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?

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Tuesday, Three Instagram-Worthy Destinations That Didn’t Live Up To The Hype

You may have heard of Ansel Dominic Bakery for introducing the world to the wonders of the cronut or just being a highly Instagrammable place, but neither of these two things tickled my fancy. But then I saw their watermelon soft serve sprinkled over Instagram and I was sold! For me, the only ice-cream that really counts is soft serve. Sadly no one on Instagram mentioned it was sorbet-style, so whoever named this soft serve knows nothing about ice-cream. It was nice, but not worth the £6.50 and the Rowntrees Watermelon Lolly you can get at the supermarket across the street is a gob-smackingly cheap 55 pence!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my trip to The Cotswolds and I though I only visited 4 villages I can’t say it’s as quaint, cosy and silent as Instagram suggests. What those IG close-ups don’t mention is that they are all zoomed in on that cute row of houses because there’s loads of noisy cars passing by, and no one shows that the little town centres are basically car parks. It was the countryside walks from village to village where I found the quietness I was looking for.

I mentioned why I didn’t like Isla Mujeres here, but Tulum wasn’t the paradise I expected either. Look for #Tulum and you’ll see IG models lounging in tropical beach huts, having fresh coconuts and biking through paradise – a lot to live up to! But it turns out most people go for a hostel in town, spend their pesos on tacos at Antojitos La Chiapaneca and whatever the cheapest drink is. And that bike lane through paradise? It’s more like a concrete traffic nightmare. That being said, yogis can be found on the drop-dead gorgeous beaches and there are carefree swings for you to try out and take a quick snap to spark some jealously back home.

So message for future self: be wary of Instahype and do some actual research.

What Instagrammable place let you down?

London - Seen & Done

Things To Do in London: the Horniman Museum and Gardens

Central London in summer is my own personal little corner in hell. Just like many other major cities, London is starting to burst at the seams with overtourism, and to catch a peaceful moment I’ve started avoiding the major attractions – instead I head South of the river, to the far far East or even to the West!

One of those recent stops for me was re-visiting the Horniman Museum and Gardens – a quirky museum in Forest Hill which houses a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world and African, South American and Siberian anthropology.

We owe the place to Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader and avid traveller who brought back curious things from around the world to Forest Hill to let people share in on his passion. I assume his partner and friends got tired of hearing how he got Wally the Walrus for the 20th time so he opened up his display to the public. As the collection grew and grew and attracted more visitors I imagine his wife wasn’t too excited with people wandering around her house and so they secured a nearby building that still houses the museum and gardens. To top it off, there’s also a butterfly house, an aquarium and a crazy golf course – sadly it wasn’t the one from Alice in Wonderland, but is still worth a shot.

It doesn’t take more than 1 hour to see everything, which leaves enough time to go up the hill for the amazing view over central London, see the gardens in bloom and grab some food at the Saturday Farmer’s Market for a picnic on the grass. The collections are a bit dry and leave a lot to the imagination, but it’s kind of charming in old fashioned way with Wes Anderson style fonts and pastel colours, and did I mention it’s (mostly) for free?

It’s a bit out of Central London in Zone 3, so it might not be the ideal hotspot for your first visit, but definitely hop on the bus/train if you are visiting London for a second or third time or love stuffed animals, dried insects and a bash on the drums in the music room.

Do you have any undiscovered museum gems?