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Tuesday, Three Favourite Things About the UK

Sure I do the occasional complaining about everything from the dull weather, to the weird separate hot & cold taps and the painful costs of public transport. But there are tons of things I do love about this country. Kicking off with …

August Bank Holiday
Most countries’ public holidays are all bunched up in the first half year and for someone who doesn’t have a summer holiday anymore it’s very exciting to have a surprise three-day weekend in the last week of August. It’s like finding money that was already yours in a jacket you haven’t worn for a while. And it doesn’t even matter that it’s likely to be miserable and rainy.

Free Entry To Museums
Free entry to most museums is really one of the best things about the UK. Especially with all the budget cuts and prices going up every year, getting cultured and learning new things will still cost you absolutely nothing. So I’m going to enjoy those until someone realises they can cash out.

People Saying Sorry, Even When It’s Not Their Fault
If someone bumps into you, they’ll apologise without even thinking about it. Sure, half of the time it comes out as a bark and the other half as a snark, but getting that five letter word out really matters. The day that British people stop apologising, it would be the end of civilisation as we know it!

Georgia

Gamarjoba! Hello from Tbilisi, Georgia

Following up on my time in Kutasi, here’s what happened on my rather up-and-down Georgian adventures when I finally reached the capital Tbilisi.

That evening we exhaustedly arrived at our guest house. But drama struck again – our room was given to someone else and we given a sub-par alternative where the only window faced an interior hallway, couldn’t open AND had no curtains so as you can imagine I heard and saw every guest doing all sorts into the night. I don’t have visual proof, so here is a photo of a very extra hotel I spotted the next morning – maybe something for my next visit.

New city means new Free Walking Tour! Sadly the rain had closed the famous vintage bridge market, but all was not lost. The tour was great and I learned a lot about Tbilisi – all of its hidden gems and lots of insider details that are not on Wiki – such as the fact a lot of statues get stolen by local guys trying to impress the ladies. Or that everyone has at least two family members named after St George and St Nino. Teachers must have it very easy.

As part of the tour you ride the cable cart to the top of the hill, explore the fort, see the botanical garden and enjoy the amazing views. And if you are in need of inspiration for your next Instagram pose, this is the place to spot posers.

How gorgeous is Old Tbilisi? All these buildings are sulphur baths that offer complete relaxation and torture massages. Rumour has it that King Gorgasali loved the hot sulphur water so much that he decided to found a city near the springs and Tbilisi was born.

Like any basic white girl, trying out new cuisines and dishes always tops my to-do list. This scrumptious platter with small dishes included: eggplant with walnuts, chopped vegetables combined with walnuts, herbs, onions, garlic and mashed beans with spices.

Thanks to investment by a rich businessman who wants to bring Tbilisi closer to Europe, the city has a very…interesting mix of old and new buildings like a tube-shaped theatre, a mushroom-style government building and a maxi-pad-inspired bridge. You might also spot a Tony Stark-esque mansion on the hill – home to that very rich businessman!

All that walking meant it was soon time for a well-deserved soak, which led us to a private bath at Gulo. And it was EVERYTHING!! Soaking in the hot and cold water was the best £15 I spent in Georgia, maybe even the best £15 I spent this year.

The hunt for food then continued with the discovery of a new favourite dish: lobiani – a Georgian quesadilla-type odish with spicy beans instead of cheese. And a simple, but mouth-wateringly good salad cucumber, tomato, walnut salad.

Stuffed full of Georgian cuisine we headed back to the guest house to prepare for our day-trip.

 

Georgia - Kutaisi

Gamarjoba! Hello from Georgia

One random night me and my friend decided it was time for us to visit Georgia – no, not the US state and home of Coca Cola, but the little gem of a country that sits between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

But it wasn’t as easy as we thought. The pre-trip drama: everything was supposed to start on a Friday. We would both meet up in Milan to take a cheap flight to Kutaisi. But one day before departure my Easyjet flight from London-Milan got cancelled and the only other flight there was £400. Since that was almost double the budget I had for this trip I booked a cheap direct Wizzair flight on the Sunday, hoping meet my friend in Georgia. You’d think it would stop there … nope – my friend’s flight got delayed so much that she’d miss her connection in Milan. So instead, she booked on my flight on the Sunday and flew to London.

Our flight on the Sunday got ridiculously delayed as well – meaning we finally made it to Kutaisi in the middle of the night! After a quick nap at Tami Hostel we found a bakery, made a plan of action while enjoying two random khachapuri. As we had 2 days less we had to cut out some of the things we wanted to see and do.

The first thing on our list was a walking tour through Kutaisi as I knew nothing about the city, and it was a great starting point. This fountain near the meeting point is just everything, so ornately beautiful.

Guide Kako shows you around his city and tells you bits and pieces on the history. Like the former summer residence of the king with an inspirational garden that comes complete with a 300 year old tree – scary to think of how many things that tree has seen!

We also caught some serious street art outside the market that basically tells you everything you need to know about Georgia; this mural has the story of Jason and Madea’s (the drama in your favourite soap opera doesn’t compare), David the Builder (not related to Bob) and obviously their love of wine.

Inside the market there’s your standard vegetables, fruits and meat sections. But there’s also a corner with second-hand clothes where we discovered t-shirts with random Dutch slogans!? Are you missing your Schoolcamp ’07 t-shirt? Good chance someone in Kutaisi is walking around with it.

The tour ends on the hill where we got to peek inside Bagrati Cathedral, enjoy views of the city and fill up water bottles. Top money-saving tip – most monasteries have a water fountain where you can top up your bottle for free.

After that we joined forces with two people from our tour and found a taxi driver to take us to two famous monasteries: Motsameta and Gelati. The views and frescoes at Motsameta Monastery definitely won me over. But also the fact that we stumbled upon a group of 20 women who sung hymns and did a ritual where they crawled three times under the ark thee times to grant a wish – and you thought Aladdin had it tough.

The Gelati complex wasn’t a let down by any means – it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for a reason. There was so much to see and frescos is more colourful than an average teen girls’ room – I’ll share those later. For now, look at this view.

Back in Kutaisi we sat down at Tea House Foe-Foe for tea and traditional Georgian dishes. We chowed down on stuffed grape leaves and Georgian cheese with traditional cornbread and cucumber, and tomato and walnut salad (which was a winner and we ordered it for literally every meal).

After that, it was time to say goodbye to Kutaisi and take a mini bus on to Tbilisi. But not before raiding a mini-market and stocking up on the essentials. Like this Snickers with sunflower seeds instead of peanuts, that means its super healthy right?

Stay tuned for Part II. Where the drama (spoiler alert) did NOT end.

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Tuesday, Three Favourite Cool Destinations

I’m not going to complain about this hot summer we are having. I mean, hello: eating ice cream any time of the day has totally become normalised! It’s only during my commute that I’m having problems with finding peace with the heat so I’ve been keeping my brain chilled by revisiting some of the cooler destinations I’ve visited.

A winter season in Austria
One of my favourite winters I spent in Austria working front desk at a holiday chalet park located in the middle of 6 different slopes. It was amazing to lock the reception doors during lunchtime, grab your snowboard and hit the playground. Even on the coldest day, it was still sunny and you could slide down the slopes with a windbreaker and a hoodie. I don’t even remember it being too cold or too grey, it might have been the alcohol that kept me warm and made me forget about the lesser days. 

A semester abroad in Finland
I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Melbourne when it was 42°C and a month later I was in Finland where it was -12°C. I spent my exchange semester walking around like a Michelin man and it was so different from the winter cold I knew from Austria. I LOVED living in a place where they had a proper winter and snow didn’t suck after one day. So many soup options on the menu, hot chocolate was mandatory and enjoying sauna sessions meant everyone was too busy to complain about the cold. What not to like?

A house-sit in Berlin
I love how winter, snow and even the cold can put a magical carpet over a destination. Like arriving in snowless Berlin mid-December and seeing the first snow fall and how it changes Christmas, New Year’s and the days in between. Potsdam was like a winter wonderland episode of a cheesy fairy tale, mulled wine at the abandoned amusement park Christmas Market just tasted better and even getting squashed in the crowds of tourists couldn’t bother me. Can I book again for holiday season?

What’s your favourite cold destination to go shiver?

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6 Countries I Want To Visit Based On Their Tourism Slogan

I saw a really bad slogan on a tourism board advert the other day, which led me down a Google blackhole of tourism slogans – and I must admit it wasn’t pretty, so many are a such a big let down! It was like back in the olden times when you would judge people based on their very deep and emo MSN Messenger quotes. However, it did inspire me to write a post on the slogans that would get me on the plane there pronto!

Albania • Go your own way!
Arrogant? Maybe! Confident? Hell yes! That pretty much sums up the Balkan attitude and I love that Albania is the country that makes full use of it. I’d love to explore Tirana, hike in the mountains and see the infamous bottomless deep blue spring.

Djibouti • Djibeauty
The sad thing about punny jokes is that they don’t always translate well, but can we all appreciate what Djibouti did here? It definitely attracted the attention of Lonely Planet who named it one of their top places to visit in 2018. It would be interesting to get my culture fix at their archaeological sites, test if I can speed up my mind and body with khat and venture to Moucha Island.

El Salvador • The 45 Minute Country
Honesty is always the best policy in my book and that’s why their slogan inspires me to load up my favourite booking site and buy a ticket to travel to the past in the Mayan temples, munch my way trough a plate of pupusa and catch some waves. Yeah, I have the feeling a visit to El Salvador may be short, but would definitely be sweet, plus it’s not always the length that matters eh?

Iran • You Are Invited
Whenever I read blogs about Iran I love how basically everyone meets someone who invites them into their home and meets the parents, grandparents and probably half of the neighbourhood. I would love to be part of this experience where people are proud to show off their culture and country. On top of that, I want to soak up ancient history at the Ruins of Persepolis, visit Shah Cheragh Mosque and sit down for many, many TEA sessions.

Lebanon • Live Love Lebanon
Mainly because it sounds like the title of a Gossip Girl book … think Blair and Serena somehow end up in Lebanon instead of Paris, now that’s a season I would love to see. However, I’d be more interested in checking out Beiteddine Palace, seeing the Jeita Grotto and scoffing all the mezze.

Uganda • You Are Welcome
So cheeky, but I love it. During my semester abroad I had a few people from Uganda in my classes and this fits them so well. I still have some invites lying around and I’d love to visit them and finally have that shot of Waragi, do some National Park hopping and see the locations that inspired Wakanda.

What’s your favourite country travel slogan?