Ancient Place, Homemade Khachatpuri, All In Ushguli

Following the hike that I had yesterday, even though my legs were numb, I insisted on continuing my journey and woke up early to take a jeep to Ushguli. I heard Ushguli was an ancient place. Not only that, it was also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I liked ancient places like I said in my previous blog so I asked the owner of the guesthouse for more information. He said his friend could drive me there and that he could give me a discount (30 lari return trip) because I was staying at his guesthouse. Cool! 😀

And it was also true that it was cool, I mean, the weather. It had been really bad since yesterday evening after my hike – wet and cold. The rain had never stopped. I didn’t expect Georgia to be that cold in June, so I didn’t bring warm clothes. Fortunately, I took the advice from another experienced backpacker and brought a buff. (That backpacker actually suggested a scarf but I didn’t have one back then. I later got one at a Christmas party while I was volunteering in Cambodia.)

The driver also had some other guests – a Russian couple. Lucky that the Russian guy could speak English so he ‘automatically’ became the unofficial interpreter. If it weren’t because of them, I don’t think I could understand anything that the driver said. As I mentioned in my previous post, most Georgians could speak Russian so they chatted a lot. (yeah, this writing skill is called ‘foreshadowing’. I like to create this kind of anticipation in my post. 😉 )

We first stopped at a place called Tower of Love which the Russian couple and I agreed that was only for the tourists. The driver said it was like the story of Romeo and Juliet except that in the end, the girl killed herself by jumping off the tower instead of using a knife. The driver even said ‘Verona’. Alright, I skipped Verona while I was travelling in Italy (I will write about it later). It seemed I couldn’t escape from Romeo and Juliet and… Shakespeare. Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

It looked more like a leaning tower than a tower of love to me.
Yes, totally agreed. It’s for tourists.

Speaking of wherefore, when I asked a German tourist that I met at the tower, he told me his tour guide said the tower served 2 purposes: 1. a fortress, 2. to stop an avalanche. For the second purpose, I doubted that a single tower could do that. But as a traveller, I shouldn’t be too picky about all these. 😛

When we were on the way to Ushguli, we were told there was a landslide ahead of us so all of the jeeps stopped at a ‘Feel Georgian Food’ stall. I had been talking about the delicious, mouth-watering bread that I tried in a Georgian restaurant in Kazakhstan so I ordered it. With the help of the hostel owner in Tbilisi, I finally learnt the Georgian name of that bread. Khachatpuri!!

All the jeeps were waiting…
All the passengers were eating…

The Russian couple only ordered beer and tea but the husband paid for my Khachatpuri. He said, ‘In Georgia, you are the guest.’ But he was too!! I didn’t want him to pay but he insisted.

When all the other tour groups left the stall, we remained there. The driver explained the other groups were going to a ski field, not to Ushguli so we had to stay there until the road was clear.

While we were waiting, the Russian couple requested to watch how the old lady at the stall made her Khachatpuri. What a fantastic idea!!!  We all went inside the kitchen and watched the old lady make Khachatpuri.  She mixed the potatoes and cheese together and wrapped the mixture with a dough. Then she flattened the whole thing and put it on a stove where it was cooked.

Show time! 🙂

The old Georgian couple started talking about their family – they had been married for 55 years and now they had 5 children and 10 grandchildren. All of them were now everywhere in Georgia.

55 years ago and in 2017

After the chat, we continued to go to Ushguli. Ushguli was a bit disappointing to me. Maybe it was because of the rain, the wind and the cold and the mud and the cow poohs and dog poohs on the ground. It was so hard to avoid them because all this dirt just got mixed together in the rain.  The buff and my thin jacket couldn’t keep me warm.  In all the photos, I folded my arms very tightly because I was cold!!!!

We first visited St. Mary’s church at Ushguli. It is a very important church for Orthodox. It’s very very ancient and I liked it. The original form of the paintings still remained over so many years, but most of them were fading and some had faded so much that I could only see the paintings on my photos with the help of my camera using a high ISO.

Beautiful paintings but the colours were fading.

We then went to another tower. On one of the columns, we saw 4 photos of 4 young men. They died during the Second World War. Only 4 people died during that war? That was my question. No. Only 4 men from this particular village died.

There were in total only 70 families living in Ushguli. It was 4 villages combined together. It reminded me of Ang Kor Wat in some areas. I meant the ruins, not the roots of the trees.

We didn’t stay in the village for too long. We only walked around and had a look. Too many things to avoid on the ground. 😀

I couldn’t imagine there were people living here.

We headed back to Mestia, so I thought.

On our way back, we went past the ‘Feel Georgian Food’ stall again. The Russian guy and the driver wanted to have a beer so we stopped there again. The wife and I stayed in the car.

After a while, the Russian guy came back and said the old couple invited us in to have a drink.  That was a surprise for us.  So we all got off the car and joined them.

Again, I had no idea what they were talking about. All I knew was I was asked to make a toast which was absolutely fine for me.  

But their toast took forever!!

The driver was holding the glass of water (the ladies were given a little bit of red wine) and went blah blah blah blah blah and he blahed for nearly 10 mins. And then he asked every one of us to give a toast. The couple gave one (quite a long one) and I gave a very short one (very me) – to health and happiness. The driver was happy but he continued to blah blah blah without drinking from the glass and I was holding the glass in my hand thinking when I should drink it. But he was very kind. It turned out that his toast included the Russian couple’s children and my future children. And he said he hoped I would meet a nice guy who would take me up to a mountain. And then he talked about my wedding and he wanted me to invite them to my wedding and he would bring Cha Cha (Georgian vodka) because he didn’t want my wedding to be boring. 😀 That was so kind of him 😀 I will invite them, definitely, if I can ever get married.

Then after half an hour, we finally raised our glasses and the driver went blah blah blah again. I didn’t care. I just drank from the glass. It was too tiring to hold the glass for that long. 😀

The old couple was showing us some professional photos that an Israeli tourist took for the old husband. The old husband always called himself ‘the young boy’ and his wife ‘the old lady.’ He used to dance Georgian dance. He also revealed that his wife couldn’t hear well now because when he kissed his wife in the past, he stroked her ear that’s why she couldn’t hear well now. 😀 That was so funny. I like hearing stories like this especially from old couples.  So sweet. I’m sure there were many more funny stories that they told but unfortunately, I didn’t understand Russian so I couldn’t understand a thing. 🙁  I wish I could understand all the languages in the world!

This rendezvous lasted for hours!  When we left, it was already 6pm. We stopped there at around 4pm or 4:30pm.

Anyway, one goodbye after another, we finally left.

A group photo with the lovely couples. 🙂

The driver suggested we had dinner together. Sure! We went to Laila Cafe where I went to on my first night with the Israeli guy from my guesthouse and his German friend. There were live performances. The dancers performed traditional Georgian dance and the crowds were in a frenzy. Sorry, I exaggerated a bit. 😛  

The driver continued to talk at dinner and they drank so much Cha Cha. The Russian guy loved it. I was curious because vodka from Russia is very famous. He said, ‘Cha Cha tastes much better. Vodka from Russia is tasteless but Cha Cha has got a taste.’ It’s true. I don’t recall drinking any vodka with a taste. He’s the expert.  

The driver asked two polish girls he took to Ushguli a few days ago to join us too.

The dinner went on and on and on until 12 midnight. I asked if the tipsy driver could drive me back to my guesthouse. He said, ‘ok, no problem.’  I was waiting for the driver in the street that looked like a setting in Hollywood outside the restaurant with the two Polish girls.  The driver said he would take them back to their guesthouse too. I wonder if he could do it. He had drunk so much. Oh well, it was late at night. I could rely on him. The others seemed to be ok with it. 

A setting in Hollywood 😀

The driver didn’t take me to the entrance of my guesthouse so I had to walk on the dirt (again) in pitch-black. Who knows what I stepped on? 😀 But it was good that there was grass near the door of the guesthouse. I rubbed my shoes there until they were clean.

What a day!

I was happy about it.

Very happy about the whole day.

I just hit the sack.

15 June 2017

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