Thursday, 18 December 2014

Business, Babies and Brotseuli

I'm back! Okay, well I've been back for about two months now but life has been busy. I want to get into regular posts now since I have so much to say, let's see how well that goes. A lot has happened, I decided to suspend my university education to continue something completely different later and am now focusing on starting my own English Language company while I'm here. It seems there are barely any other foreign people here after Saakashvili left, so I'm not sure how easy it will be. It's all part of the experience though I suppose!

I feel more native here now, dare I say it. Our nearest metro station is a 20 minute bus ride away so I'm experiencing more of a village life (my Instagram is full of our settlements' cows and pigs). The neighbours call me Tamari, rather than Chloe, since it's apparently easier to pronounce and I can just about communicate that I don't like the cold weather and where I'm going.

Unfortunately I missed the wine harvest this year but did get to make some chacha surrounded by fruit and newborn babies. I've been quite disheartened by the news here lately, too much violence and hostility, as seen in this article as a prime example. A lot of the hostility is related to the heavy patriarchal mentality. The men are very macho and brutish in their approach to women, seen in young boys too which suggests it's more of a social issue. I want to expand on the roles of men and women here in another post but I can honestly say I've never seen a country so strict and severe in its expectations of people. Don't even get me started on the attitudes people have towards LGBT communities, let alone women.

It's an interesting topic although not a particularly positive one, so rather than end this on a downer I'll tell you now that I'm heading home for Christmas in a few days (this time with my sweet!) to indulge in some home comforts and dog cuddles before heading to Berlin in the New Year on our way back to Tbilisi. That's when everything business-wise should kick off so fingers crossed!

What are your plans for Christmas?

Sunday, 14 September 2014


Gldaani Bazaar

Okay, so I'm sadly back home now for a few weeks which gives me a chance to get myself organised and back down to planet earth. I feel physically different in the UK, uninspired and lethargic although that might be part of the severe food poisoning I had last week (avoid soft tomatoes dear God). Life here is predictable, grey and quiet. I love the home comforts like anyone but two days is more than enough before I'm itching to go back! I've spoken to a few people actually, mostly Americans, who say they feel addicted to Georgia. There's something about it, honestly. 

Anyway, I have a lot of topics I'd like to cover on this blog before I start writing more regular posts and I will get round to it I swear. These few weeks should give me some time to tweak too so wish me luck! 

I've attached a few photos of Tbilisi (above) and Imereti (Sachkhere and Chiatura) below. Those in Sachkhere were actually a small village nearby which annoyingly I can't remember the name of. Anyway, vineyards, animals, homegrown food, singing, laughing, loving... It was magnificent.

This cow nearly broke my foot...
Recovering at bebo's. Hopefully not too much information but if you ever have a bad stomach and need it to stop quickly just get some bark from an oak branch, boil it, then slowly drink the juice. It's known as 'moukha' here and works miracles.
Imeretian grapes are much more sour than in Kakheti, both gemrielia but goes to show how the climate differs

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Few iPhone Photos From Mtasminda Last Night

We decided last night to make a spontaneous trip up to Mtasminda Park, if only to get some fresh air (I'm not built for 35°+ everyday!). 

Despite the heat and fatigue we made our way up the hill to the funicular. 10GEL for both of us to get up and back down before 4am and also for the top-up card. The walk up was perfect, full of the beautiful winding streets and wobbly buildings that made me fall in love with Tbilisi to begin with. I really hope they keep them despite closer relations with the EU. The times are changing...

We enjoyed some Mtsvadi (Georgian barbecue - chicken is on coal but pork is always on old grape vines) and a glass of Saperavi under a romantic gazebo. 

Here are a few of my photos as we wandered around, it reminded me of the 1968 'Planet of the Apes' set and 'The Nutcracker' simultaneously. Good fun.

We got home quite late and were greeted with adorable meowing as we walked towards the estate along a main road. This kitten couldn't be more than a few days old and had clearly lost it's mother, my heart wouldn't allow me to leave it so we brought it inside and fed some milk. I always feel bad about the animals here since you shouldn't really get to close when they haven't had their injections. There needs to be a programme in place atleast to neuter and protect the dogs and cats on the street atleast if not in shelters... I've been looking into it after a dream I actually had the night before last. 

Anyway, after much debate we decided we couldn't keep her inside, and tried to leave her in a safer place far away from traffic on the estate to grow up with the other kittens. The sad mewing as we left her broke my heart so we slowly introduced her to a new mother in one of the gardens who was calling her gently from a distance. A ginger cat is now the proud member of a black and white family but all seemed good, we will be checking on her soon.

This was a quick update and again, apologies for the bad iPhone quality but I can't charge my camera until I head home in a few weeks. Until then it will suffice! Have any of you visited Mtasminda in Tbilisi?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Food for Thought

On my way to Tbilisi for the first time last December I got talking to a Russian man in Kiev Borispyl about Georgia and what to expect. Though his English was limited and my Russian is non-existent, he made one thing very clear; Georgians will never stop offering you food and wine. He said it with such a serious face I thought he was merely living up to the Russian stereotype until I actually arrived in Georgia and saw he wasn't exaggerating in the slightest. It should have been telling enough when we went straight to the restaurant after my arrival (I suppose around 3am - Tbilisi doesn't close) and the Caesar salad was too much for me, let alone the khachapuri, khinkali and the pkhali.

Throughout this blog I will most likely link to various Georgian dishes through since they're great at explaining what dishes are, where they're from and how to make them. So far the dishes I've made are following their recipes.

Anyway, my point is the portion sizes are huge here, compared to the UK anyway. I've grown up on a typical British diet of meat and two veg, with emphasis on potatoes (I'm Northern European, give me a chance) where I'd often help myself to seconds and thirds, proud of my huge appetite. My dad has always loved to cook so food has never been scarce, he even throws in some more exotic dishes occasionally although I can't help but miss my jacket potato with baked beans and cheese. I'm pretty much willing to try anything although I've never been big on meat. Which leads me uncomfortably onto my next point...

I have a lot to say about meat and meat production here. I can't exactly say I'm well-educated on this topic, I'm going by observations alone. I came to Georgia knowing their approach to meat was different to what I was used to in the UK,  my boyfriend warned me after seeing my horrified expression as he and his colleague singed and flayed a chicken they'd just bought from Tesco. Now, I'm not so bad that I choose to ignore where meat comes from - I do my best to avoid it for that reason along with general dislike for the taste - but even then it occurred to me how little we experience of this sort of preparation in the UK and probably most of the Western world. I've already said how my dad loves cooking, so aside from a year living alone in London and doing my best to get through the three kilos of pasta my dad sent me on my way with, I know little about how to do it myself.

Again, let me emphasise how useful that Georgian recipes website has been since I've been wanting to try out some dishes and I have a hungry Georgian man to feed. Not that he isn't adventurous with food, he'll eat anything, but there is some sort of programming with Georgians that I've only recently learned where they just don't feel full or satisfied unless they've had atleast a loaf of bread or shotis puri along with it. It's also fun for me to break away from what I know and dealing with food that is produced and sold in a more natural way. We get all our fruit and veg from Gldaani Bazaar where feisty kittens entertain me as he haggles. Maybe the experience of the bazaar and shopping in general needs another post... This post has got quite long so keep your eyes peeled for my post on meat and bazaars, I'll try and snap some photos in the meantime!

To get to the point, here are the dishes I've made so far (excuse the crappy iPhone quality, I'll try and get into the habit of using my camera but, like I said, I don't intend for this to be a food blog so much):
This was so easy to make and great served cold too!


We had a lot of aubergine to get through... This was surprisingly simple too and perfect if you just have basic ingredients in the fridge. Also trust what the recipe says about oil!

Aubergine with chili peppers

It takes a lot of garlic and chili peppers to overwhelm the bland taste of the aubergine but gets better as it marinates

One of many lobio recipes

Excuse my knees... As much as my lobio needed much more of the nut mixture (I ran out) it still tasted good. Remember chili flakes are never a bad idea

Stuffed Mushroom

These were delicious and so easy!

I think that's enough for now, expect more food ramblings soon!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dedicated to Babe

I decided to start this blog as a way to record my musings and observations here in Georgia. It's just for fun really, don't expect any in depth posts about the history or recipes unless I feel peculiar that day because you can just Google it or ask a Georgian about the qvervi wine-making process or Shota Rustaveli's infatuation with King Tamar, they will be more than happy. If I know of other sites that relate then I'll do my best to link them.

So, some context... I've been hiding away in the depths of England for nineteen years of my life, a delicate equilibrium of Oxford English arrogance with some country-bumpkin Wiltshire roots.. I had itchy feet from about the age of 12 where I was ready to go and explore although it wasn't until I was 18 where I really had a taste of other cultures after touring Europe for a month with InterRail.

While I was living here I worked in Oxford alongside my studies which is where I first experienced a Kart. Shamefully, I hadn't even heard of Georgia when we started chatting on the bus which surprises me more and more that there's a huge region between Europe and Asia that just isn't mentioned in the UK. Not even when learning about Stalin in my GCSE history lessons. Anyway, the more we got to know each other in our relationship, the more I developed an idea about this mysterious Caucasian country. I've been fascinated by Eastern Europe since visiting Warsaw and Sofia, so I was keen to visit Georgia pretty much from the beginning where I was shown the Georgian alphabet and told about the impact of the Soviet Union.

I had some basic knowledge of Georgia by the time he finished his studies and flew back to Tbilisi, I could atleast say 'madloba' and 'gaumarjos' anyway. I moved to London a month later, wanting to explore and take in as much as I could before starting university in September. I was pretty much alone in London that month - exciting at first until you realise how expensive it is, and walking between Whitechapel and the Tower of London everyday soon loses it's novelty. So after five months of cold and dreary long-distance London, I visited Tbilisi over the Christmas holidays flying via Kiev.

This is a story for another time but I was intrigued by Kiev and wanted to visit so booked flights with a 20 hour connection only to spend this time sat in the airport being told by locals that it was too dangerous (the protests in Kiev were just kicking off, looking at the situation now it's for the best). In typical Georgian style we headed straight to a restaurant and shared khinkali and a colossal caeser salad, with chacha and wine to wash it down. This trip also featured a visit to Kakheti as my boyfriend's sister lives near Kvareli but again, for another time. Insert another four months of complaining about London and missing trees when I came back to Georgia for my 20th birthday. This time we visited his Russian Bebo in Chiatura and I was beginning to see Georgia as more than a tourist.

Now I'm back, a year after he left the UK, living here. Earlier than planned (which will officially be October time) due to some really heart-breaking news that I'd rather not expand on just yet, doing my best to learn Kartuli, cook some Georgian dishes and explore.

I woke up to the sound of the neighbour's pig being slaughtered this morning. It still makes me squirm since I'm not really a meat-eater anyway but it got me thinking about Georgian life and how I'm seeing it from a distorted point of view. I'm painfully British in my manners and habits but I've been welcomed into the midst of a wonderful Georgian family, doing my best to empathise and understand their traditions whilst seeing it all first hand for myself.

Photo taken from Mtatsminda