Sitting Pretty – Signhaghi, Georgia

Sitting pretty high on a hill in the Kakheti region Sighnaghi, one of Georgia’s smallest towns, is also one of its most impressive. Jammed into the back of a Lada that labours up the road the views out to the High Caucasus Mountains is simply breathtaking. Asking around for the Abramachi Guesthouse we find the grinning toothless lady that runs the place as she sweeps away her many chickens on her way to greet us.

Sunset, Signagi
Sunset over Sighnaghi

Street sign
Street sign

Georgian Snickers, nuts covered in a fruit roll up type thing
Georgian ‘Snickers’ or Churchkhela…nuts covered in a chewy fruit coating that looks a bit like…

The room is small though the views are massive as breakfast is served outside on the patio overlooking the valley below.  With no time to waste we beat a path through the steep cobbled streets and straight to a restaurant for our Georgian favourite, khinkali. After the previous night’s drinking session with the owners of the guesthouse in Telavi we go for 20 of the tasty suckers.

Khinkali
Mmmm, khinkali

Is there anything better that khinkali?

There certainly is not my friends and those that disagree mustn’t have tried it on a hangover yet. Mopping up the plate and leaving the tops (apparently only the poor eat these, the rest use them to county how manly they are) it’s a little milling around town before heading back to the room that’s freezing.

A tribute to Georgia's wine making history
A tribute to Kakheti’s famous wine

The killer views from the breakfast table, despite being in the mountain cold, have to be one of the best ways to begin a day in the glorious country of Georgia. Oh and the cognac on the table offers relief from the chill. With fried pig fat served up for us at 8am in the morning the easy walk out to the Bodbe Monastery is a welcomed excuse not to finish our meal and within the hour we are at the complex where Georgia’s most revered female Saint Nino is buried.

Bodbe Monastery
Bodbe Monastery

St. Nino's Grave
St. Nino’s Tomb

The complex is constantly undergoing expansion and on this occasion the church was closed along with the construction of a new cathedral.  Nestled within towering Cypress trees they’ve built a terrace for wine (of course) that also looks out across the stunning Alazani Valley. Down a load of slippery iced up stairs brings you to the pilgrimage site of Saint Nino’s spring, said to have healing properties though Sarah’s little (previously broken) toe still ached when we arrived back to town.

Saint Nino's Spring
St. Nino’s Spring

No visit to Sighnaghi would be complete without sampling some of the Khakheti’s wines (yes we know we already did this in Telavi but this is a different part of Kakheti). In town you’ll find the cellar door and restaurant for the popular Pheasant Tears. The interior is furnished with many traditional wares, old farming equipment, antique carpets and even an old wine stomping barrel.  The manager sits us down to three wines and a sample of their chacha, the Georgian version of vodka.

Beautiful Pheasant's Tears winery
The beautiful interior of Pheasant’s Tears winery

With khinkali being the best value for money it’s again to the Nikala Restaurant (Lolashvili 9) for lunch to try the mushroom variety this time and again they don’t disappoint. It’s an obvious favourite of locals and Tbilisi weekenders alike as the tables are constantly filled and the fresh food pours from the kitchen.

 Georgian restaurant
Nikala Restaurant

For a perspective on the size of Sighnaghi’s fortifications head to the ‘Tourist Track’ which takes you up and along part of the wall. It’s short and sweet and takes only a half an hour. If you’re lucky like us you’ll even stumble across some free chacha shots left by fellow visitors (don’t be stupid, of course we didn’t drink them…or did we?).

Old tower and church
Old tower and church

Free chacha?
Free chacha shots left on the fortress walls of the Tourist Track

Pleased with the salad and khilkali from lunch we head back to Nikala’s deciding to branch out on the menu. Going for a signature Georgian dish of mushrooms and local cheese on a clay pan along with a chicken dish  the food arrives and we are quite sure that Matt has (again) cocked it up and ordered a huge plate of chicken livers. So Matt being Matt he challenges Sarah to a bet that if she loses she has to eat the whole dish. Well she lost, Matt orders himself a chicken shaslik and Sarah orders some bread to ‘help’ the livers go down. She gave it a fair nudge for a person that wouldn’t in a million years order the dish in the first place!

Nikala Restaurant

It’s probably a good time to note this all happened on Valentine’s Day in Georgia’s apparent ‘City of Love’. Romantic, right??

The liver challenge
The Valentines Day liver challenge

Two nights up here are more than enough to explore Sighnaghi and leaving town is a breeze as there’s regular marshutkas that heads straight to Tbilisi from the main square behind the police station.

Also for more great pics of Georgia check out our Flickr page.  Thanks for reading.



 

Tips for Signaghi

  1. To get to Sighnaghi from Telavi you need to catch a marshutka to Tsnori then take a taxi up to Sighnaghi Bargain hard, we got a ride in a Lada for 6GEL. There are direct marshutka’s but they’re few and far between.
  2. The Tourist Information on the main square are once again brilliant. They’ve provide maps an info for not just Sighnagi or Kakheti region but all of Georgia.
  3. We stayed at Abramichi Guesthouse as we got a great winter deal on Booking.com. While the room was a little cold the outdoor breakfast with mountain views was a nice way to start the day and the welcome was very warm.

 

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