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We can say that cultures and cuisines vary around the world, but there's a common thread - most humans eat and sleep on a daily basis. If you're lucky enough, on some days you also get the chance to sing, dance, or engage in something uplifting for the soul. In Georgia, there is a huge culture of food, filled with many tasty, aromatic and flavorful dishes. The best part of all of this - it is so cheap! :)

Throughout the journey, I spent most evenings on the road at homestays, which are sometimes the only option in mountain regions. The cost for all of the rooms was a standard $50/per night, and this included hearty breakfasts and dinners. This cover photo is from the start of the road expedition, and this house was my favorite from the journey. Wonderful table filled with all kinds of homemade Georgian foods to fill the belly at the end of a very long and strenuous day of driving. I grew to crave this delicious yogurt soup, and ordered it frequently during the trip because the more traditional soup - "kharcho" - was too spicy! In general, Georgians like to stuff everything with decadent fillings - peppers, eggplant, potatoes filled with nuts, curry paste, spices - lots of other things buried in the pockets.

Today Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, where we gather around the table for huge feasts and fellowship, so it seems like a good time to begin the reports from Georgia and speak a bit about the food and lodging options. Let's go...

1. All the places we stayed had two small beds, and I began to wonder if it's even possible to get a room with a single larger bed. Maybe this is only available in expensive hotels in Georgia, not sure. In the U.S., we're quite spoiled with hotel accommodations, as even budget hotels usually have two decent sized double beds, or upon request it's quite easy to get a large king/queen sized bed for a solo traveler or couple. What's the point of having a romantic mountain getaway with a lover if you can't share the same bed? :)

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2. Nice shower inside the room with plenty of warm water (sometimes a problem in Georgia).

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3. I absolutely adore the owner of the home - Marina! Lovely, friendly woman who kept us well fed and warm, lots of care and attention to her guests.

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4. Immediately upon opening the door, one of my favorite scents permeated the air! A real, wood burning fire place, with dancing flames that immediately transfixed. I love this scent, sitting by campfires and having this aroma cling to my hair, clothes, and overall being. Extremely warm and cozy place for a long chat, but no one was there. :) So, I simply sat in a meditative state and relaxed here for a few hours before bed time.

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5. I guess some people wouldn't feel comfortable in such environments because you're basically staying in someone's house, and observe all the commotion of daily life that transpires within it. Marina's daughters and grandchildren lived there also, and we met yet another baby Giorgi. :) Common male name in Georgia. I like such places - true integration into the culture and a good chance to mingle with locals.

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6. Another stuffed vegetable - potato filled with meat, spices and garnished with carrots. Very, very good! You can see a dish of sour cream on the side - common to put this on lots of foods in Georgia.

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7. Carrot - my favorite vegetable and it's popular in Georgian cuisine. Standard salad you can find everywhere there, carrots mixed with herbs and mayo. One of my favorite dishes from the trip, which I've tried to duplicate at home with no success.

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8. By the way, I want to mention that Georgians are quite flexible when it comes to altering food to suit your tastes or dietary restrictions, at least in cafes where they are eager to take American dollars. For instance, in the Svaneti region, they offered to make this carrot salad with yogurt rather than mayo. Much appreciated, because I'm not a big fan of mayo or salads that are drenched in this substance. You can notice the prices - for a huge plate of this carrot salad it costs only 5 GEL, which is about $2.


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9. I really love vegetables much more than meat and even made this Georgian dish for our Thanksgiving table today. :) It's called "phkali" - a blend of spinach, nuts, garlic, onions, coriander and other spices, topped with colorful pomegranate seeds. Good choice for Christmas also, as the finished dish looks something like a holiday wreath. :)

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10. I traveled with a Georgian man - big fan of meat!! I have no idea what all the dishes he ate were called, but this is just standard sausages served in classic Georgian style inside a heavy clay bowl, steaming hot.

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11. I spent four nights in the Svaneti region in the village of Mestia. There are not many decent cafe options, but we found the best and went there almost every night to hang out. Very lively scene, filled with local villagers. I met these guys on the first day, but none of them spoke English. :) They sat at the table in the middle of the day strumming instruments, singing, playing dominoes...

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12. On Friday night, I returned to the cafe to discover that they are part of a well-known folk ensemble. Festive live performance and dance to start the weekend, where many locals were clapping, singing, spinning....and, yes, drinking! At one point, I went to the front and joined the band. What can I say? I like these rugged mountain boys. :)

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13. You can see a quick video of their live performance below. Amazing voices, really moving and energetic environment when they performed. I purchased a CD of their songs, but when I played it in my car I really didn't like it. Such music must be experienced live to truly feel the soulful impact. I especially liked the bearded guy playing the panduri - a traditional three-string Georgian instrument. Cutie!



14. The cafe itself is quite charming and is called "Cafe Laila." Most of the wait staff spoke decent English, menus are duplicated in English and they have the most clever bathroom sign I've ever seen. Men - take note. :))

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15. The interior design was colorful, clean and simple. A huge meal here cost no more than $10, including salads and some type of meat dish.

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16. Overall, there is no problem to find adequate and nice cafes in most main cities of Georgia if you don't mind a lot of noise and crowds. Everywhere there are a lot of people and it can seem suffocating for a person like me. However, in the city of Kutaisi we found a quiet, cozy spot. This is the city in which the Georgian Parliament has been located since 2012. I don't like this place, and don't understand why the government moved here in 2012. The city is about 230 km from Tbilisi, and has absolutely none of Tbilisi's charm or romance. Just a busy, noisy and much dirtier place, at least based on what I saw.

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17. Flowing poetry here! Such a common scene outside cafes and apartments in Georgia to have vines, plants, flowers and all kinds of visual delights hanging from balconies.

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18. Here I had yet another version of khachapuri - the variety with an egg placed on top, and most delicious of all! I had all versions - with meat, with beans, with eggs, and with just cheese. Perhaps it is the most popular and recognizable of all traditional Georgian foods.

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19. For dessert, we shared this warm pumpkin delicacy, covered with rich honey and nuts. For Thanksgiving, one of the most popular sweet treats at Americans' tables is pumpkin pie.

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20. Another sweet in Batumi - some type of soft bread, again covered with honey and nuts. These two ingredients are used in tons of Georgian dishes and desserts.

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21. At the beginning and end of the trip, I stayed in Tbilisi for a few days. About the city, I'll write a short report, but I just want to say that it makes absolutely no sense to stay in a hotel here unless you're a big fan of them. There are thousands of apartments available on Airbnb.com, and I stayed in two different ones, right in city center. For a modern, roomy one bedroom apartment the cost was only $50, and you can find even cheaper options if you want to live in an older building or farther from city center. Here's some shots from the first apartment, located right on Rustaveli Avenue, the main thoroughfare in the city. Full kitchen, big living area, decent bedroom, fully equipped with dishes, coffee maker, sofas, table, and the host even brought me a bottle of Georgian wine when we met.

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22. Very cute balcony, overlooking the Opera. Perfect spot for morning coffee, fresh air, or any smokers who are visiting.

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23. View of the Opera from the small balcony. You can get further details about the apartment and see more photos here. The host, Sandro, is extremely nice and helpful. He arranged for airport pick-up, helped with heavy bags up numerous flights of steps because there was no lift, and was responsive to all questions. This is free publicity for him, as I paid for these apartments myself. If you book the place, tell him Shannon from the USA sent you there. He speaks good English, and will remember me...:)

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Of course, I have a lot of other photos of different foods, tons of mountain scenery, lots of adventures, and many impressions from Georgia which remain quite clear in my mind. This is just a short introduction post, and a chance to wish all my readers in America and those who celebrate abroad a very Happy Thanksgiving! More reports to follow soon...


Date: 2016-11-24 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yarowind.livejournal.com
Happy thanksgiving, Shannan!

Date: 2016-11-24 12:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Thanks! The food is now prepared. Now we must wait until afternoon to eat. :)

Date: 2016-11-24 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pin-gwin.livejournal.com
What a meal!!! I am jealous..

Date: 2016-11-24 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
These are shots from numerous meals, but in Georgia food is plentiful and so cheap. Do you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, wishing you a wonderful day! :)

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Date: 2016-11-24 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moskitow.livejournal.com
It's already interesting! Waiting for other posts about your trip. Yeah, khachapuri - my favorite! I can see you are an expert in Georgian cuisine now :)
Happy Thanksgiving!

Date: 2016-11-24 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
I think there are too many words in this post - the text is too long. Most readers who have not abandoned LJ are too lazy to read, thus no one comments. :( It's a pity, but it seems videos are the way of the future but I don't like them, and refuse to give in to this trend. :)) Thanks for reading, and your comment! Happy Thanksgiving to you also! How do you celebrate?

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Date: 2016-11-24 06:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alter ego (from livejournal.com)
класс! грузины- чемпионы мира по гостеприимству. а каккая там замечательная кухня! всегда с оргомным удовольствием ездил туда в командировки.
завидую вам...

Date: 2016-11-24 01:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Yes! Wonderful food and hospitality there. In Russia, there are lots of Georgian restaurants, but we don't have any in my area. :( Just another reason to return to this lovely country in the future! :)

Date: 2016-11-24 06:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] volgarin.livejournal.com

One-persone-bed is common sovietic "trouble". If you meet somewhere on soviet union's area such situation with facilities it means this territory remains in 80-th. Georgia was one of most rich regions of USSR and now, according to your report, this is very poor region even in metropolitan area, but at the same time one of most optimistic. :-)

Date: 2016-11-24 01:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
In Georgia, the Soviet legacy seems pretty much erased to me in comparison to other Soviet-bloc countries I've visited. I think the country has made an effort to get rid of it, but proper service levels, tourism infrastructure, etc., will take decades to reach Western levels. Given that tourism is one of the main industries of the country, they really need to expedite this process. And this type of bed is common in many places, including lots of European cities. I really hate them.

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Date: 2016-11-24 07:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mystery-86.livejournal.com
Happy Thanksgiving, Shannon!

The dishes look SO delicious! Especially I got interested in the stuffed potato - I`d love to try it. Well, I wouldn`t mind trying them all, especially desserts - nuts and honey is the best combination for me!

About single king-size beds - you know, I also always wonder why it is so hard to get a room with a large single bed, especially when you travel as a couple. And it is not only in Russia, but in Europe too! That`s a mystery for me...

Looking forward to your posts about Georgia! I`m sure I will learn a lot from them!

Date: 2016-11-24 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Yes, this potato was really great! We do something similar here in the U.S. by stuffing green peppers with meat and spices. I don't understand these types of beds honestly. I'll try to publish a series of reports from Georgia next week, with lots of photos of the wondrous mountains and lovely people there.

Date: 2016-11-24 08:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maks j-fry (from livejournal.com)
O man. I just got why you love them and we don't. Here in Russia we're sick of these rugged mountain boys. They're everywhere. But for you it's an exotic. You went there just like other people went to Africa or somewhere to see how rugged and naked boys live there. It's funny for you but unfortunately not for us. We see them everyday here and we would be happy to see them a little less. By the way, why don't you like mayo? It's well known as a most healthy dressing around the world.

upd: I just though it's another reason to consider America as a great country. You have your own rugged mexican boys next to your borderline but you're going to build a wall against them. It's so bright and so smart idea. I'm truly sure it solves all your problems with these annoying boys. I hope one day russian people will be smart enough to elect their own Trump and then there will be on one wall more on the planet. But now we're stuck with this Clinton type weak president who tend to help and support all boys in the world.
Edited Date: 2016-11-24 09:01 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-11-24 01:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Mountain boys are not "exotic" for me. :) They can be found all over the USA, including near my hometown. So, your thesis is totally wrong. About the wall, I'm 100% against this nonsense. I support all immigrants, even those who make their way here illegally as long as they contribute something positive to our society, work, and do not sit on their ass, sucking up government benefits. Diversity is good. :) I don't wish to live in a world with all white people - boring. And Georgian men are very, very different in appearance than the average American man. In that way, they are "exotic" for me, and I assume most of them are not circumcised. Also exotic for an American woman. :)

Date: 2016-11-24 02:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anna-sollanna.livejournal.com
> potato filled with meat, spices and garnished with carrots
It looks like on the plate there is not only stuffed potatoes but bell pepper as well ;) (The latter I like and usually cook in summer)
Btw have you tasted the dish named Satsivi?
> they have the most clever bathroom sign
In fact this is a rather popular sign in the post-soviet space, I've seen it many time in Russian )))
> Flowing poetry here!
Completely agree, I adore autumn in red colors!
PS Happy Thanksgiving!
Edited Date: 2016-11-24 02:40 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-11-24 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
I haven't seen this funny sign during my travels in Russia or former Soviet-bloc countries, but I guess I was not really eating in too many restaurants during those journeys. My travel companion for those trips didn't want to waste time sitting down to eat, but in Georgia I was only with natives who were happy to take the time to let me indulge in one of their national treasures - food. :) I think autumn is the best time to visit Georgia, as the temperatures aren't so suffocating and hot and crowds less. Hmm...I don't think I tried satsivi. Next time! :) Thanks for your holiday wishes. All of my foods are prepared, and now I must wait until afternoon time to eat them at our huge gathering. :))

Date: 2016-11-24 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elarbee.livejournal.com
Thanks for the video! I have been obsessing with Georgian music, here are a few of my favorites:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oksq5Vli14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLuYWZQ0qxs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbyWUjywXE8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTL-0HVkGHU&list=RDjbyWUjywXE8&index=3

Date: 2016-11-25 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Song and dance is a huge part of Georgian culture! And it seems many natives are blessed with really remarkable voices! I wish I had the same, but unfortunately despite my love for music, I can't sing worth a damn. :) Hope you had a nice holiday! Enjoy the rest of the weekend. :)

Date: 2016-11-24 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elena-88888.livejournal.com
Happy and pleasant Thanksgiving, Shannon!

It's a pleasure you lied Georgia too :))) I liked it so much!..

As for beds just today I read an article about two beds in bedrooms of some nations that can be conjoined or separated depending on days... So perhaps there are some roots :)

Date: 2016-11-25 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Hi! Thanks a lot! The holiday was wonderful, and I'm still stuffed from all the food. Yes, I loved Georgia and will return soon. :)

Date: 2016-11-24 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] notabler.livejournal.com
It looks amazing! I'd like to go there. Nice people, beautiful scenery

Date: 2016-11-25 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
These elements - beautiful scenery and nice people - make traveling there a real pleasure. Despite all the language barriers, I somehow found a way to communicate with many people there.

Date: 2016-11-25 01:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nochnaya-ximera.livejournal.com
Very interesting! Stay waiting for the further posts :)

Date: 2016-11-25 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Thank you! I hope you're doing well! :)

Date: 2016-11-25 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erik shindler (from livejournal.com)
Oh long overdue !. Nice report and Happy Thanksgiving to you Shannon.
By the way that yogurt soup is excellent for hangover .

Date: 2016-11-25 03:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Thank you! I have a lot of reports about Georgia, and will try to publish more next week. I remember in Russia, I drank some form of yogurt after a horrible vodka hangover. But it was sour, and fizzy, almost like a carbonated beverage. I forget the name of it, but the taste was horrible (unlike that tasty soup!). That was the last time I was drunk, and it was over two years ago. In Georgia, I didn't really drink.

Date: 2016-11-25 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theodorexxx.livejournal.com
Wow looks like you really really like Georgia. It's a surprisingly pleasant place compared to other CIS regions, isn't t?
Will you recommend it to Americas? No visa required and total budget is 500$

Date: 2016-11-25 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theodorexxx.livejournal.com
Did you see Stalin's home town?

Date: 2016-11-25 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Hey! I will only recommend Georgia to certain friends. It's definitely not a travel destination for everyone. You must be flexible, really love off-road adventures on very scary roads, dirt paths, etc., and be willing to pee in a forest or smelly hole in the ground outside of city areas. :) Or, you can just stay in Tbilisi and Batumi and have a normal city experience. :) We were near Gori, but I did not stop there. In fact, I did not see anything related to Stalin in the country - no monuments, statues, etc...I will have a lot of reports, and will try to start publishing them next week.

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Date: 2016-11-26 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Do you have Georgian restaurants near you? If so, go enjoy!! We all need some culinary indulgences on occasion. :)

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Date: 2016-11-27 08:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] evalex.livejournal.com
Is that true what they say about georgian men?

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Date: 2016-12-01 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vakhnor.livejournal.com
You do not write about georgian wine.
Meanwhile, the georgian "table" without a good wine, this is not a georgian style.
Does this mean that you do not drink or your georgian "friend" played a role of a "bodyguard" who warned that an american girl should not drink wine when georgian guys around, because they can misunderstand this kind of women.
(with a loaded gun in the trunk in a hospitable country Georgia...not all is quiet "in our kingdom"-)))
Well, if it is not, what georgian wine you like most- white or red?
-Kindzmarauli, Tsinandali, Hvanchkara or something else?
What about georgian men?
Do you consider them attractive, intrusive,preoccupied with sex or what?
Could you fall in love with a georgian and marry him?
I can already see a picture
-your husband Goga plays domino whereas "our poor" Shannon in orange jacket with a sledge hammer works on the railway...
------------------------
Oh, I'm sorry. Good photos on "facebook".
Edited Date: 2016-12-01 01:58 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-12-01 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
I had some wine in Georgia, and several Georgians gave me bottles to take home as gifts. But I don't drink much, so that is why I didn't write about alcohol, although I've also had plenty of chacha during my prior visits to Russia. :) Georgian men - they are just men. :) Some are good, some bad. I did not notice any extremely aggressive behavior by them, but I was walking and traveling with a man the entire time, so maybe this is why. Not sure. :) I could fall in love with a man from anywhere - nationality is meaningless to me. What matters is the soul, kindness, intelligence, openness and humor in another human...Georgian men are quite cute and very different in appearance from American males.

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Date: 2016-12-07 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morreth.livejournal.com
I used to know the guys from Mestia, they are a wonder! Glad you have seen their performance!

Date: 2016-12-07 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peacetraveler22.livejournal.com
Yes! :) It's a pity that didn't speak English, and we had no way to really communicate...

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