I’ve gotten into a comfortable routine of spending my weekdays in Gori, working on teacher training workshops and other projects at the university, and then meeting up with the ETAs or other volunteers for trips around Georgia on the weekends.
Our first trip was about three weeks ago, when Jess and I traveled to eastern Georgia to visit Sara, another ETA living and working in a city called Telavi. Telavi is in Kakheti (the most famous wine region of the country), and Telavino (a local wine festival) was happening there that weekend.
As you’ll see, I found Telavi to be a beautiful and colorful place; this particular post is full of pictures!
Jess met me in Gori and we took a taxi to Telavi. (Taxi travel is incredibly common here; it still surprises me, but it is a nice way to get around). The drive itself was beautiful; once we were east of Tbilisi we drove through rolling hills and gorgeous mountains where the leaves were just beginning to change colors. Our driver stopped several times so we could take pictures of the scenery.
When we arrived in Telavi, I was struck by how clean and new the city, or at least the city center, looked. Sara’s apartment is in the center, and has an incredible view!
It was already early evening by the time we got to Telavi, so we set off pretty quickly for one of the wineries nearby that was still open (Shumi Winery). Shumi also has a wine history museum at its winery and vineyards, which was pretty interesting.
We visited the museum and had a small tour of the winery before tasting. Our guide was great; she was very kind and knowledgeable, and happy to give us big pours so that I could take pictures of the wine going from the bottle into the glasses 🙂 .
After tasting the wines and a cognac made there, we wandered through the grape vines. More than 150 varieties of grapes are grown in Georgia! The pictures below show just a few of them; also, notice examples of all the consonant clusters that I’ve been referring to in posts about the Georgian language. 🙂
By the time we left, it was getting late, so we headed to another nearby winery / hotel / restaurant for dinner. We got stuck in a little traffic on the way there:
Sunday morning we enjoyed coffee and breakfast on Sara’s balcony, admiring the view of the mountains:
After breakfast we went to Telavi’s bazar, which was quite an experience! I was overwhelmed by the colors, sounds, and smells. Everywhere you looked were vivid vegetables, churchkhela stands, coffee beans, spices, and meat, meat, meat. The people working there were very friendly had happy to give out samples. We also had the opportunity to buy extremely fresh chicken, if we wished. (We didn’t wish).
Vegetarians, beware!! The next few pictures contain meat it its various stages from animal to something you would cook… (Also, even if you’re a meat eater, this is your warning…).
If you prefer pork, there was plenty of that available too:
Eventually we left the bazar and, quite hungry, headed toward the festival. Before getting there, we made two stops. First, to see Old Town Telavi (which, like Gori, also seems quite new), and secondly, to eat khinkali at Sara’s favorite khinkali spot.
After lunch, just as we left the restaurant and neared the beginning of the festival, it started to pour! This was actually the first time I had even seen rain in Georgia at all, and we were completely unprepared; none of us had a rain jacket, an umbrella, or anything at all. Luckily, one of the vendors at the festival let us huddle inside his tent; I ended up doing some Christmas shopping while we were in there, and we got to hide out from the rain with these guys:
The rain didn’t last too long, and we were free to wander around the festival, taste wines from local wineries, and watch traditional singing and dancing performances.
I’d guess that around ten different wineries were at the festival with their wines. All the pours were free, and it was a great way to learn about the different wines and wineries in the area.
This was definitely helpful for planning future trips to the Kakheti region for visitors, and I have lots of ideas now… so come visit me!