This song kept coming to me, though it’s not about the Republic of Georgia. And I’m not fond of sweet wine. But I am in the premier wine producing area of Georgia!
But first, a story about leaving Azerbaijan starts when I arrived three weeks ago.
I think my travel ‘luck’ hit a bump. When I landed in Baku, Azerbaijan I wasn’t able to access cash with an ATM. I tried every machine I saw but they didn’t have the right connection. I ended up making cash withdrawals with a bank teller using my credit card. I transferred the money immediately and my bank said we will discuss reversing the fee.
I hit a second bump when I tried to convert my excess Azerbaijani manat to US$ (only choice was to US$ or €) at a bank in Sheki because I was leaving the country.
They said I wasn’t ‘registered’ with Migration for being in the country over 15 days. This despite having a 30 day visa and clearing immigration at the airport.
I’m used to hotels taking a copy of my passport and submitting it to ‘whoever’ but someone dropped the ball. I could have done it myself, which was a good lesson!
I read it was a 350 manat (Cdn$280) fine. My hotel in Sheki said they had straightened it out. So I headed on the 1 hour 45 minute trip to the border.
Beautiful drive skirting the edge of the Caucasus mountains.
After having a guard check I had my passport and visa, I walked the long stretch to the immigration desk.
Had my bags X-rayed.
Waited a very long time while he reads my file online.
Then he says “YOU have a problem”
“You need to go to the Sheki or Baku Migration office”
“But I can’t tell you what your problem is.”
I was feeling very emotional but thankfully didn’t cry.
There was a taxi outside that would take me the migration office, wait, and return me to the border. It would take about 5 hours but figured I could still get to my place in Georgia.
Partway back he realized it was Sunday and the office was closed. I’ll skip the part where he was very unhappy with what I wanted to pay for a one-way trip (what I had paid to go out) and he refused to open the trunk so I could get my backpack.
So I ended up spending another night in Sheki. Different hotel pretending it was a different city.
Loved the carpet bags.
Next morning I was on the doorstep of Migration at 09:00. It looked deserted. Someone came out and said they were closed. But they took pity on me and let me in.
The officer read my long file again, told me it was a problem the day before because there was no one in the office on Sunday to approve my departure. It was a holy day of Eid ul Fitr (end of Ramadan). But Monday was fine.
She gave me a printed copy saying I was fine to cross, her personal phone number if there was a problem, and arranged a taxi.
So another two hours later I reached the border. Again. And again took forever to read my file. I showed them my paperwork. Got my exit stamp.
The officer was just unlocking the door so I could walk another long stretch to the Georgian border.
He asked “how many manat did you pay to Migration?” I said “none” and from the look in his face I wished I had said 350…
I will never know the answer to ‘my problem’.
I loved Azerbaijan and want to go back, but at that moment I had never been more relieved to exit a country.
New alphabet, new language, new money, new food!
Signagi is perched on a steep hill with spectacular views.
There were over 4 kilometres of defensive walls with 23 towers and 6 gates were built in 1770.
You can climb up one tower and walk along the walls to two more towers.
Spectacular view across the Alazani valley of vineyards.
Stephan Tsminda Church is inside a tower
There were many more tourists than I’m used to. Most are on day trips from Tbilisi so it was peaceful early and after they left!
These did not add to the picturesque image. Especially when driven while videoing themselves 🙄
Green park with benches that was lovely to people watch.
World War II memorial wall.
Signagi Municipality Administration
Churchkhela – threaded nut/dried fruit covered in thickened juice.
Klachapuri cheese bread
Chakapuli is a lamb stew and one of the most popular dishes in Georgia. But this one was so salty it was almost inedible. I should have said something but just ate the meat and vegetables with lots of bread, and left the broth.
Breakfast on my balcony was much better.
In the upper left were potato blini, a crepe filled with mashed potato and fried. Crispy but not greasy. Top right were like a small pancake with apple compote. Then an omelette, vegetables and an apple.
Homemade amber wine from my landlord was very nice.
Next was Telavi, the largest town in the Kakheti wine region.
It was a 2 hour marshruska ride on the ‘milk route’, with people just getting on and off wherever they asked. 10 lari (Cdn$5.50)
Telavi is the largest town in the Kakheti region, but still very walkable.
In the town centre was the Batonistsikhe Fortress (17th-18th century). It was built by King Archil as the residence of the royal family.
The complex has a palace, two churches, the ruins of a royal bath and a museum.
King Erekle II Palace
Statue of King Erekle II outside the Fortress
Across the street the Public Service Hall was a sharp contrast.
Synchronized swimming chickens
More churchkhela and tklapi (fruit leather). Along with my walnuts and apricots, I now have enough snacks for awhile!
This stall would have whatever gadget you were looking for!
A plane tree that is over 900 years old.
There were plaques on many of the old buildings.
Abandoned Gorijvari St. George Church from the Middle Ages, renovated in the 19th century
And there was no way I was going in!
My hotel was in the mainly residential old part of town, but only minutes from all the sites.
Breakfast was served in their dining room, and it was the best I’ve had so far.
My shakshuka eggs.
After seeing all the vegetables at the bazar, that’s all I wanted for lunch!
Tomorrow morning I’m off to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
There were three different bus stations (really just parking lots) but I found a marshruska that leaves at 10.
See you there!
6 thoughts on “Sweet Georgia Wine”
Leslie, these photos are, once again world class. I’m sooo jealous, I was in Georgia in 1980. Loved every minute of it. I’ve been stuck in Florida for almost two years. You have a way of capturing the unique beauty of the areas around you, and the textures in your photos are spectacular! I’m amazed at your creativity, but am in awe of your bravery. Keep loving life and sharing your adventures with us. They a treasures!!!!! 😘🙏
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Thank you Val! I really value your feedback because you are a traveller too! Sorry to hear your wings have been clipped but hoping you are our again soon!
Again Leslie, beautiful pictures but a scary experience for sure. Seems like someone in the line was trying to get money for nothing. I’d probably have been on a plane back home instead of to another country. So glad you’re safe, have your backpack back and in another country. Continue with safe travels!!
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Thanks Rita! All made good for a story!
I agree with others. You are so brave! I would have been headed home. Photos are fabulous as usual. How long will you be gone?
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Thanks Joanne! It was nothing that money couldn’t fix! I’m doing my usual three month trip so home July 2.