Georgia has outstandingly surpassed every expectations we had. Everything was great, our accommodations are wonderful, the views are amazing, the little towns are charming, weather is perfect, the local hospitality is brimming and our vacation holiday is a proof that dreams do come true.
The current weather in Tbilisi is dropping by 3ºC and season’s forecast to be a rainy week.We could only hope but a real wanderer never really gives up. We weren’t bothered and filled our itinerary with Georgia’s famous monasteries, sightseeing and wine tasting tour in Mtskheta and Kakheti Region in Signaghi, about 80km away from Tbilisi. Our road trip is just perfect to exhaust our 4GB mobile data plan we bought from the airport for just 10 Gel or $3.65 with free sim card.
Prepped up early and my friend, Minnie, was contemplating for a full breakfast, so decided a quick brunch at the next door neighbor, Courtyard Marriott Tbilisi, while waiting for our driver/guide.
The historic churches of Mtskheta, former capital of Georgia, are outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. They show the high artistic and cultural level attained by this ancient kingdom. ~ Unesco
Of all the books in the world,
The best stories are found between the pages of a passport.
First stop of our Georgian tour is Jvari Monastery or Monastery of the Cross, one of the sixth century historic structures of Georgian Orthodox near Mtskheta, Eastern Georgia and is listed as World Heritage site by UNESCO. It is notable that the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the world’s most ancient Christian Churches, founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Andrew the First Called. This masterpiece is second, after Armenia, to accept Christianity as the established religion in 326 AD.
The 6th-century church of Jvari Monastery remains the most sacred place in Georgia.
A light shower and a small crowd of tourists have already gathered when we arrived. The sacred church is located at the hilltop with a stunning view overlooking the confluence of the two rivers, Mtkvari and Aragvi and the town of Mtskheta.
The churches in Mtskheta represent key monuments of medieval Georgia. It’s majestic presence will make anyone feel connected spiritually with the old and new. There are still remnants of the old buildings and ancient wall paintings.
Our next stop is the town of Signagi, the easternmost region of Kakheti and about 2 hours drive away from Tbilisi. It was a beautiful ride along the coastal road and rolling hills. We run into these fluffy sheep along the way and had to stop by the road and say hello to the hot shepherd. *wink*
Sighnaghi, Georgia, the City of Love and Wine, from afar
Fog blanketed the Monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe, our 2nd stop located 2km outside the town of Sighnaghi in the province of Kakheti, Georgia. St. Nino, the 4th century female apostle of Georgia is buried here. It now functions as a convent nunnery and considered as one of the most important places of pilgrimages.
Map of Bodbe Monastery Complex
This Georgian Orthodox complex overlooks from the hillside of the Alazani Valley and a scenic view of the Greater Caucasus mountains. It is originally built in the 9th century. Amidst the vast nature and tall cypress trees, it’s absolutely one of my favourite places.
It is notable that all the Orthodox Christian churches we visited don’t have chairs. It’s quite amusing as it looks more of a museum from the inside. I searched and came across the theological reason behind it that through history, the rule has been servants do not sit in the presence of their Master, but stand.
We who gather together to worship are not an audience to be entertained, but servants in the presence of our Master. Throughout history it has been the rule servants do not sit in the presence of their Master, but stand. All Christian churches throughout history, until recent times had no pews (benches) and no chairs. Worshippers always stood for worship. ~ St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The fertile valleys of the South Caucasus house the source of the world’s first cultivated grapevines and neolithic wine production, from over 8,000 years ago. ~wikipedia
We continued our journey at the heart of Georgia’s wine-growing region. Traipsing through the famous fortress of Signaghi City Walls, imagine mini “Great Wall of China” , is an absolute way to revel in the beauty of Alazani Valley view from the mountain ridges.
Sighnaghi stone city walls extends for about 5 km with 23 towers. It was built in 1770 and still well preserved with a small section being restored for tourism. On a clear sky and if you’re lucky, the snow capped mountains of the greater Caucasus is picture perfect selfie background.
Signagi is not only famous for Kakheti wine tasting tours, the cobbled streets, pretty houses, decorated balconies and idyllic alleys are reminiscent of traditional Italian homes. It’s a perfect escape to the bustling city life, and time slows down with a glass of wine. And why is it called the city of love? Love wins in Georgia. It’s easy to get married as there is a 24/7 Marriage registration.
As the day is coming to an end and we are famished, the well deserved wine o’ clock break is in order. We walked further to the cobblestone path leading to the Pheasant’s Tears, a restaurant and wine bar amongst the top producers of artisanal wines according to ancient Georgian traditions.
The cellar offers a wide range of different Georgian wine varieties and vineyards that dates back to the 300 years of history. We quenched our thirst with 7 tasting wines + 1 free shot of Cha Cha. A showcase of dry wines from different villages of the Kakheti region in Georgia which are fermented and aged in qvevri, a unique Georgian vessel used to ferment and store wine. We were served with dry unfiltered wines, red, white and rose: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Tavkveri Rose, Shavkapito, Chinuri, Saperavi, Tavkveri and a bonus shot of a traditional Georgian brandy, Cha Cha.
Wine + Cheese + Meat. Life.
The long way back to Tbilisi is great time to sober up. By the time we reached our apartment, the night sky is clear and inviting and we have revive energy to explore Tbilisi.
Our late evening agenda is to discover the sulfur bath houses in the bath district called Abanotubani, a short 15 minutes walk. We wanted to experience a traditional Georgian bath gloriously praised by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and the French writer Alexandre Dumas for being luxurious, and described the bathing ritual not unlike that of today.
Old town Tbilisi and Narikala Castle Fortress at Night
The tiled domes and distinct sulfur scent is a giveaway that we have reached this bathing haven. The abundance of sulfur springs that uses naturally heated therapeutic pools are a popular tourist destination for local bathers and travelers alike. There are a lot of options for public baths though we were left with few choices on private baths since most of them will close at 12 midnight and there are long queues mostly of tourists probably capping of the night of adventure in Georgia. We were able to book a private room at Royal Bath House.
Late night stroll at Old town Tbilisi
My camera battery died at this point so no photos were taken including of the ancient roman tiles, underground blue ceilings, versace-esque mosaic walls and our full naked glory soaking on sulfur bath. The expoliation scrub and light massage is not off my standard having tried from different cultures before. Bali massage is still my fave. Nonetheless, it was still a perfect way to end the night.
On our last day in Georgia, we wander around the country’s capital, Tbilisi for a quick last look. Sunrise is at 8 in the morning in this sleepy town and we only had two hours free to roam.
Beautiful old houses restored to shops and restaurants. And the cobbled stone pathways.
Tbilisi Bridge of Peace connecting the old and the new
On a stroke of luck, we were able to catch a Christian Orthodox ceremony at Cathedral of Saint George, a 13th century Armenian church.
We are a little heart broken for leaving such a beautiful country. So much to see, so little time. I have nothing but praise. The experience we gained are priceless. So much blessings. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres and we only have a glimpse of such small part. I will definitely be back and experience Georgia on different seasons.
Part 1 : First Timers in Georgia
Part 2 : Winter Weekend in Georgia