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Georgia

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetThrowback to hot sunny Georgia!

We made a trip with my best friend in September, which was my heaven since I love the heat, but a hell for pale Polina. So, if you choose to go during the hot season, be ready for it to be very hot, at least in Tbilisi.

I will spread this post in three parts, starting with the capital.

1. Tbilisi Processed with VSCO with m3 presetWant to mention from the very beginning, it will be more about looking at the pics than about my poor narrative, since it’s been a while and I just have a mixture of very bright, tasty and windy memories on my mind.

The city is a large mirror of the places that were really nice during the Soviet Union times. It still looks very Soviet, with the way people are dressed, “plombir” ice cream cones, plastic tables outside, flea markets with very strange things. I can’t really call Tbilisi beautiful. It’s different, it has something hidden beyond all those huge concrete walls. But it’s still very dusty, and when the weather is windy those dust storms actually hurt the skin. White shoes which I of course had on are no option either. And just in general, there is that slight feeling of still being in the Soviet 80s everywhere. But everything is quite cheap, even compared to rubles, not even mentioning EUR/USD. The time we went to a super expensive restaurant on top of Biltmore Hotel and had a proper dinner with wine, it was a price of a regular simple meal I am used to – that was, of course, an awesome surprise. Especially considering how delicious the food is! I have been a big admirer of Georgian cuisine since years, but no fancy Georgian restaurant compares to grandma’s khinkali freshly made in the middle of Caucus mountains away from civilization.

Tbilisi opened up some awesome places for us, too. But I had to ask my Georgian friends for recommendations, there is not much you can find on the web. So, sharing the knowledge:

  • Biltmore Hotel rooftop restaurant: for the view. The food is typical European which you can eat anywhere, pasta is far not as good as the original. Some local meats were good, though, as well as the wine list. But the view!!! It’s very empty, I guess it’s just too expensive compared to everything else in the region. The first date there could be a bit awkward in that silence with irrationally high number of staff watching you. But the view!
  • Prospero’s Books: a very cute hidden garden in the city center. Not much of food choice and self service, but it’s very cozy and quiet.
  • Erekle II street in the Old town has a lot of cafes with local food as well as international, nice breakfast choices, cocktails, life music, wine tasting.
  • Linville, not far away from the pedestrian area mentioned above and also close to few cool boutiques with Georgian designer items, is also very hidden but offers super delicious food! The best khachapuri I had there! And you feel like you are sitting in your grandma’s living room, so authentic is the design.
  • Davit Aghmashenebeli street is very nice in the evening. Lights, music, dressed up people. It’s quite touristy and a bit overpriced, there were also tricky situations when we were told a restaurant doesn’t have a menu or that there are some homemade specialities offered tonight, but you can’t know all prices in advance. Nothing ever ended with a disaster and a check impossible to pay, but still be careful and don’t let charming hospitality of the Georgian people trick you, they are doing business, at the end of the day.
  • Funicular in the old town brings one to the top with a picturesque view, and a cafe there had awesome bakery! Try the donuts and black coffee 😉
  • Carpe diem and Lolita were also very nice cafes. We didn’t hit Moulin and Amodi, they were a bit tricky to find and we gave up, but I heard they are worth searching for! And we got more rooftops and hotel lounges recommendations: Radisson, Ghumeli inside Iota hotel, Rooms hotel, 142 steps cafe for another view. They love the views there! I have noticed that when the city is not necessarily beautiful, it always has a lot of rooftops accessible. Makes sense to me! Especially when it is surrounded by beautiful landscapes.

2. Fabrika Processed with VSCO with m3 presetThis place is so awesome, that it deserves its own chapter. When Polina told me that we are going to Tbilisi, my reaction immediately was that we MUST book our stay in Fabrika. I had heard about the place before from pretty much everyone who had been to Tbilisi. “Fabrika” stands for “factory” in Russian, because this is indeed an old factory that was rebuilt in hotel, creative area with shops, popups, cafes and bars. At night it turns into a party place which hosts many DJs and events like Boiler Room. Just everything about it is cool: expats and the coolest local people, the music, we were brought to an after party from there by some guys we started a conversation with when I was staring at their sandwich and they gave me a bite. And the sandwiches! Try the wine steak one! I can’t describe the atmosphere very well there since I am just bad at writing, bit it’s somewhat a mixture of meeting your friends at your secret place to sit on the corner couch and talk about things nobody besides you understands and coming to a fancy bar dressed up to take a whole bottle of wine there, for it to be followed by another bottle. The working spaces there seemed very cool, too. I wish we had something like that there, I’d host all ACUNS meetings, birthdays, first dates and drinking nights there!

In general, I liked the city; any city which has awesome food can’t be a disappointment to me. But I’d definitely advise to travel around the country and go to the mountains!

3. KazbegiIMG_7099When deciding how to get to the mountains, we went old-school and booked a bus-trip. You can drive there, too, but to get to the last destinations there is a jeep needed anyways, a proper hardcore jeep and such driving skills that made me fasten my seatbelt, but when the driver said I didn’t need to, I explained that otherwise I am gonna fall out of the window. A bus trip from Tbilisi shall be something around 50-60 lari with jeeps included, be careful when booking. They stop at many beautiful destinations that a regular driver might not know and pass by, so it’s actually one of few times when I don’t mind taking a guided tour. But with headphones on, not to listen to the guide and to properly read it all up myself, of course. I was also a bit surprised by how bad people speak Russian there. After Azerbaijan I was sure more people would address me in Russian, but the young generation speaks English only, with very few exceptions.

The mountains are just gorgeous. I have been to the Alps so many times that it’s hard to impress me, but seeing such nature in summer is also very impressive. Especially the mountain rivers and lakes took my breath away.

As Polina said, our life is currently a “wine tasting with 10 years experience”. Georgia WAs definitely a perfect destination for us!


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UPD: Easter break highlights

92dvk6rqix8Happy Spring Break everyone!

I am not an Easter fan at all, the eggs-bird nests-and-bunnys market actually annoy me that much that last 3 years I carefully make sure I don’t pass by a single one of those. But spring break is something else for me because it’s traveling time, dislocating on to summer terraces time, and I am also a lucky one to always have my Birthday during these holidays.

This spring is already rich with events. A lot of new places either opened up or changed the concept, so every week we have something new to look forward to. Good news for those who are in Vienna – Tel Aviv Beach is already open and Motto am Fluss terrace is operating at its full capacity – probably my favorite places to sit outside in this town. Can’t wait for Pratersauna summer space to open up next!

A lot of people I know have their Birthdays at the end of March – April. Summertime must have some real love magic bringing so many kids being born these months! My whole April is usually just going to a Birthday party on almost daily bases. Three of those happened just last week only in Vienna, I congratulate at least 5 people who are away every day, and there are many more to go.

Btw, some lifehacks: if you need an amazing cake in Vienna that will be both delicious in exactly the way you want it and a masterpiece appearance wise – order one from eatandbake! I tried 4 of Mariya’s creations already and they are something I had never even dreamt of before! And if you need pretty neat and stylish bouquets – Vie de Flamme will provide you with the freshest and most beautiful flowers.

Going on with a minute for unsponsored marketing – new bars are in town! Josef just opened up recently and krypt is opening tomorrow. I have already been to both, too early to say anything, but they definitely look like very high potentials. Another art event, the opening of Julian Epok’s exhibition by Neni, took place last Saturday. It was very pink.

I am looking forward to a lot of different openings and events in Vienna which always brighten up spring. But honestly even more excited I am for leaving Vienna this Friday for my next trip, hehe. This year is the first time when I am not traveling far away for the whole Easter break because I am currently working on my thesis (and that’s exactly why I am writing this post now instead of doing my abstract) and can only leave for several days going within Europe. But I am still very very glad! It’s always nice to go somewhere warm, and, on top of that, it’s gonna be the two new countries for me where I had never been before. This will get me extremely close to completely scratching off whole Europe on my map, I will literally have couple more places to go to. Uiii!

Going back to my thesis now, have to finish last preparations for the trip tonight as well. Happy Easter, bunnies!


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Valencia; photopost

IMG_0792I just got back from my spontaneous short midseason holiday in Span and have to share this craziness ASAP!

This time I cheated on my one and only love, Barcelona, and went to Valencia. My first time in “real Spain”, i.e. outside Catalunya. I loved Valencia so much; it’s so beautiful and neat, and its narrow streets and old balconies gives it some kind of that spirit I always scent  in Italian villages. But what made it really special was that I witnessed the famous Fallas (“Falles” in Valencian) festival, the business card of the city.

The Falles (Valencian: Falles, sing. Falla; Spanish: Fallas) is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph in the city of Valencia, Spain. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments burnt during the celebration. A number of towns in the Valencian Community have similar celebrations inspired by the original Falles de València celebration. The Falles festival was added to UNESCO‘s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list on 30 November 2016.

Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous dish, paella, a specialty of the region. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. A casal faller is also known as a comissió fallera.

  – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falles

I hope the short description explains somehow what all those gigantic figures represent, and they are indeed massive! I’d say you can easily see several 30m tall fallas around you at the same time if you stand at some major intersection. It’s incredible, one feels like Alice in Wonderland once she became very small.

Any festival means enormous crowds, loud nights and craziness all around, but if it’s a festival in Spain – multiply all by 10! So, if you are not a fan of pure madness, you better stay away from Valencia during Fallas. But I personally found it to be an absolute must-see-once-in-a-lifetime.

When in Spain, it’s of course never about just one event. The views, the see, the food, the architecture – we tried to get as much as possible of everything, which is, of course, tricky during such major event, when the cabs can’t even enter most of the city parts. But we did a great job I think!

Traditionally starting with a photo stream from the spot. The story behind my trip will follow 😉IMG_0787

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it’s all about jamón

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typical for any part of Spain tapas-places got my heart many years ago

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…so did churros

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I’d name the Central Market to be the main sightseeing zone

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the streetart is just as eye-catching as the giant prawns

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the Cathedral is famous for keeping what’s believed to be the authentic Holy GrailIMG_0945IMG_0956IMG_0962

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completely different in all senses part of the city that I loved even more than beautiful historic center – museums and the aquarium compose a futuristic sight that you would never expect to discover in such an old traditional cityIMG_0977IMG_0979IMG_0982IMG_0988IMG_0996IMG_1018IMG_1020IMG_1030IMG_1031IMG_1049IMG_1056

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flowers and fireworks; everywhere, non-stop – so beautiful, Disneyland is a kindergarten compared to Valencia during Fallas!


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Berlin

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetWhat a place is this Berlin! If I had to describe it now to someone who had never been there – I would be in trouble.

The first thing that I observed as we were driving to our hotel was Togliatti (my hometown) all around. I knew that there would be a lot of Soviet architecture, but didn’t expect THAT much similarity. I swear I could even name the streets those would be if we were in Togliatti! We drove through the whole eastern part of the city to reach the hotel and I never lost the feeling that I was just back to Russia. Maybe only smooth and clean roads would make a difference, but once some crazy girl jumped out in front of the car and we almost hit her – that absolutely felt like home. Eastern Berlin really is something most of my European friends have probably never seen in their lives.

First night we just walked in the direction of Berliner Fernsehturm – another quite weird thing to be in the very city centre. It was in general hard for me to evaluate where the city center begins and ends at all. But when we found ourselves in the street that after 3 days became my favorite in the city – Rosenthaler Strasse – no more Soviet backyards where it’s impossible to park mattered. I think we spent more time in that area than I ever spend in Vienna center. It’s simply the quintessence of the best street food and the most lovely boutiques, all in one place! We had our first Berlin dinner @Revolver Burger (I was sure the name was Kreuzer Burger, no idea where that came from, but just in case I will mention both), and it was just SO good. Usually when we travel we look for some delicious exotic food places in advance, but Berlin’s exotics for me personally was the street food. SO good.

What do you do after some intro sightseeing and the best burger in town? A fancy bar, of course! From the barkeepers I know I had heard so much about “bar culture” in Berlin, so we were extremely excited. That night we went to Amano that I had already heard a lot about. It was exactly what I expected: chilled atmosphere, very good cocktails, nice music. I think it can be really a lot of fun if you know people there, like out Viennese bars are so precious for us mainly because of that.

The next morning we were gonna start with sightseeing, but that area around Rosenthaler Platz had attracted us so much the night before so that we went back there to grab brunch first. Which of course ended up with shopping. Berlin has EVERYTHING, from UrbanOutfitters and AllSaints to the cutest handmade fashion in the windows next to the most desired mass market. When I become rich – I will go to Hong Kong first, and then to Berlin simply for the jewelry to begin with.

We did manage to do the sightseeing after. I won’t focus much on it, though, because that’s the stuff you all can find in any tour guide. I can just say that Berlin is extremely interesting for any kind of tourist. It’s not only its disturbing and controversial history but also some kind of gloomy and even freaky spirit that is maintained there nowadays. I wish I had weeks more to visit museums there (which I only do in Florence and Cairo; not my type of vacation) and explore the most significant city sights.

Another place (other than “go try all the burgers you can find!”) I definitely recommend in Berlin and which you can’t just come across by accident is Klunkerkranich. It’s something between a terrace open area with DJs all days long and hipsters laying on the couches with some punch and a typical afterhour place for hardcore party people, if you know what I mean. Quite authentic, though. I felt like that only at some people’s apartments, but never in a public area. Loved it.

A very important part of Berlin culture is graffiti. I have never seen anything like that, even in the US. It’s more than just arts, it’s history looking at you from the wall. There are a lot of remarkable places, but definitely go see Teufelsberg Spy tower, East Side Gallery and the walls of Niederbarnimstrasse.

The neighborhood around last location is worth walking through, too! I have hardly seen so many attractive food places one after another, they just don’t end no matter how many corners you turn around! Was very hard to chose a place to eat, we changed our mind like ten times, eventually stopped at Homemade, and the food was just great! We had a problem with their service, but my shitface got us extra lemonades and any cake from their delicious selection for free, so that was no problem. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetFor three days we were doing just sightseeing and foodtasting during the daytime…

…and during the nighttime we kept exploring the bars. Two highlights I must name would be bar Tausend and Buck and Breck. Both are similar in being very hidden and hard to get in, in both you ain’t allowed to take pics. I like that kind of concept a lot. But the places themselves are very different.

First we tried Buck and Breck. We went early to be sure to get in, because the bar has only 16 spots and they hardly let more than that in. Yes, a bit cocky, be ready for the doorman (who comes out only after you ring the bell on the wall – the door itself looks like just a closed shop at night) to check on you. Drinks are pure alcohol, a lot of spirits; barkeepers consider themselves to be presenting arts there for you. And you gotta respect the performance – talk quietly, sit straight, don’t move chairs and ashtrays, don’t take out your phone. You are are watching the beauty of barculture from the front row. Simply enjoy! And be aware that strong drinks mean it there.

Buck and Brecks inspired us to search for another Gatsby style exclusive and elegant place rather than going for typical for Berlin Berghain style of party (well, we saw Berghain at 3 p.m. the next day – nothing changes there as day and night switch). That’s how we found ourselves on the way to Tausend. I simply knew about it from somebody who had worked there. It is so hidden under an iron door of abandoned storehouse under an old railway bridge that you never just pass by. People who go there know where they are going. There is just a small window in the iron door. You wait. They even open it only if they consider you as their potential guest – if not, they won’t even bother. But even if the door is opened for you – there will be a second round if getting in, too. Speak German everywhere in Berlin while entering any worthy place, only German! But be ready for the Tausend doorbouncers’ German to be very hard to keep up and joke around with, at least for those who don’t have German as mother tongue.

The bar is magic. I can even claim that is the best bar I have ever been to. You feel more special and exclusive than anywhere. But it’s not the doorpolicy, secrecy or whatsoever, no. You are just feeling yourself in some movie about the 30’s mafia. I know it is very regular in Tausend to turn around and see some celebrity. And they don’t make any big deal out of it, at all. They can just not let a celebrity in. Because at Tausend it doesn’t matter who you are. If you are there – just have fun and enjoy life. They also had the best playlist I have ever heard at the bar. There are performances there, too.

I know bars, I have my bars where I feel like at home any time, where I can just go talk to a barkeeper whenever I want to talk.  And with my tradition to be friends with bars and never betray them I honestly would never expect myself to feel that comfortable at the bar where I had never been before. And I was! On top of that, everything, from shelves to ice cubes, is such good taste there. And the Eye got our hearts. That night out was beautiful. Especially when I was laughing like crazy lisping while trying to get to know some policemen.

Ok, my idea to keep it short didn’t work out. I can talk about Berlin for ages now with anybody who had been there. Finally getting to the conclusion, our last destination as we were driving out of the city: Teufelsberg Spy Tower. First of all, read the history of the hill itself, it’s quite weird. So is the place. Very creepy and cool. Now I know the real meaning of word “underground”. Indeed it is. Not only it’s open for visitors now (in restricted hours), but we also met a guy there who invited us to the party – yes, they have raves there. Just imagine one of those as you look at the place (and remember, I am posting pretty pictures of it, in reality it’s much more freaky). Must be one hell of a rave.

Berlin, you are amazing! Thank you! Will be back. Kisses.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset