Georgia and Armenia, now starting their 26th year since independence from the former Soviet Union, are full of culture and very affordable -- even with four and five star hotels. This May, I will be taking my 80-year-old mother on a new Cultural and Culinary tour to these two Caucasus mountain countries. The tour is organized by Sophia’s Travel and will include an additional emphasis on Jewish heritage. The starting price is an amazing $2,650 per person double occupancy for Georgia (10 days /9 nights) with an additional $1,420 per person double occupancy for Armenia (5 days / 4 nights). The full dates are May 27-June 9, 2017. I booked airfare on Qatar Airways for $688 per person, including flight delay/cancelation insurance!
I’m looking forward to savoring the delicious regional food and wine, gazing at the magnificent scenery and architecture, immersing myself in local crafts and learning about the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish history that for so long were a mystery to me and most Americans. On top of this, I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with my mother.
In this week’s post, I will highlight what we will experience in Georgia. In next week’s post, I’ll focus on Armenia.
In Georgia, we will experience a:
* Walking in the Old town of Tiblisi with its eclectic mix of orthodox churches, mosques and synagogue, including a visit the Georgian Synagogue and Jewish prayer house, along Rustaveli Avenue, built 1895-1903.
* Visiting the David Baazov Museum of the History of the Jews of Georgia, the National Museum of Georgia, with its permanent exhibition, The Archaeological Treasury, and the Stalin Museum in Gori, the former Soviet Premier’s birthplace.
*Encountering Jewish cemeteries dating from the 1st to 8th centuries in Mtskheta near Samtavro Nunery.
*Exploring the remains of the once vibrant Jewish community in Kutaisi, especially the main street running through the Jewish quarter. The street used to be called Shaumyan Street, but today it’s called Boris Gaponov Street, after the man who translated Rustaveli's, The Knight in the Panther's Skin into Hebrew. There are three synagogues along this street. More than 1000 Jewish families emigrated to Israel after independence in 1991.
*Visiting numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites known for ancient rock-hewn towns, co-existing pagan and Christian architecture, and cultural history dating back to the 1st to 8th centuries. Towns include: Mtskheta, Kutaisi, Mestia, Ushguli (the whole Upper Svaneti), and Uplistsikhe. The Svaneti in particular is known for its picturesque landscape – dominated by mountains with deep gorges, a thick forest zone, and meadows above 3,000 feet – and its architectural treasures. The Svanetian watch towers, erected in the 9th -12th centuries are an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses. They were often family-built and served to protect against invaders for centuries. The Svan culture itself survives most wonderfully in its songs and dances. Svanetia boasts the most complex form of Georgian polyphonic singing, experienced, of course, on this tour
*Beholding magnificent landscapes, such as the Kakheti region bordering the 3,000-meter-high Great Caucasus range from the north Alazani Valley, famous for its carpet-making and as the birthplace of Georgian viticulture. At least 500 varieties of wine are produced, beneath breathtaking views.
*Dining and wine tasting at the Tsinandali Family Estate and wine cellar, which once belonged to the 19th century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze. The residence consists of summer home, garden and winery, featuring several vintages of white wine.
*Taking a Master Cooking Class at a traditional Georgian restaurant
*Visiting the local farmers’ market in Telavi, with samplings of a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses.
*Baking Georgian bread, making Churchkhela – a natural candy produced from grape juice and nuts, and witnessing the preparation of the famous Georgian barbecue Mtsvadi.
*Joining a pottery workshop in the village of Shrosha.
Here, every single family works on pottery, and the village is the main supplier of wine making vessels, pitchers and “Qvevri” – a distinctive,
local wine jar. Wine made in Qvevri is recognized as an intangible world heritage.
*Therapeutic immersion into the Georgian Sulphur Baths - high in Sulphur and other minerals, with a constant temperature of 38C to 40C (additional fee).
Hotels Include: The best available in each city. In Georgia, we will stay in the 5-star Tiblisi Marriott, the 3-star Hotel Argo Inn in Kutaisi, the Hotel Seti (or similar) in Mestia, Svaneti. All tips for guides, drivers, and restaurants are included.
January 21, 2017
A link to the complete itinerary is here. Again, I’ll post Armenia next week, with a “we’re back” report when Mom and I return in June!