmaster.

But there is so much more to it!


Five Reasons to go to London: Reason 5 - Free Museums

Free museums: I always thought it was one of the ultimate signs of a highly educated and advanced society. A society that perceives culture as a basic good.

Even though today I have a slightly different opinion (it’s not just about how advanced the society is, but mainly about government budget priorities), the fact remains the same: most of London’s museums are free of charge.

If seeing “old stones” and art work is your thing (as is mine), then London allows you to see some of the most iconic man-made objects without having to pay a dime.


"The Caucasus - An Introduction", by Thomas de Waal

“The countries of the South Caucasus have always been the “lands in-between”. In between the Black and Caspian seas, Europe and Asia, Russia and the Middle East, Christianity and Islam and, more recently, democracy and dictatorship.”

Five reasons to go to London: Reason 4 - Pub Culture

I loved Dublin’s pub scene, but London remains the hot spot for pub life. There’s nowhere else like London!

Have a pint at end of the day, or a cider. Eat a light meal. And chill out with some friends. That’s quintessential London life.

I always loved British pubs. And it’s one of the things that looks pretty much unchanged.

When I firtst went to London, 17 years ago, pubs were all about having cheaper meals. Back then I didn’t like beer (sily me) and my travel budget could not accomodate meal prices at proper London restaurants. So, it was either McDonald’s and greasy street fish and chips, for the whole week, or pub food.

Pub food has always been a cheaper and lighter alternative to a full restaurante meal. And it never fails its role as confort food, properly washed down with a nice pint of ale.


Five reasons to go to London: Reason 3 - Awesome Theatre

In spite of a few disillusions I experienced on my last trip to London, this city continues to be THE place to check out some awesome theatre. Thank the Muse!

I go to the theatre most times I’m in London. But I’m not into musicals, so I usually look for my “poison” outside the famous West End (although one can see more than musicals in West End).

I love going to the National Theatre (https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/ ), in the South Bank area, with its three stages and an incomparable 25 new shows a year. This summer it was Chekhov season and I felt so tempted…


Layover in Barcelona

What do you do if you have a longer layover? For example, if you have a 7 or 8 hour layover in an awesome city? Do you sit at the airport and browse through all its shops, over and over again? Do you take a nap on the uncomfortable plastic chairs? Or do you try to make the best of it?

Sometimes longer layovers are unavoidable. Maybe there were no earlier connection flights. Or maybe they were fully booked by the time you bought your trip.