Category Archives: ashusTravel

Prague Old Town Square visit

As soon as the school summer break starts most of the families living in this part take home-bound flights to their respective home country. With a recent visit in April I was not going to be travelling to India. The search for the summer trip destination started with many countries being virtually visited, and somehow until the end of June it was still not decided where we were heading for our holiday, some respite is a must from the scorching UAE summer. But during the Eid break it finally got decided to apply for a Schengen Visa and if obtained then go visit a few countries in Europe. Thus the summer in Europe happened in reality, and we visited Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. It is easy to tour these neighboring countries, see the many places as the rail and road network is very good and if we plan our sightseeing tour before landing in the country then it can be easily managed by ourselves (no tour operator is needed).

Few Tips:

  1. Plan your destination and then go through the sightseeing places online before landing.
  2. Book hotel/accomodation near major sightseeing attractions, so as not to waste time and money in commuting.
  3. Keep luggage to basic and minimum, we have to carry our bags ourself and be prepared as some accommodations may not have elevators. If using the metro, then at some stations it is a bit of hassle to haul big suitcases up the stairs.
  4. Check for the day passes of the train/metro/trams, and plan your sightseeing for the day so that you can make maximum use of the day pass and cover the attractions along the route for which the ticket is purchased. (more on this in my upcoming Vienna tour post) Do check the various ticket options sold before buying any tickets.

The trip started from Prague, our first destination. We were here for 2 days,which I felt was sufficient to visit the many attractions in the city. Most of the places of interest are in the Old Town Square, so it is very helpful if we book out accommodation/hotel in the neighborhood.  We landed in Prague in the morning, had arranged for the hotel pickup and by 9.30 am or so were at the hotel reception. But, as the rooms are allotted only after 2 pm, we had kept our luggage in hotel reception and straightaway started with the city walking tour. You will find offices of the walking tours in Old Town Square (they are free, but we should be tipping the guide) the guides tells a lot of history of the country, gives us a feel of the neighborhood and provides all the information about the monuments nearby. He covered the small guided tour of the monuments in and around the old town square, a stop-over for catching some coffee/ sandwich/ or a quick-lunch and then moving onto the Jewish town, the University and again back to near the square. The full tour usually lasts 1.30 hr or so. I had my first Bagel ever at the coffee shop, it was the best and now I have found a new favorite food 🙂 .

The Old Town Square and the nearby monuments and landmarks:

ashus photography-Prague

The umbrella holding people seen in above picture are the tour guides and the walking tour to Old town Square starts from here.

ashus photography-Prague

The walking tour proceeding towards the Square, seen above is the side view of Church of our Lady of Tyn. The front part of the church has two other buildings covering its view.

ashus photography-Prague

The above picture shows us the Old Town square and its numerous landmarks-in the center and all around it. It is  a very big square, and full of many locals as well as tourists, we get to see lot of attractions and people showing their art here.

ashus photography-Prague

Seen below is the Jan Hus Monument.

ashus photography-Prague

It was very interesting to see the soap bubbles being made using the sticks and fun to see kids run and catch the bubbles. By the end of this Eu tour I noticed that we see the soap bubbles being made at every square, it is a very common sight, in other cities too.

ashus photography-Prague

It was funny to see this man suspended in air, the Genie from the Chirag!

ashus photography-Prague

The blue under renovation structure seen above is the Old Town Hall, and has the Astronomical clock.

ashus photography-Prague
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ashus photography

Seen above the tall (behind the front two buildings) Gothic architectural structure is the Church of our Lady before Tyn.

ashus photography-Prague
ashus photography-Prague

The above two pictures show the Astronomical Clock, the most famous attraction of the Square.  At every hour the small windows seen in the clock open, the apostles seen in the picture move, lot of crowd gathers and is seen waiting patiently in front of the clock to see this happen.

As we move ahead from the square, we come face to face with this below landmark.

ashus photography-Prague

Seen above is the St. Nicholas Church.

The few pictures seen below is the route we  walked along with the walking tour, further away from the Old town Square,

ashus photography-Prague

The Tram cables seen hanging in the above pictures.

ashus photography-Prague
ashus photography-Prague

We see numerous cafe and tourists relaxing and enjoying snacks, lunch, coffee, beer, and other drinks everywhere as we walk ahead with the tour guide.

ashus photography-Prague

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The Jewish town

ashus photography-Prague

I do not have the close front view of the clocks seen in above picture. The wall clock on the Jewish Town hall has Hebrew numbers and the hands of the clock goes counterclockwise (see the second from top), the one seen at top goes clockwise. IMG_0227

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ashus photography-Prague
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ashus photography-Prague
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ashus photography-Prague

The cafe picture shows the Cubist architecture.

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ashus photography-Prague
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ashus photography-Prague
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ashus photography-Prague

Finally the walking tour ends at the Old Town square, the tourists tip the guide and he bids everyone goodbyes. We roam around for some more time and explore this new city and marvel at the architecture and click loads of pictures, and finally return back to the hotel to go to our allotted accommodation to freshen up and rest for sometime before starting again to go and see the Charles Bridge.

It has taken up an exceptional long time to complete this post, it was a quite a difficult task for me to go through the numerous photographs that were clicked by all of us in the tour and separate a few to include in the post. Hope you enjoyed a glimpse of the Old Town Square of Prague through my pictures 🙂

ashu

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Khinkali, A Georgian Dish

ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel

The visit to Georgia in July 2016 introduced me to this dish- Khinkhali, a dish that I find to be a similar version of Momos that I am so very fond of eating and making in my kitchen.

The first lunch after landing in Tbilisi, Georgia in a restaurant in the busy Tbilisi Center, the menu card displayed this bigger version of dumplings that looked similar to momos. The guide told us it is called Khinkali and also informed us the way how we were supposed to eat it. It is a boiled dumpling with filling inside, a fried version could also be seen in the menu card. The inside filling could be of either Beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes or cheese etc. The menu card in the restaurant displayed the various Khinkali that were sold.

ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel

While visiting the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mtskheta, we stopped for lunch in the neighboring restaurant and I was able to see and click these amazing pictures of the Khinkali in making.

The Khinkali are shaped and kept on a board and are ready to be put into boiling water.

ashusphotograpy-Khinkali
ashusphotograpy-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali added tot he boiling water for cooking.
ashusphotography-Khinkali added to the boiling water for cooking.
ashusphotography-Khinkali getting cooked
ashusphotography-Khinkali getting cooked
ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Georgia travel
ashusphotography-Khinkali
ashusphotography-Khinkali

The hot Khinkali is then served to us and we hold at the folded top part and eat the rest of the khinkali and leave behind the top thick part on the plate. The filling is as per our choice and order.

I find it interesting to note that the mountainous regions are colder and one needs food that is easy to make, simple, and hot. The Nepal travel saw steaming hot momos being listed on the menu cards, the Georgian travel to the Mtshekta region saw the Khinkali in the process of making. This Georgian dish is famous throughout the country, and I would like to add here that it is similar to the steamed Momos, only the size is bigger and also the coating seems to be thicker. The potato and cheese filled Khinkali was too bland for my taste with only salt added , hence I could not relish them both.

Travelling to places makes us aware of not only the region, landscape and people but also the food habits and one finds a lot of similarities in food across far-flung regions with similar dishes but having the regional names. I find similarity of the Khinkali to the dumplings that one gets to see in a Chinese, or Tibetan or a Nepal menu. Do take every opportunity to travel, so that the foodies like me get to learn new recipes after each tour 🙂

I have tried making my version of the Khinkali yesterday and that will be my next post, so do return to check that out too 🙂 .

Enjoy!

ashu

 

 

 

 

 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: THE ROAD TAKEN

My entry for this Week’s Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

I have always been fascinated to click pictures of the road that lays ahead or passed by while I am sitting in the passenger seat of the moving vehicle. These pictures are from our Barbecue picnic outing with friends in the month of January 2017 to the Jabal Al Jais mountains in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. We have to crisscross through the mountains to reach to the point at the top until where the road is open for public use, construction is still seen in progress further up this point.

The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.

WPC: The Road Taken to Jabal Al Jais
WPC: The Road Taken to Jabal Al Jais
WPC: The Road Taken to top of the Jabal Jais Mountain
WPC: The Road Taken to top of the Jabal Jais Mountain
WPC: The Road Taken
WPC: The Road Taken

This is the view from one of the mountain top that we had hiked to after parking the car at the end of the motor-able road that is open to public. The view is breathtakingly beautiful to see from here; the cotton candy clouds, the sun rays giving a golden glow, the blue clear skies and the chilling winter air that sends a shiver through us, it indeed was a beautiful long drive that is worth driving on.

You can check out my post on the Jabal Al Jais mountain here.

ashu 🙂

 

Bollywood Park Dubai Visit

ashusPhotograpy
ashusPhotograpy

Wow, who would have thought of ever getting to visit a place that has all things Bollywood outside of Mumbai! Well, this is Dubai, anything and everything is possible here.

The Bollywood Park is the first of its kind, a new addition to the list of theme parks that opened last month to the public. It is one of the three theme parks of the Dubai parks and Resorts. On 2nd December the UAE celebrates it’s National day, this year it was the 45th. The day is declared a national holiday and a lot of events and activities are scheduled/planned at this time. The Malls too offer some discounts as part of the celebration. This park too had a special ticket rate offered, but it was sold out fast and we did meet few visitors inside the park who had to purchase the normal rate tickets for entry to the park. As it was a long weekend for us here in the UAE, it was a good time for family outings and friends meet ups, and a crowded park with long waiting queues 🙂 . The attractions to the park are the huge film sets and movie hoardings and banners, the cafes and retail shops apart from the different stages and the big and grand Theater.

Directors chair, Lights, Camera, Action...
Directors chair, Lights, Camera, Action…
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai

The Attractions to the park include: Don: The chase,  Lagaan: Champaner Cricket Carnival, Sholay: The hunt for Gabbar Singh, Dabangg: Stunt Spectacular show, Krrish: Hero’s Flight, RA.One: Unleashed, CinemaMagic featuring: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Crossroads stage, Mumbai express stage, Rangmanch stage, Stars on step stage, Cinema Circle stage, and the grand Rajmahal Theater.

Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai

The parks open around noon, and by the time we could park and wade our way through the large gathered crowds it was almost an hour past. Even though I have grown up viewing Bollywood movies and seen the movie locations in Mumbai, the moment one enters the park one is awe-struck with the grandeur and magnificence of the sets, the set ups, the buildings, the movie star hoardings, the director’s camera & chair square, the structure of hands with different mudras, the Indian train Bogey that is placed and transformed into a cafe, the Jambo cafe at the Linking road marked inside the park, Bollywood film studios, the hand rickshaw outside the Lagaan set, the well, water tank and famous Tonga cart outside the Sholay set, the huge ammunition boxes and Jeep outside the Dabangg sets, it was all very exciting and fun to move around from one set to another. This park is the place for those who like things Bollywood, may not be too exciting for those who expect lot of different rides and attractions.

Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai

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Sholay set at Bollywood Park, Dubai
Sholay set at Bollywood Park, Dubai

Dabangg Set at Bollywood Park, Dubai

After grabbing a light snack at the Victoria cafe and sitting inside the AC train compartment that was the sitting area of the cafe, we started exploring each sets and that was the start of my test of patience, waiting in the long queues for the rides in the park. There are simulation rides, stunt shows, music and dance shows, and dancers performing at the different stages, and an absolutely thrilling and must watch Broadway style Bollywood musical Jaan-e-Jigar show that is being premiered tomorrow 9th December at the Rajmahal Theater, we were shown a 20 minute sneak peak. Loved all parts of this preview shown, the opulent set, the wonderfully choreographed dances , the drama and costumes, a truly magical experience.

Rajmahal at Bollywood Park, Dubai
Rajmahal at Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai

My patience wore out while standing in queue to see the Krrish a Hero’s flight. As I have seen some amazing theme parks and this rather long line wait, a roomful of people in long queues going along the rows and rows that were inside the hall, and had to pass three such rooms to finally reach the hall to enjoy the ride. Having stood in line for more than an hour  it was senseless to leave midway, so we followed the queue. This was the time to glimpse human nature, elderly, young as well as kids and toddlers to teens all where inside the hall in line standing and patiently or some impatiently waiting for their turn. The total wait stretched to nearly three hours and by then we had made up our mind that this would be our last visit ever to any theme or amusement park. But after the ride all had already forgotten the irritation before entering the room. Well, these parks are designed in such way that no matter what age you are, one gets a good experience and sure has some fun time in the daily hectic life routines, so after the ride I did feel better and we finally did see and do most of the park rides. It was already dark by the time we walked out, had entered the hall when it was still a bright and sunny afternoon.

The Lagaan set had good decor, the clay pots, the rickshaw, the woven baskets, the commentary screen with Aamir Khan’s video telling about the Lagaan Thrill of Victory ride, and finally the ride experience.

The Dabangg set had a live stunt show with dancers, hero, heroine, the fight scenes and the blowing up of ammunition that we see in the movies, all in front of our eyes live on the set. The stage artists performed the dance and stunts well.

The Lagaan set at Bollywood Park, Dubai
The Lagaan set at Bollywood Park, Dubai

The cinema magic had the behind-the-scene set up of one of my favorite movie-Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. I liked this section of the park, got to witness and experience the magic of film making. Few visitors were the volunteers who played three scenes from the movie that were shot and later showed to us, we all were part of that small clip. The scenes were shot in the two Stage rooms, and in the final Stage room the music was added and the final clip was shown to us. It was fascinating to understand the amount of hard work, efforts and excellence required to come up with the final movie that we get to see. The Purse shown in the movie ”Bagwati” was also kept on display inside along with few other things related to the movie.

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After dark the park had a beautiful ambiance when the lights were switched on, the fountains with colored lights, the palm trees all lit up, the cool winter breeze, the garam masala chai and hot Vada Pavs, the kulfi corners and the other snack corners, and it felt like a perfect evening.

Bollywood Park, Dubai

The last part of our day was the 20-minute preview of the Jaan-e-Jigar, a Broadway-style Bollywood Musical in the Rajmahal Theater, a grand structure true to the name that looked like a palace . Entering it I did feel that I have entered a palace kinda place, the majestic feel it had, the mahal wall had a huge elephant painting, very very beautiful. I could just stand and keep gazing at the painting.

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It was 10 pm by the time we walked out of the theater, and finally it was time to call it a day. I did stop and clicked couple selfies, couple family pictures and some random shots of the location. We ate Chinese food and then walked out of the park towards our car in the parking lot. My long and tiring day at the Bollywood park ended, the mixed feelings of impatience, irritation and tiredness  eventually changed and I ended up enjoying my time and getting lost in the magic of the Bollywood Park.

Bollywood Park, Dubai

Bollywood cinema is very popular here and other Nationalities apart from Indians too are seen as part of the Hindi movie audience. This park is definitely a place for those who love everything Bollywood, lot of fun and drama, perfect location to click pictures posing along famous scenes and sets of this Industry.

Bollywood Park, Dubai
Bollywood Park, Dubai

ashu

Georgia Travel Diary 6- Georgian Feast/Supra

Traveling, for me, is to embark on a path that is unknown. Whenever I am traveling to a new place, the foodie in me is very much keen and interested to taste and experience the local cuisine from that region. Though I prefer mostly vegetarian food as I am not a very fond eater of lamb or red meat in particular, but am always keen to learn new region specific recipes, the family does enjoy eating non-veg food.

The Georgia tour package included plans of eating lunch on one of the days at the local farmers house, we had booked it in our itinerary with the tour operator, and ate the Georgian feast which is called as Supra, at his place. We went to the farmers house on the third day of our tour after starting the day visiting Gremi and the Nekresi monasteries. We had informed our tour guide of eating only chicken and hence meat or pork was not included in the lunch. Visiting the local farmer for lunch is part of the Georgian tour package, it gives us visitors a taste of the local homemade food and wine, get to know the local cuisine and customs associated. As it is a country famous for its wine, wine plays an important role in the local customs. As we reached our host Mr. Gavazi’s house, we were warmly welcomed by him and his gracious wife. They could not speak English, but I found them to be very friendly and a humble couple. The table was laid outside in the porch area of the house, had already been set when we reached with various dishes. The numerous plates were filled with lovely homemade dishes, fruits and salad vegetables all fresh produce from their farm. When my hubby needed some spice and asked for green chili, immediately the farmer plucked fresh chili from his yard.

I will share some pictures of the our Georgian feast- Supra 🙂

ashusphotography-Georgian Supra: Table laid with dishes.
ashusphotography-Georgian Supra: Table laid with dishes.
ashus-Georgian cuisine, table with homemade dishes.
ashus-Georgian cuisine, table with homemade dishes.

The table had all the homemade dishes, even the honey and cheese was homemade. The farmer’s wife had prepared all the dishes, and on our request only chicken was served as part of the non-veg dish and hence other meat is missing from this spread of dishes.

ashusphotography-Beetroot and Onion salad.
ashusphotography-Beetroot and Onion salad.

I loved tasting this dish, it was the first time I was tasting beetroot in this preparation. The onion in it was giving a nice crunch to the soft bite of the beetroot. It was a sweetish tangy taste.

ashusphotography-Sulguni cheese
ashusphotography-Sulguni cheese

This is the famous Georgian cheese called as Sulguni, used in many of the dishes including the national dish named as Khachapuri. It is salty to taste and bit elastic, crumbles easily. It was a bit too salty for my taste, not used to eating such salty homemade cheese :). I am used to eating homemade cottage cheese i.e. Paneer, it is without salt, unless we add salt to the milk before curdling it.

ashusphtograph-Lobiani
ashusphotography-Lobiani

This is the kidney beans or Lobiani as they call it. The above dish is mashed up Lobia or beans with onions. It had the Georgian salt, was without chili, and hence we needed some spice and hubby asked for the green chili 🙂 .

ashusphotography-Ajapsandali
ashusphotography-Ajapsandali

Ajapsandali, as per the guide, hoping I have spelt it correct :). This  tasted very much like out Indian Brinjal and tomato sabji. This was the Eggplant cut into long thin slice, fried and then cooked with onion and tomatoes with the Georgian salts and herbs. It tasted good, but yeah this too was not spicy.

ashusphotography-Potato fry
ashusphotography-Potato fry

This is also regularly eaten, as in most parts and one of my favorites, fried potatoes sprinkled with the Georgian salt.

ashusphotography-Georgian Khachapuri
ashusphotography-Georgian Khachapuri

Khachapuri is the national dish of Georgia. It is flatbread filled with cheese filling, Sulguni cheese is used. It is called with different names as per the filling, cheese either used as stuffing or as spread on top and the names given accordingly.  If it is filled with Lobia it is called as Lobiani Khachapuri. This was more like our Indian flatbread- stuffed Naan, with a very cheesy tasting filling inside. It is a very rich dish.

ashusphotography- Walnut stuffed Aubergine
ashusphotography- Walnut stuffed Eggplant slices

This walnut filled Eggplant slices are served cold, and the walnut filling is so tasty, bit sharper in taste with the added salts and spices, it perfectly balances the bland and soft fried Aubergine slices. I liked this dish and am going to include in my home menus, memories of our tour :).

ashusphotography-Georgian bread Shoti
ashusphotography-Georgian bread Shoti

This is the regular bread that is a must with all the meals. We saw many bakeries making fresh bread and the locals taking home the daily supplies of bread. Do check out my post on the bread here.

ashusphotography-Fresh fruits from the garden
ashusphotography-Fresh fruits from the garden

I do not have to remind you all how the freshly from the farm fruits taste, directly on table from the trees, they were the best and very juicy. It was great feeling to eat this fresh a fruit after ages, here we are dependent on fruits sold in the supermarkets which are flown from all parts of the world 🙂 !

ashusphotgraphy-Fried chicken
ashusphotgraphy-Fried chicken

Fried chicken is the simple rotisserie style fry chicken, with the Georgian salts.

ashusphotography-homemade honey
ashusphotography-homemade honey

This homemade honey was quite thick and very granular, tasted more like an Indian sweet. It was the sweetest granular sugar syrup I felt :), but this was very tasty.

The below pictures show the different drinks served with the meal, homemade Georgian wines. Chacha is the local name of Vodka. You can check out my post on the visit to wine cellar here.

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ashusphotography- The different types of homemade Georgian Wines.
ashusphotography- The different types of homemade Georgian Wines.

The wine plays a major role in the Supra. All the different types of wine, the red and white variety, and the Chacha and the Cognac were kept for tasting, but as I do not drink, it was left untouched.

ashusphotography-Fresh tomatoes and green chili
ashusphotography-Fresh tomatoes and green chili

We saw the farm after our lunch and saw the fresh tomatoes dangling on the plants in the farm. The green chili was freshly plucked for us upon our request for chili in the salad. It was interesting to note that for salad they keep the whole tomatoes and fruits in the plates on the table along with the knife to cut as per need and not served as cut salad. Our International travels expose us to the different and unique cultures of this world, the best form of gaining knowledge and interaction with other folks, don’t you agree!

I have learnt that the spice level in Georgian food is very mild compared to our daily Indian cooking. They use salts or spice paste called as Ajika, a mix of chili, garlic, herbs and spices in their cooking. We have to place an order for the spicy chutney or hot sauces separately with our dishes in the Restaurants, it is not served or kept on the table as in most other places. This was not known to us on the first day when we landed and ate our first lunch in Georgia. I purchased a hot sauce to add to our food, later the guide informed us that we can order the Ajika sauce that is spicy :).

This was the lunch that we ate that day, it was way too much for us to finish up all that was served in the table. The food was served in the many plates that are kept on the table, instead of big serving bowls. It was interesting to note the whole table was filled-up with plates full of the served dishes, serving plates, types of glasses, bottles of drinks, and bowls of honey and trays including the whole fruits and salad vegetables. We had a good hearty and tasty meal, the farmer was very friendly and was happily chatting and answering our queries, clicking pictures with us. Our guide was our translator 🙂 as the farmer could not speak English. The lady of the house was inside the house, she had just stepped out for sometime to greet us and then to bid us goodbye, but she was too sweet and soft spoken. The farmers mother too had greeted us and again went inside the house. I too had shared some dried fruits, Pistachios and the gulf region famous Dates with the family, who were happy to receive the Dates :). We finished up the lunch and then drank some black coffee, it was good.

After the lunch we visited the farmland that was in the adjacent plot and opposite to the house. He grew Strawberries, the best that I tasted, had Peaches laden trees, the grape vineyards, could see them with green unripe grape bunches. He had farm animals too-saw two fat pigs near the fence. He grew tomatoes, Eggplant, and potatoes too. Saw a bee-hive too. This farmer too had kept the wines bottles displayed for sale.

ashusphotography-Garlic hanging in their store room
ashusphotography-Garlic hanging in their store room
ashusphotgraphy-Strawberry plants
ashusphotgraphy-Strawberry plants

The farmers father was cleaning up the strawberry patch, he gave me few of the strawberries that he plucked from the plants, they were the best that I have eaten so far in my entire life. I have never before tasted strawberries this fresh, eaten directly plucked from the plants. The old man was very happy to share them with us.

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ashusphotography-fruit trees
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ashusphotography-Grape vines
ashusphotography-Grape vines
ashusphotography-the farm
ashusphotography-the farm

This was our visit to the local farmer for a scrumptious Georgian lunch and to visit his farmland.The whole family works in the farm. This visit reminded me so much of my hubby’s late grandmother and our rural area visit in our hometown. Farmers are people who are self sufficient, living a simple and humble life, daily working very hard in their farmland. I had the privilege of visiting our grandmother’s rice fields and to live few days with her in the village, my most cherished memories of her.

I feel happy sharing here the pictures of the Georgian dishes that I ate during my travel, and hoping to hear your thoughts about this post. Wishing to see you visit here again 🙂 for my next posts.

Enjoy!!

ashu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia Travel Diary 5-Wine Cellar Visit

ashusPhotography-Georgian Wine
ashusPhotography-Georgian Wine

When visiting the beautiful country Georgia, one has to include visits to the lush green vineyards, orchards, wine cellars and not to forget to taste the locally made wine.

ashusPhotograpy-Vineyards on both sides of the road.
ashusPhotograpy-Vineyards
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ashusPhotograpy-Vineyards on both sides of the road.

Georgia is famous and known for its ancient traditional method of wine making, and this method is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list. Wine is a very integral part of every Georgian’s daily life with all the festivities and their different rituals. Wine making is a national occupation, almost all houses have grape vines growing in their land and the method of wine making is passed on from generations to generations. They use the wine making method in which an egg-shaped earthen clay pot known as Kvevri or Qvevri is used to make wine.(I am not sure about the spelling). The Georgian farmers use the Qvevri for making the wine, ageing it and then storing it. Hence this method of wine making is known as the Qvevri method.

ashusPhotography-Qvevri
ashusPhotography-Qvevri
ashusPhtograpy-Qvevri seen in Khareba Winery
ashusPhtograpy-Qvevri seen in Khareba Winery

Our Georgia tour package included a tour visit of a 300-year-old wine cellar as mentioned in the brochure given to us by our guide Nino. It was something new, different and  a fabulous experience to visit the wine cellar.

ashusPhotography-Wine cellar
ashusPhotography-Wine cellar
ashusPhotography-the wine being taken out from the qvevri that is seen buried in the ground in the wine cellar.
ashusPhotography-the wine cellar floor with the buried qvevris that are below the circular lids seen in the picture.
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ashusPhotography-the wine being taken out from the qvevri that is seen buried in the ground in the wine cellar.

The farmer had both the Red and White wines that he removed in front of us from the Qvevri that were buried deep in the ground in his cellar. The cellar was dark inside, no sunlight could come in, the walls were thick, stone and brick made. There were many old vessels, machinery, lamps, wine making tools and quite a number of assorted pots, pans, pitchers and jars that were displayed of which some might not be in use now.

ashusPhotography-wine making tools
ashusPhotography-wine making tools
ashusPhotography- The wine cellar with empty barrels, wine making tools, pots, and jars
ashusPhotography- The wine cellar with empty barrels, wine making tools, pots, and jars

Their were number of empty wine bottles stacked  very neatly in the wall, big jars, bottles filled with liquid and lemon cubes inside.

ashusPhotography-Stacked empty wine bottles
ashusPhotography-Stacked empty wine bottles

 

ashusPhotography-stacked empty bottles
ashusPhotography-Liquid filled bottle with lemon
ashusPhotograpy-wine jars/Pitchers
ashusPhotograpy-wine jars/Pitchers

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It is a Georgian tradition to offer the  local bread Shotti along with the wine, this farmer too offered us the bread. I loved the wine pots and pitchers, but unfortunately I could not buy any as souvenirs as I kept thinking I will see them some place, but did not like the ones that I came across in the souvenir shops.

ashusPhotography-wine offered for tasting and the Georgian bread called Shotti
ashusPhotography-wine offered for tasting and the Georgian bread called Shotti
ashusPhotograpy-Red wine being taken out for tasting from the buried qvevri.
ashusPhotograpy-Red wine being taken out for tasting from the buried qvevri.

Our guide Nino helped us understand how the wine is made, as the farmer could not speak English. I am writing and sharing here whatever I can recollect of the Georgian wine making method that she told us, everything was so new and interesting that I had no time to jot down each and every word of hers :).

The grapes are collected, pressed and the juice then poured into the Qvevri along with the skin, stalks, and the pips. It is then sealed and buried into the ground so that the wine can ferment for five or six months before it is opened and drunk. The wine is then kept for ageing. The Qvevri facilitates the process of  formation and ageing with the minerals that are part of it’s composition. This method of wine making is found all over the country. After the wine is removed the left over chacha-skin, stalks and pip is used to make the drink called chacha through a process, and this drink Chacha (Georgian name) is also know as Vodka. We can see that nothing from the grape plant is wasted, the whole plant gets used to make both the wine and Vodka. The local farmer at whose house we ate the Georgian lunch served us all types of drinks- Wine both red as well as white, Chacha/Vodka, and Champagne. I will make another post of the Georgian feast, Supra as they call it.

ashusPhotography-wine cellar at Nekresi Monastery, Georgia
ashusPhotography-wine cellar at Nekresi Monastery, Georgia
ashusPhotography-Picture showing a qvevri buried in the wine cellar at Nekresi Monastery, Georgia
ashusPhotography-Picture showing a qvevri buried in the wine cellar at Nekresi Monastery, Georgia

The grape varieties used determine if it is Red or White wine. We visited the many monasteries in the country and could see the wine cellars using this traditional wine making methods. The Rkatsteli and Mtsvane varieties of the grapes are used to produce the White wine. The Saperavi grape variety is used to make the Red wine.

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ashusPhotography-Red wine offered for tasting.
ashusPhotography-White wine
ashusPhotography-White wine offered from tasting

The Satsnakheli is a wooden trough usually made from a single wood that is used for as a manual foot stumping wine press.

ashusPhotography-Satsnakheli: a foot stumping wine press seen in wine cellar at Nekresi Monastery, Georgia
ashusPhotography-Satsnakheli: a foot stumping wine press seen in wine cellar at Nekresi Monastery, Georgia

It was no longer used by this wine maker as told by our guide. The grapes are put into the Satsnakheli, then manually foot pressed and the juice is directly collected in the Qvevri. Later the grape skins, stalks and pips left in the Satsnakheli are put into the Qvevris.

ashusPhotography-Satsnakheli that is no longer used for wine press by the wine maker.
ashusPhotography-Satsnakheli that is no longer used for wine press by the wine maker.

A visit to the wine cellar would not be complete if we did not buy the farmers homemade wine, and we bought one bottle of the red wine.

ashusPhotograpy-Our purchase of homemade Red wine bottle.
ashusPhotograpy-Our purchase of homemade Red wine bottle.

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As we sat and chatted along with our guide, the farmer was busy with another group of tourist who had come to visit his wine cellar.

ashusPhotography-Grape vine, Kiwi plants, qvevri in the courtyard of the local farmer
ashusPhotography-Grape vine, Kiwi plants, qvevri in the courtyard of the local farmer

As I already mentioned at the start of the post that this Qvevri method of wine making is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list, hence, if you are visiting Georgia, do visit a wine cellar or winery and see it in person and get the joy of tasting the local wines.

I had a great trip and hence wished to share few details of the trip for those tourists who look up websites, blogs for information before traveling or picking up a travel destination. Are you one of them?  I sure am :).

If you want to check out my other posts on Georgia click the below number links-

Georgia Travel diary 1,

Georgia Travel 2,

Georgia travel 3,

Georgia travel 4

Hope to see you back to check out my next post that will be on the Georgian Supra.

Enjoy! Happy Traveling 🙂

ashu

Georgia Travel Diary 4-Sighnaghi town

Our tour included travel to the Kakheti region of Georgia which is famous for its wine making. The day two of our tour saw us visiting the 18th century, small yet beautiful town of Sighnaghi. It started pouring as we entered the town. We were carrying our umbrellas hence as we got down from our hired taxi, we had to open up the umbrellas. It was such a nice feeling to walk the cobbled streets of the small town, a very silent town with nobody out as it was raining. The cobbled streets and town reminded me so much of the streets of Rome.

Sighnaghi Town
Sighnaghi Town
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ashustravels-Sighnagi Town, Georgia
ashustravels-Sighnagi Town, Georgia
ashustravels-Sighnagi Town, Georgia
ashusphotography-Sighnaghi City hall
Sighnaghi town hall
Town hall
Town hall

It was an impressive town and the Restaurant Nikala that we ate our lunch at was the best of the whole tour. It is seen at the end of the street in the picture below.

Sighnaghi Town
Sighnaghi Town

The lunch I ate was a pot of beans, it was like our Indian Rajma gravy, Corn bread, Georgian bread, the hot sauce, the kebabs that my family ate and couple more things.

Wine bottles in the Resturant
Wine bottles in the Restaurant
Beans in Pot
Beans in Pot
My veg lunch, Cornmeal bread and Beans in pot
My veg lunch, Cornmeal bread and Beans in pot
The board outside another Restaurant
The board outside another Restaurant

By the time we finished our lunch the rain had stopped and the sun was bright and we could see no traces of the downpour that we had witnessed, everywhere it was dry and sunny. The old structure at further end of the town gave us the picturesque view of the Alazani valley, the impressive old fence surrounding the town, the Great Caucasus mountains and the beautiful town houses.

Sighnaghi Town
Sighnaghi Town
Sighnagi town
Sighnagi town
Old fence surrounding the town and the view of Alazani valley
Old fence surrounding the town and the view of Alazani valley

The picture above shows the old ancient fence that surrounds the town.

Caucasus mountains seen from Sighnaghi town
Caucasus mountains seen from Sighnaghi town
Sighnaghi town
Houses of the Sighnaghi town

We had seen this souvenir shop along the streets opposite the town hall and the local women were seen busy making the bags, purses and woolen caps and gloves etc.

Souvenir shop selling local handicraft items
Souvenir shop selling local handicraft items
Local handicrafts
Local handicrafts

After the town visit, lunch and clicking loads of pictures, we rode by car and reached the 300-year old wine cellar of a local farmer. Do visit again to check out the wine cellar post, that will be my next post.

Enjoy!

ashu

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia Travel Diary 3-Georgian Bread

Food is an essential component of any travel that one embarks upon. If I am traveling to a new destination, my mind first searches for the food/cuisine found in that place. This is not only because I love to eat and cook, but would hold true for most travel enthusiast. Traveling is the journey that one sets upon to learn new things about the place one visits, it’s people, it’s culture and its food and cuisine, and in the process to discover or rediscover oneself too. This would be the true definition of what traveling means for me.

As already mentioned in the Georgia travel Diary : 1 blog post, the food, wine and oldest wine making method of this place was what drew us to visit the country Georgia. I would like to share the pictures that I took when I visited the local bakery.

Shoti-Georgia bread
Shoti-Georgia bread

Local bakeries making the Georgian Bread called Shoti is a typical sight that we get to see in all the streets. This local and typical Georgian bread that is called Shoti or Shoti puri can be similar to the Indian bread called Tandoor Roti or Naan, or to the Afghani Naan or the Arabic Kuboos that I see here in the UAE. All these require the Tandoors or clay ovens for baking the bread. It is customary to be serving the Shoti along with wine, the local winemaker we visited told us and offered us this bread and samples of his homemade wine-both the red wine as well as the white wine.

Wine tasting at the local wine maker

Wine tasting at the local wine maker, see he offered us the bread.

I saw this bread bakery in Kvareli town. After our day trip was over and our hired taxi dropped us at the hotel, we set out on foot to explore the peaceful town of Kvareli.

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Kvareli Town
Kvareli Town
Kvareli (City Centre) Town
Kvareli (City Centre) Town

After stopping to taste the local ice-cream at the supermarket shops lining the road, we came across people carrying freshly baked bread in paper rolls or sheets. I followed the road from where I saw people were coming with bread and reached this bakery. It was already late in evening and the baker was busy baking the last batch of bread. I requested for clicking the snaps and he immediately agreed. He could not speak English and still we were able to communicate, this is best part of any travel. He was busy doing his job without being bothered by my questions or me moving around in his bakery to click the pictures of the bread being baked.

The oven is called Tone. It more or less resembled an Indian Tandoor, only the shape could be bit different if I am not wrong.

The oven to bake Shoti is called Tone.
The oven to bake Shoti is called Tone.
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The tools used to remove the bread from the hot oven.
The bread dough
The bread dough
This could be the vessel to make the dough
This could be the vessel to make the dough
The special tools to remove the bread from the oven.
The special tools to remove the bread from the oven.
With one he scraps the bread free from oven and with the other looped one he lifts the bread, using both he removes the bread from the oven.IMG_4583
The baker expertly removes the hot bread from the Tone.
The baker expertly removes the hot bread from the Tone.
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The hot bread from the oven is kept on the wooden rack to cool and sold to customers as they walk into the bakery.
Freshly Baked Shoti.
Freshly Baked Shoti.

As we were watching the baker busy with the bread making, we saw two customers walk into the bakery, purchase the bread and walked away, it was wonder in their eye to see me busy clicking away pictures with my camera.

The freshly made bread smelled so amazing and our mouths watered and suddenly I felt so hungry. Every Resturant meal I ate I had ordered this Shoti bread. I am fond of any type of Tandoor roti or bread and hence it was perfect for me to eat this typical Georgian bread at every meal during my full tour. 🙂

Enjoy!!

ashu

Georgia Travel Diary 2: Flowers of Georgia

The beauty of the landscape is enhanced by the flowers seen around. This Georgian tour I had many blessed moments to be surrounded by the beautiful flowers in all the places that I visited in Georgia. The vast open stretches of fields/terrain, mountains covered with wild grasses and wild flowers of many colors were so fresh and brightly colorful, and it was the perfect moments to sing and jump along in happiness. These locations reminded me of the Sound Of Music movie. I had the most amazing time adorning my hair with these beautiful flowers, the best hair accessory that I could ever lay my hands on. Everyday of the tour I got matching color flowers to go with my outfit for that day, indeed I was on top of the world.

Most Indian females love to wear flowers in the hair, I am no exception, and flowers in hair is a must whenever I am wearing my traditional look or the sari.  Georgia travel became the exception that each day of my travel I had the beautiful matching colored flower in my hair, irrespective of the outfit worn :).

Blessings drop their blossoms all around you-Rumi.

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These beautiful flowers below were seen at St. Nino’s Monastery, Bodbe.

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St. Nino's Church, Bodbe, Georgia.
St. Nino’s Church, Bodbe, Georgia.

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The Earth laughs in flowers –Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The flowers below were caught on camera during the hike to the Trinity Church from the Stepantsminda town. It was a beautiful and fun walk/hike to reach to the top to see the Gergeti Trinity Church. The town is surrounded by the mountains on all sides and we get to see the most beautiful view of the Mount Kazbegi that is at 5047 m.

Stepantsminda Town, Georgia
Stepantsminda Town, Georgia

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Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia
Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia
Mt. Kazbegi, Georgia
Mt. Kazbegi, Georgia

A flower blossoms for its own joy- Oscar Wilde

The street of Tbilisi adorned these flowering trees in straight line along the pavements, each tree loaded with these colorful flowers, adding color to the street as well as working its magic on travelers like me who would stop after every few steps and capture these flowers in the camera lens. I loved all these flowers that to me reminded of our very own Hibiscus flower, such variety in color and shade, simply amazing!

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Nature has the power to calm and sooth the soul. I always feel fresh and rejuvenated when I find myself in nature. It was a very happy experience to be among these gorgeous Georgian flowers.

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere- Vincent Von Gogh.

Enjoy!

ashu

 

Georgia Travel Diary- 1

ashusTravels-Tbilisi, Georgia.
ashusTravels-Tbilisi, Georgia

Summer holidays for kids brought up the decision to go sightseeing and my elder one took up the responsibility to decide the travel destination for this summer of 2016. After having gone through a list of lot many places to select from, she had decided on Cambodia, and since the flight from UAE is via Bangkok, so it was going to be Bangkok and Cambodia. But then the scenic beauty and direct flight to Georgia was looked up, this food and wine destination stole our hearts and finally the tickets for Georgia were booked. The vineyards and oldest wine making method used in Georgia were the deciding factors for selection of this travel destination. I am writing this post after visiting the country, so I am happy to say here that it was a good choice. We went for a seven days tour, but the last two days of the tour being very hot made me think that a 4-5 days travel would have sufficed as we were going on vacation to escape from the UAE summer sun. It is a small, less populated and quiet Country with serene, beautiful scenic views of the mountains, countryside, friendly people and extremely safe to roam around even late in the night. We saw police patrols everywhere in Tbilisi when we were out  having a late dinner and later roaming the streets and shopping till late in the night.

It is a direct flight to Tbilisi from Dubai, takes you 3 hrs. to reach and visa was on arrival for the UAE residents. Air Travel was okay, a short sitting time at the Dubai airport lounge, some snacks and sweets tucked in the tummy and we set out for the short three hour air travel. The passport control at the Tbilisi airport was also quick and soon we were near the exit searching for our tour guide, Nino, a young smart girl, who was waiting for us along with the driver of the vehicle that was going to be our transport for the rest of our tour. And our seven day Georgia travel started and it was a good experience with two wonderful people, one spoke English and one could not. The driver was extremely caring and though he could not speak English, but we somehow managed to converse with Nino’s help. The advantage of travelling in private hired vehicle/hired taxi is it allows us to spend more time at places that are of our interest., the kids get to relax and be comfortable so that they are not cranky all the time 🙂 !

Tbilisi city tour through my eyes: We started the city tour in the hired taxi and I got busy click pictures through the car window.

Tbilisi
TbilisiIMG_3598
Freedom Square
Freedom SquareIMG_3668

It is a city founded in 5th Century AD, named after the hot spring found here, The streets are cobbled streets as we see in any European country and is a good blend of the old and new. Here we can find Georgian orthodox, Armenian Gregorian, Roman Catholic churches, Synagogue and Zoroastrian temple in close vicinity to each other. It was sure interesting to see this.

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Tbilisi means warm in Georgian and I can tell it sure was quite warm in July. Most of the sightseeing in Tbilisi is in the old town, and all the sites are within walking distance, yeah it helps if one is wearing comfortable shoes. We got down from the taxi and walked around the town on foot, yes the sun was at its peak so be prepared to carry a hat or cap and use sun block for protection of the skin.

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After an anxious lunch, as I was tasting the Georgian cuisine for the first time, we started our old town Tbilisi tour on foot with our tummies full of yummy meal.

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The first stop was Sulfur bath. It was amazing and also breathtaking to see the town and cobbled streets and looking up skywards to see the green lush mountains and blue sky with pure white cotton candy like clouds floating past. For me the picture was just out of a children’s reading book that show lovely mountains with beautiful blue skies. I was already getting soaked into the beauty of this city.

Abanotubani Sulfur Bath District

Sulfur Bath District
Sulfur Bath District

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Water fall, coming from the Botanical gardens (as per our guide Nino)

Souvenir shops lining the Sulfur Bath area
Souvenir shops lining the Sulfur Bath area
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Wine bottles displayed by the local Restaurants as we move through the old town.
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Grape vines
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Sioni Cathedral

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Sioni Cathedral- considered the most sacred places in the country, holds the holy cross of St. Nino. Our guide also named Nino told us St. Nino was the young woman who converted Georgia to Christianity in the early 4th Century.

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Peace Bridge, Tbilisi

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Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi

Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi is an important cathedral, and is the main Georgian orthodox cathedral. One is supposed to cover the head with a scarf and also no shorts allowed when we entered the churches in Georgia.

It was a learning experience for this traveler to know that almost all religious places be it the temples in India, the Gurudwaras, the Churches, or the Mosque that I visited in Abu Dhabi require us to cover our head, wear full length before we enter these holy places.

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Narikala Fortress

Narikala Fortress, a medieval fortification overlooking the Sololaki district. The panorama view from the Narikala fortress of the old town Tbilisi is quiet interesting, we get ample classic shots of the Tbilisi city from here.

Botanical Garden, Tbilis
Botanical Garden, Tbilis
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Panorama view from Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi
Panoramic view of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress
Panoramic view of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress
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Old TV Tower, Tbilisi
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Mtastminda Amusement park, Tbilisi

These above pictures were clicked from the top near the fortress. We have a rope-way to come down into the city from the top of Narikala fortress. We drove our taxi to the top but we returned down using the cable car.

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Looking down from the cable car

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The Mtkvari river and the Peace bridge captured from the cable car ride.

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We get down from the cable car and walk out to this monument that says Europe Square.

‘Travelling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller’- Ibn Batuta

The quote perfectly describes my thoughts, and here I make an effort to take you along on the travels through my posts with the travel pictures captured by me.

This was our first day site-seeing in Tbilisi, Georgia. Hope you all liked going through the pictures as much as I loved sharing them here with you all. More about this beautiful country famous for its wine making and food in another post on the blog tomorrow.

ashu.