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Europe, Georgia, Travel

10 Fun Things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia

April 3, 2017

Things to do in Tbilisi

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Going to a city where you have done very little research in advance is sometimes an advantage. This was the case for me in Tbilisi, Georgia because I was going on a student field trip and we had a tour guide. Most of the itinerary was planned by the students and the tour guide.  However, I found joy in learning about everything in the moment. Here are my ten things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia.

1. Eat a Churchkhela!

Things to do in Tbilisi

This is the traditional Georgian sweet you will see hanging outside of many shops in Tbilisi. It is made of nuts, usually walnuts; then it is dipped in a mixture of grape juice and cornmeal. It sounds a bit strange, but it tastes good. It isn’t too sweet, and it keeps for a long time. I ate mine over three days!

2. Take the cable car

Things to do in Tbilisi

The cable car is meant to take you to the Narikala Fortress, but the view of Tbilisi from the cable car is not to be missed. And this is coming from someone who is afraid of heights! Best of all it is 1 Lari.

3. Climb the Narikala Fortress

Things to do in Tbilisi

For an even better view of Tbilisi, climb the fortress once you are up there. On one side is Tbilisi and the other is the botanical gardens. This was one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

4. Visit the Mother of Georgia

Things to do in Tbilisi

You will see this metal statute from just about everywhere in Tbilisi, and while you are up visiting the fortress, you can walk down the path to see her up close. She was once made of wood.

5. Visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi

Things to do in Tbilisi

This ancient looking cathedral was actually finished in 2004! The architecture is amazing, and the inside is still being finished. However, I found the inside fascinating as you can see what is planned and if you stay for a while, you might be able to see how much progress happens.

6. Try the local wine

Things to do in Tbilisi

Georgia is known for having a huge wine culture. It was everywhere. Since I was on a student field trip, I could not partake, but I hear it’s great.

7. Walk across the Bridge of Peace

Things to do in Tbilisi

This pedestrian bridge links old Tbilisi to the new district of Tbilisi. It offers great views of the Kura River.

8. Eat a traditional Georgian meal

Things to do in Tbilisi

The food in Georgia was so fresh and most of it homemade. Try the bread they eat for breakfast; I can’t seem to find the name of it. It is a long strip of bread and is baked over a fire. Eat the lobio, which is a bean soup and will probably be called that in English. The Georgians are also whizzes at dishes with nuts and potatoes, get the roasted ones. My favorite thing was the eggplant slices with a walnut filling! If you have a nut allergy, be careful in Georgia as even salads had nuts on them.

9. Explore old Tbilisi

Things to do in Tbilisi

The architecture in old Tbilisi is so odd and interesting. Some building looked like they would fall down at any moment and some, especially the churches, looked like they would last another 500 years. The bricks are also very different from what I am used to seeing and I loved them.

10. Visit Metekhi Church

Things to do in Tbilisi

Sitting across the river from old Tbilisi, it overlooks the whole old city. The view is great, and you can get up close to the statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.

There are tons more to things do in Tbilisi, but these are the things I really enjoyed. Most of these things were inexpensive or free as well making Georgia a great place to spend an extended amount of time in.

Have you been to Tbilisi? What was your favorite part?

Driving, Europe, Travel

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

May 6, 2016

 

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Dropped into a Fairy Tale in SloveniaThere is only one way to describe Slovenia, like a fairy tale! From the minute I stepped out of the airport and was presented with an amazing view of a snowcapped mountain to the fields of dandelions along the highway, Slovenia never disappointed. Even though I was there for a work conference, I would have been happy just to stare at Slovenia if I didn’t get time to sightsee. Lucky me, though, as I had one day to do some sightseeing outside of the conference.

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

The conference was in a small town called Radenci. Radenci is a spa town located on the eastern side of Slovenia near the Austrian border. While the hotel was not great, the surrounding area was beautiful. There is a park outside the hotel, which I am still not 100% on the official name of, but if you google Radenci Park, it comes up. The park seems to be the old town center with the old spa hotels located in the park. In the summer, there are restaurants in the park and a waterpark. Winter had just left Slovenia, and the flowers and trees in the park knew it!

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

I have really come to love driving in a foreign country. I see small towns and get a feel for how the locals drive. Unfortunately, on this trip, I didn’t have a data connection so I couldn’t take any side trips. Each adorable town had at least one tall church steeple that I could see from the highway that made me want to exit every few minutes. Many of these towns were on the tops of hills and mountains. Slovenia was dotted with small farms and cows throughout. Next time I go to Slovenia, I will be taking a road trip with GPS!

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

After spending two days in Radenci at the conference and walking most of the small town, I started my drive back across the country towards Ljubljana, the country’s capital to make my way to Lake Bled. Lake Bled is the country’s most well-known sightseeing spot and is highly photogenic as is the surrounding countryside. The lake itself is a stunning shade of green turquoise with a bright green forest surrounding it. The day I was there it was sunny with a slight breeze, and it was perfect.

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

There is an island in the lake that houses a church, The Church of the Assumption of Mary. Due to several earthquakes, it has been rebuilt several times, and the current church was built in the 17th century. There is also a bell tower on the island that you can climb to the top of to see the inner workings of the bell and to get a higher view of the surrounding area. First, though, you have to get out there! To get to Bled Island, you can either row yourself out in a rented rowboat or take a traditional plenta rowboat to the island. The plenta is a small shallow boat that is rowed by one person and could hold about 20 people. The plenta oarsman is a coveted position in Bled and is handed down in generations in families. The boat seemed a bit unstable as I got in, but once we were under weigh it was more stable. The ride over took about 15 minutes and the boats wait for you for 50 minutes, which is plenty of time to see everything on the island and have coffee at the shop. Of course, you have to climb 99 steps to get to the church, but it is worth every stair.

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

The church is very small and unfortunately, was undergoing some restoration work when I was there, so I could not see the frescos that it is known for. However, I did ring the wishing bell! Legend has it that if you ring the bell three times, you will receive your wish. The sound was so beautiful; I wanted to keep ringing it. It was even better when I went outside and heard others ring it. Right outside the church is the bell tower, in which you will have to climb another set of stairs to reach the top. After all, that stair climbing you can have a rest in the coffee shop or wander around the island to take photos of the surrounding Julian Alps.

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

A short drive around the lake takes you to Bled Castle, which was built in 1011! The castle now showcases the history of Slovenia in the museum, print works, forge, chapel and a restaurant. There is a replica of a Gutenberg printing press and a copy of the first book ever printed in Slovenian. The location of the castle on a steep cliff gives you excellent views of the lake and valley. The museum is simple but gives you a thorough understanding of the history of Slovenia. The highlights for me were a visit to the chapel and the restaurant. I don’t think I have ever seen a chapel with painted frescos in this salmon hue. The walls were also painted in this color. The restaurant also offered an outstanding view of the lake from its full glass window in the dining room. I know Slovenia has excellent wine, so I ordered a Slovenian wine and stuffed chicken in a king prawn sauce that was melt in your mouth good. All of it was very simple but had great flavor. I owe this to the fact that it was all probably grown within 50 miles or less of Bled.

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Sadly, I didn’t have time for much else at this point and decided to drive to my hotel for the night. Since my flight was early the next morning, I opted to stay close to the airport instead of in Ljubljana. While the evening was quiet, the scenery was worth it. The tiny village that the hotel was located in was basically a large farm. The house across the street had a barn with cows in it that I could hear. The view from my room was of the breathtaking Julian Alps and even had a small balcony. I spent the evening walking through the town to admire the views and enjoying the fresh air.

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Dropped into a Fairy Tale in Slovenia

Getting there: Flights to Slovenia will fly into the Ljubljana airport, which is outside the city by about 25 miles. If you want to go to Lake Bled, there is a shuttle from the airport that can also take you into Ljubljana. If you want to go to the eastern side of the country, you can take a train, but I recommend renting a car as the timings are your own and you can see more.

On this short trip of four days, I took over 200 photos. I will post more of them on my Instagram account. Please go have a look for more Slovenia pictures that I have already started to share! 

This park was located right outside my hotel in Radenci, Slovenia. Such a quiet beautiful place! #slovenia

A photo posted by Tiffany (@agirlandherpassport) on

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Europe, Italy, Travel

Stunning Verona

August 10, 2015

Stunning VeronaUsually when I am traveling, I do some advance planning of what I am going to see in a city, but I didn’t do this for Verona. Verona was just going to be a place to sleep on the way to a winery and then on to Venice. My lack of planning was partly because I thought I would get in really late after visiting Cortona and driving. What I didn’t account for was the heat making sightseeing miserable in Cortona and the fact that the sun doesn’t go down early in Italy during the summer.

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Fortunately for me, I arrived when the sun was still up, but not intense enough to make walking unbearable. What I discovered was a beautiful city with stunning architecture. I was really glad that I hadn’t done any research or seen any pictures. I got to see Verona with fresh eyes and perspective. I could have walked around all day looking at it. Verona struck me as being the architecture of Rome with the colors of Venice, although some buildings were clearly more in the style of Venice. Since I arrived so late, most of the sites were closed, so I will share with you my photos of the Verona Area, the Juliet balcony and some other architectural favorites.

Stunning VeronaStunning Verona
Stunning VeronaStunning VeronaStunning Verona
Stunning VeronaArriving late, I asked the hotel for a restaurant. I usually don’t do this, as they usually send you to a place they are getting a kickback. However, in this case, I didn’t care! The food was amazing. I had a delicate piece of sea bass in a citrus sauce and a side of grilled eggplant. So if you want to give it a shot, it is Ristorante Greppia. It is down a small alleyway off the main shopping street. Not only was the food good, but the service was also great. I opted to sit outside even in the heat as I like watching people. There was air conditioning inside and from the website the vaulted ceilings are really something wonderful. Now I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Verona!

Have you been to Verona? Do you have any recommendations?

Europe, Hotel/Accommodation, Prep, Travel

European Summer Travel Tips

June 17, 2015

TEXTBetween last summer and this summer, I have traveled to Europe in the summer twice. Each time I go, I discover something I wish I had known before. I am going to share with you some tips that I think will help you enjoy your experience a bit more.

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1. Bring earplugs – You may be asking, what?! Many hotels and most apartments in Europe do not have air conditioning. This means sleeping with the windows open for air circulation and cooling. It also means hearing everything that goes on outside! Usually I am fine once I am asleep, but if it is noisy outside while I am trying to fall asleep it won’t happen.

2. Layering clothes – Currently, I am sitting in Paris where the temperature is about 60° F. Last week the high during the day was around 82° and very humid. Bring clothes to layer. Yesterday is was overcast the whole day and I was chilly at some points. I usually bring cardigans and scarfs to help layer. This way I can remove them easily.

3. Changes of shoes – This may also seem like a given to you, but I see tourist walking around in the same shoes day after day. If your feet start to hurt, you may need a different pair of shoes. This is especially true if you have developed blisters. Your feet will appreciate the change and hopefully get some relief.

4. Lightweight suitcase – Between hauling your suitcase on public transportation and climbing the stairs in hotels or apartments, you need to have lightweight suitcase. I don’t mean that you have to pack light, but that your suitcase should weigh very little empty. I have a 25″ lightweight suitcase that weighs less than 7 lbs empty. I definitely noticed a difference this year when I went to lift it on and off the Paris Metro. My apartment also does not have an elevator and every ounce made a difference. Some smaller hotels may also not have elevators or you may have to go up one flight of stairs to get to it, as was the case in my hotel in Istanbul.

5. Patience Summer is the busiest time to travel in Europe, so you need patience. Probably because kids are out of school. Yesterday the line at the Louvre was an hour wait! You can get around lines in some places, but not always. Make sure you have a cool drink and something to entertain yourself if you are stuck in a line. Also, realize that many tourist sites will be crowded. Go early in the morning or right at opening time when crowds might be less.

What are your tips for traveling to Europe in the Summer?