Notes from the field: Georgia & Armenia

A&K’s Rad Rusin is just back from this charming part of the world and here’s what stood out for her.
December 2017

It is not widely known that Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity, nor that Georgia is one of the oldest wine producing nations on Earth, and very few would be aware that Armenian brandy was a favourite of Winston Churchill. These are three compelling reasons to visit the region but there’s much, much more. Thousands of years of history and breathtaking mountain scenery awaits as well as extraordinary religious architecture, hearty, fresh food and a truly warm welcome. A&K’s Rad Rusin is just back from this charming part of the world and here’s what stood out for her.

Monastery with a view
One of the most spectacularly situated churches, the 14th century Gergeti Holy Trinity perches high on a hill overlooking the town of Kazbegi. Get there via a bumpy road from the valley floor in a 4WD or, for the more energetic, on foot. It’s a compact place of worship but has a fascinating history and the views are unbeatable.   

Georgian home cooking
For authentic Georgian cuisine, try Barbarestan in Tbilisi. Small, delightfully family-run and housed in an old butcher shop, the menu is designed around dishes from a famous 100-year-old cook book written by Princess Barbare Jorjadze, Georgia’s first feminist and 19th century chef. Book a table in the 19th century barrel-vaulted cellar and be sure to order the kubdari, Georgia’s flavoursome beef-andpork filled bread loaf, seasoned with fresh white onions and Svaneti salt. Wash it down with a glass of Georgian tavkveri.  

Pagan surprise
One of Armenia’s most unexpected highlights is the dramatically situated Garni Temple, an extraordinary Pagan structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia built around 77 A.D. as a summer residence for the then empress. It is said that Emperor Nero contributed funds to its construction and it is the only GrecoRoman colonnaded building in the country.

Yerevan Vernissage
For locally produced handicrafts, there’s nowhere better in Yerevan than the Vernissage flea market which is a short walk from the Armenia Marriott. You’ll find everything from carved wood and art works to traditional carpets and old coin collections, books, jewellery and musical instruments. Best visited on the weekend when more stalls are open.

For the cellar
I couldn’t leave the region without a few bottles of Georgian wine. Traditionally made in the qvevri clay pots which are buried underground, the wines develop rustic, earthy flavours. One of my favourites was the 2015 Pheasant’s Tears Chinuri, a crisp white that goes perfectly with seafood. Cheers!  

Our suggested journey: ‘Journey to the Caucasus’ Hosted Journey 13 Days | Priced from $8,995 per person twin share Single supplement $2,995 Tour dates: 10 - 22 May 2018; 20 September - 2 October 2018.