Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 20, 2019

Two days in Dubai

We arrived in Dubai late in the evening, so our first (and only) stop for the day, was bed!

In the morning we had a half day tour around the city. It was good to be able to travel from the comfort of a bus, and get out of the heat! Our first couple of stops were just view points to see the Palm Atlantis and the Burj Arab buildings.

Next up, we had a bit more exploration, we had an Abra (boat) ride across the Dubai creek, and then had some time to wander through the Spice and Gold Souks.

Then we had a brief stop to see the exterior of Zabeel Palace before heading to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. After riding the fastest elevator in the world (it didn’t feel like it, it was incredibly smooth!) we got to see the view from the 124th and 125th floors!

The Burj Khalifa is accessed from Dubai Mall, so we then spent some time exploring until our feet got too tired, and we took the metro back to our hotel, before having some traditional food for dinner.

In the morning we headed to the Dubai Museum (a short walk, as it was across the road from the hotel) which is located in Al Fahidi fort, the oldest building in Dubai. It had some really interesting exhibits on the history and old culture of Dubai.

From there, we wandered around the Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, where we could see the older style buildings with the rooftop wind tunnels used to cool the buildings. We also attempted to walk to Meena Bazaar, but Google gave incorrect directions, however we did find it when we were almost back to our hotel.

After some lunch we went to the Dubai Frame, where we had another viewpoint, and could brave walking on the glass floor panels to look down below!

The next morning we headed to the airport, ready to fly back home.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 18, 2019

Around Armenia (part 3)

In the morning we headed to Khor Virap Monastery in the Ararat Valley, which had a fantastic view towards Mount Ararat. After a steepish walk up to the monastery we could view the prison Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in, and also walk a bit higher to get another view of the monastery.

Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery

Next we travelled to Areni Cave, where the oldest leather shoe in the world was found, and we could see old amphorae as well as the archeological work site.

Areni Cave

Areni Cave

On we went to Karahunj, a 7500 year old arrangement of stones with a central stone circle and spreading arms.

Karahunj

Karahunj

Our final stop for the day was the town of Goris, where we were staying for the evening, and where we got a look at the old cave houses on the edge of town.

Goris Cave Houses

In the morning we went to Khndzoresk, another completely abandoned cave town, which has been empty since the 1960s. We started on the far side of the gorge and had to walk down lots of steps and then across a hanging bridge. The first two thirds were ok, but the final third had thinner wire along the bottom with a few holes! Once we were across we could explore the town and go into some of the caves, as well as an old house with some of the items which have been found in the town. Then it was back, up all the stairs (I’m sure there were more on the way back!).

Khndzoresk Hanging Bridge

Khndzoresk Cave Town

Khndzoresk Cave Town

Our next stop was the ‘Wings of Tatev’, the longest aerial tramway in the world, where we had a very scenic view over the Vorotan river canyon before arriving at Tatev Monastery.

View from the ‘Wings of Tatev’ cable car

After exploring the Monastery we had lunch and then got back on the cable car.

Tatev Monastery

Then it was back in the car and back to Yerevan for a tasty dinner.

Dinner

The next day was our final day in Armenia. First we went to the Genocide Memorial Complex where we visited the museum and memorial. It was a very moving place to visit.

Armenian Genocide Memorial

Then we got a taxi back to the Vernissage Market for some extra shopping before we headed to Dubai.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 16, 2019

Around Armenia (part 2)

We headed out the next morning to Gerhard Cave Monastery, a 7th century monastery with sections within caves. We were lucky enough to hear some Armenian songs being sung in the main cave church and the acoustics were phenomenal.

Gerhard Cave Monastery

Gerhard Cave Monastery

Then we went to Garni where we drove through a canyon surrounded by hexagonal volcanic rocks and could see up to Garni Temple.

Volcanic rock formations

Garni Temple was meant to be our next stop, but it was closed for a few hours so Kim Kardashian could visit so we had an early lunch. So much food!

Lunch

After lunch, we went back to the temple, hoping it was open again. It wasn’t, but we were told it would only be 15 minutes, which turned into 45. Finally, after a brief glimpse of Kim and her entourage, we got what we had come for – entry into the temple. Luckily we had pre-purchased tickets so we could head straight in, as all the people who had been waiting either lined up for tickets, or went through the gates. It was a lovely temple, with the ruins of a church and some royal baths in the same complex.

Garni Temple

Then it was back to Yerevan for our appointment at the Brandy Factory, where we had a tour and learned of the history.

Ararat Brandy Factory

Ararat Brandy Factory

Our next stop was Etchmiadzin, the religious center of the Armenian church where we visited the Treasury museum which contains such items as fragments of the cross and Noah’s Ark as well as the spear which pierced Jesus’s chest after his crucifixion.

Fragment of Noah’s Ark, Etchmiadzin

Etchmiadzin

We also stopped at Zvartnots Cathedral, a 7th century church which now lies in ruins.

Zvartnots Cathedral

That evening we went to Republic Square after dinner to see the singing fountains.

Singing Fountains, Republic Square

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 14, 2019

Around Armenia (part 1)

The next morning we headed out of the city to explore more of Armenia.

Our first stop was Saghmosavank, a 13th century monastery which was situated above a stunning gorge carved by the Kasagh river.

Saghmosavank Monastery

Gorge carved by the Kasagh river

From there we travelled to the monument to the Armenian alphabet, which was a lovely monument.

Armenian alphabet monument

Armenian alphabet monument

We also visited Amberd Medieval Fortress, the largest surviving fortress in Armenia. The name means ‘The Fortress in the Clouds’.

Amberd Medieval Fortress

Next we went to Kari Lake, on Mount Aragats. It was freezing, so we didn’t stay long!

Kari Lake

Back in Yerevan, we visited the Blue Mosque, which had some lovely tile work.

Blue Mosque, Yerevan

In the morning, we travelled to Lake Sevan, one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. We went to Sevanavank Monastery, which had a great view over the lake.

Sevanavank Monastery

Next we went to Haghartsin Monastery, which had been Armenia’s first conservatory. After exploring we had tea, local honey and jams with cake. Yum!

Haghartsin Monastery

From there, it was on to Dilijan, where we had a walk through the Old Town section. We also had an enormous lunch (we have not lacked for food in Armenia!) before heading back to Yerevan.

Old Town, Dilijan

In Yerevan we had a little time to explore some more, so we went to Matenadaran, the manuscript museum. Some of the pieces there were stunning, with amazingly neat writing, but also beautiful decorations.

Matenadaran, Yerevan

We also had time to visit the Modern Art Museum, which had some great pieces.

Outside the Museum of Modern Art, Yerevan

In the evening we headed back to the Cascade to get a view at night!

Cascade at night

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 12, 2019

Explorations of Yerevan, Armenia

On our first full day in Armenia we started the day by exploring the capital, Yerevan.

We began by a tour of the Sergei Paranov Museum. Paranov was a film director, but he was multi talented and the museum contains many of his artworks. He led a fascinating life, and it was well worth the visit.

Then it was up to a view point over the city, as well as a collection of sculptures. We had a great view towards the Cascade and the city.

Monument in Yerevan

Sculptures in Yerevan

Next we went to the Megarian Carpet museum, where we could see the carpets, and the techniques of making them.

From there we headed to the bottom of the Cascade and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, where they had some more fantastic sculptures, as well as a great view of the ascending staircases of the Cascade. We cheated a little, and took the indoor escalators to near the top where we had another wonderful view of the city!

Cascade, Yerevan

On we travelled to the Armenian History Museum, where we saw some great exhibits, including the oldest leather shoe in the world.

Then we visited the Gum Market, full of dried fruits, beautifully presented, as well as fresh produce, before we visited the Vernissage Market, a great market with lots of handicrafts.

Gum market, Yerevan

In the evening, we walked to Republic Square where they had a free concert.

Concert in Republic Square

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 10, 2019

Batumi adventures

From Mestia we headed to Batumi, on the coast of Georgia. On the way we stopped at Enguri Dam, the largest dam in Georgia.

Once we got to Batumi, we had a bit of time to explore in the evening. We headed to the Boulevard where we went up the Alphabet Tower for sunset. It has a panoramic view, but because of the shape of the building you can’t get close to the windows to take great photographs.

Underneath the Alphabet Tower

We also saw the famous Ali and Nino statue, where the statues gradually move towards and through each other, never touching, and wandered through the side streets.

Ali and Nino Sculpture

Batumi skyline

Street art, Batumi

The next morning we could see the town in daylight. There is some great architecture through the streets.

Astrological Clock, Batumi

We also caught the cable car, which takes you a long way and has some great views over the city. Don’t expect a quick trip though – it’s the longest cable car ride I’ve ever been on!

Cable Car, Batumi

Cable Car, Batumi

Then we visited the Museum of Adjara, which was small, but quite cute. For some reason the adult tickets are referred to as ‘Elder admission’ so we felt quite old!

After lunch we made a brief stop at the Batumi Mall (which was about what you would expect) and also wondered along the second section of the Boulevard, which was a bit more desolate with closed rides and construction work.

Batumi

Then we returned to our hotel and had a bit of a rest for a couple of hours. This was to be our last non-travel day in Georgia though, so after a while we decided to head out again and buy some souvenirs and gifts. Batumi had the largest concentration of souvenir shops we had seen so far in Georgia, but when we wanted to find one it was a struggle! We ended up wandering round, deciding we couldn’t really find anything we wanted and then headed back, only to run across a group of shops on the way home!

Batumi Street art

Once we got back we had a final group dinner with the rest of the group.

The next day we were back to Tbilisi, which was a fairly long drive. On the way we stopped in Gori again. As I’d seen most of the attractions I went to the Ethnographic Museum, which was very cute with amazingly friendly and enthusiastic staff.

We also stopped at Iago’s winery where we had more information on the local techniques of wine making, and some delicious bread.

Once we were in Tbilisi, for dinner a few of us went to a Thai restaurant, which was very spicy, but very tasty!

The next day we headed to Armenia. Due to a mix up in our pick up location we ended up having a frantic hour, before realising our mini bus was on the other side of the square, and had been waiting for us the whole time. We had a couple of Armenian women in the mini bus returning from their holiday and they were incredibly friendly and welcoming and kept feeding us throughout the trip!

Once we arrived, we had a delicious dinner.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 8, 2019

Stepping round the Svaneti region of Georgia

Mestia is in the Svaneti region of Georgia, the area we were to spend the next few days. The Svaneti region is known for its stunning mountains and gorges and tower houses in all the villages.

Svaneti Tower

We arrived in the evening, and the next day we were dropped off on the main road, close to another village, Mulakhi. From Mulakhi we hiked back to Mestia. It was about 13 kilometres all up. Initially we had an uphill walk to the village, and the uphill sections continued for around 7 kilometers. None of the sections were too steep, and they were interspersed with flat sections and a couple of downhill sections as well. Along the way we picked up a couple of canine companions who were hoping for some of our lunch. They ended up following us until they found a larger group of hikers. Once we reached the highest point for the day we had our lunch, and then had a reasonably tricky descent for about 200 meters down a steep gravelly and slightly muddy track. Once we’d completed that section it was a fairly gentle slope back down to Mestia.

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Once we got back we had a break, and then a cooking class where we were shown how to make Sulguni, the local cheese and Kubdari, a meat filled pastry.

Georgian cooking class

Then we did a bit more exploring of the town. We visited the Margiani museum which consists of an old Svan tower, which you can climb to get a view of the house, and a room with the old furniture which gives an example of how people used to live, with the livestock inside to keep everything warm.

Margiani museum

We attempted to go on the chair lift, but it was closed for the day, so we visited the Ethnographic museum, which had some interesting exhibits (and great wifi!).

In the morning we got some transport to a smaller, more elevated village, Ushguli. The drive was two hours through steep windy roads, with gorges next to some sections, and cleared landslips in others. The scenery along the way was stunning though.

Around Ushguli

Once we reached Ushguli we walked to the local church, Lamaria (St Mary) and then hiked up to the summer residence of Queen Tamar. This was around a 6 kilometre round trip, with some fairly steep and tricky sections both up and down, and we saw one snake across the way. The scenery from the bottom to the top was spectacular, particularly as we were getting the early autumn colours.

Ushguli

Hike from Ushguli to the summer residence of Queen Tamar

Hike from Ushguli to the summer residence of Queen Tamar

Hike from Ushguli to the summer residence of Queen Tamar

The next morning we had our longest walk for the trip, around 19 kilometers to and from Shkhara Glacier. We started fairly early in the morning, and the first valley we walked through was still in the shade, so it was pretty cold, with some of the puddles still frozen. The whole walk had fairly gentle slopes with the first seven kilometers on a dirt track shared with cars and horses. After that the track narrowed to a single file track, which gradually became rockier and rockier until you had to use your imagination to find it by the time you got to the glacier. None of the areas were too tricky, but you had to watch where you were going so you didn’t twist an ankle.

Hike to Shkhara Glacier

Hike to Shkhara Glacier

Hike to Shkhara Glacier

You could get very close to the glacier once you reached it, but had to keep an eye out as it kept spitting off small rocks (and I’m sure bigger ones come off occasionally)!

Water melting off Shkhara Glacier

Shkhara Glacier

Once we got back to Ushguli we had a bit of a break and then it was back on the road back to Mestia.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 6, 2019

Out and about around Georgia

From Tbilisi we headed deeper into Georgia towards Mtskheta, Georgia’s ancient capital. We stopped first at Jvari Church, then at Svetiskhoveli Cathedral, where the robe of Christ is said to be buried.

Jvari Church, Georgia

Svetiskhoveli Cathedral, Georgia

Then we travelled on to Kutaisi, where we visited the Gelati Cathedral and saw the grave of King David the Builder, who had united Georgia and put in place many reforms, including the separation of Church and State, as well as educational reforms.

Gelati Cathedral, Georgia

That night we were in a guest house and had another amazing spread of Georgian food for dinner. Yum yum!

More Georgian food

We work to rain, and looked out of the window to see…not much of anything as it was too foggy. Luckily today was to be a travel day, so we wouldn’t be affected too much.

Atmospheric weather

Our first stop was the local market in Kutaisi where we could see some of the fresh Georgian produce.

Kutaisi Market

Then we visited Sataplia Caves. First we saw some dinosaur footprints incredibly preserved in the limestone, and then we walked through the cave itself with all the limestone formations. The biggest was called the Stony Heart, and it really did look like the top part of an anatomical heart.

Dinosaur footprints

Stony Heart, Sataplia Cave

Then it was back in the bus for a long drive to Mestia, in the mountains.

On the way to Mestia

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 4, 2019

Gawking in Gori

On our next trip we caught the metro and then a shared local taxi to the town of Gori.

In Gori we visited the Stalin museum, which includes exhibits on Stalin (including his death mask), gifts he received, the train carriage he travelled in, and the house he was born in.

Stalin’s train carriage, Gori

Stalin Museum, Gori

We then caught a taxi to Uplistsikhe, one of the oldest cities in Georgia. It was carved out of the rocks in the sixteenth century BC. It was a fascinating place to visit, with amazing views over the surrounding landscape.

Uplistsikhe, Georgia

Uplistsikhe, Georgia

Once we got back to Gori we ascended to the Gori Castle, which was having some restoration work and gives a good view over sections of the town.

Gori Castle

Then we got some lunch and wandered to the local bazaar/shopping area where I got a warmer jacket before we were heading into the mountains. We also visited the Great Patriotic War Museum, which had a Memorial Mural out the front. Inside, none of the exhibits had English explanations, so I didn’t really understand much.

Gori War Memorial

Then we retraced our steps back to Tbilisi with a shared taxi and metro ride.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 2, 2019

Tramping around Tbilisi

Our first full day in Tbilisi started with a walking tour around the city. We started at Metekhi Church, and then walked though some of the old town including a walk past the Sulfur bath district, and also saw the Tbilisi waterfall. It’s the first time I’ve seen a waterfall in a capital city!

Tbilisi waterfall

Then we took the stairs up to Narikala Fortress (the other option is a cable car) where we got another fantastic view over the city. It’s really very picturesque. We also saw the Mother of Georgia statue at the top.

View from Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi

Then we meandered back down through more of the old town, and visited several of the churches, some of which had some amazing murals.

Church in Tbilisi

We ended our walk at Freedom Square, and then had our first khachapuri (cheese and bread). We got a Adjaruli khachapuri which also had an egg, and was very tasty, but also very rich!

Adjaruli khachapuri

Next we went to the National History Museum, which was very well laid out, with some interesting exhibitions, particularly the treasury one with lots of historic gold and jewellery.

National History Museum , Tbilisi

We walked further from the Museum to the Dry Bridge Market, which had a mix of things for sale, from handmade scarves and jewellery, to old Soviet coins and medals, to fuses and old remote controls. A very interesting place to visit.

Dry Bridge Market, Tbilisi

On the way back to the hotel we crossed the river at the Peace Bridge – I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Peace Bridge, Tbilisi

That night we ate at the Kopala, which had a stunning view over the river to all the places we visited during the day.

View from Kopala

Our first stop the next day was the Chronicles of Georgia, a very imposing monument with a faint resemblance to Stonehenge. The sides of all the columns are covered in three dimensional religious scenes and personages from Georgia’s history and it’s a monument to when Georgia was first an independent country, and its early adoption of Christianity.

Chronicles of Georgia

From there, we went on to the funicular which took us to Mtatsminda park. It was so high my ears popped! At the top of the funicular was a rather desolate fun park, an old Soviet TV tower, and some lovely views – although it was a bit hazier than the previous day.

Mtatsminda Park, Tbilisi

Back down the funicular and we caught the metro to visit Stalin’s underground printing press. It was not the most obvious of attractions, and it was only the hammer and sickle on the door that let us think we were in the right spot. We rang, and knocked on the doorbell with no response, looked around the corner, yelled ‘Hello’ and finally saw another doorbell on the left which got us a response. An old Georgian man unchained the gate and let us in. Once in the yard, we were locked back in (I’m not sure why) and he commanded us to sit down and got us each an English pamphlet about the site (which appeared to have been run through Google translate and made no sense to me). Then we saw the previous entry to the underground printing press room, descended a rusty iron spiral staircase and saw the old (and now very rusty) printing press, and then visited the house with Stalin’s old bed, Soviet Memorabilia and a picture that showed you three different images of Stalin, depending on what perspective you looked at it from. The ‘guide’ was very helpful and moved us from position to position to see ‘One Stalin, two Stalin, three Stalin!’. After we were finished the gate was unlocked and we were allowed to leave!

Stalin’s underground printing press

After some lunch we wandered around the Old Town some more and visited the Sulfur Baths. We had pre-booked through our hotel and got a small bath room with an ajoining sitting area and toilet. The Sulfur water was very hot and we gently lowered ourselves in, getting acclimated and then alternated the hot bath with cold showers. Mid way through I had a Kisa scrub and massage which was lovely, and I felt very clean afterwards.

Sulfur baths, Tbilisi

Before dinner we walked to the Holy Trinity Cathedral. When we arrived the light was fading, and it was a stunning time of day to visit. In the church we were lucky enough to hear some beautiful singing.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi

In the evening we went to a restaurant where they had traditional Georgian dancing – although when we entered they started playing English music (at a very loud volume). When the Georgian dancers came out they were very skilled, but with their tight pants and moustaches it was also quite camp!

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