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2o¡8

IMG_1428Happy 2018! Now all the celebrations are almost over (there is an “Old New Year” on the 13th of January for the Russians, too) and I am currently on vacation in Lech, Austrian Alps. So, I have some time to put a tick for the first post of this year. Some might have noticed that I was trying to catch up with my missing posts while traveling in the train and wrote about my trips to Azerbaijan and Georgia.

A new year on the calendar doesn’t mean any gradual changes for me. I make no resolutions and expect no miracles, bottomless inspiration and motivation or extreme weight loss, definitely mot after the holidays I am having this year! This is just a nice-memories-post of how I spent the holidays this year. I decided to stay in Vienna for the first time and didn’t really have any idea what to expect. Traditionally, we started giving presents and sharing food at our pre-Christmas dinner with the girls. which we host few days before Christmas. Last year it was at my place, this time Isabella invited us and our Olivier-bowls over.

For Christmas, me and Dani went to his family. We all stayed in an amazing house in the woods of the Austrian-Slovenian Alps, isolated from any means of civilization. We could see the whole milky way from our balcony! It was just awesome. For me it was always the first time I was staying with somebody’s closest family since my Christmas in the USA. I felt as a kid when we all searched for our presents under the tree and passed plates full of home-made food across a huge dinner table during 3 days. Many thanks to the Schobers! ❤

For New Year’s Eve, we came back to Vienna. I didn’t make any huge plans since I knew that it is not as much of a big deal here as it is in Russia. We started with proper daytime barhopping across our favorite bars, meeting acquaintances, collecting champagne glasses and delicious snacks followed by hugs and empty bills. Motto am Fluss held a nice brunch (which I had smartly reserved in October) and, well, Roberto’s and Kleinod are my daily New Year’s Eve, and judging by the crowd outside, I am not alone there. I was sure that bars would be the most fun. They were indeed awesome, but I was surprised later at night, too. I was spending several New Years in recent years in hotels so I was used to people going out on the streets after midnight – it’s quite natural to do when you are not at your own home with your family and friends. But I was sure such a scene could be seen only on resorts and never expected such celebration scale outside in Vienna! Hundreds of people, concerts and drinks on every corner, so loud and so fun! I am super thankful that my closest Austrian friend Anna dragged us outside together with her family to join the city celebrations before going to our final destination – Dani’s newborn baby, Clandestino bar @Mercado. I knew I wanted to kiss him for the midnight, but staying there partying until sunrise was a pleasant bonus. The staff knows how to do it right, so a proper party was guaranteed in advance. Needless to say that I left Horst club wearing my long evening gown and completely unbothered jumped into a morning tram to go home.

First three days of this year I got up from the couch maximum 10 times I think. Cuddling with boyfriend, eating non-stop and drinking beer – what else to start a perfect year? Those three lazy days were just as good emotionally as all the celebrations!

I had to leave my comfy couch once to pack suitcases and head off to Lech. So seldom I got to spend Christmas with the family, and this year I had two! I was with my family for the Orthodox Christmas, which never happens because of my studies usually starting earlier. This year we got all together with my parents, beloved cousin and her husband to have wonderful joyful time in the mountains. I love our tradition which is turning 15 years this season for me and the parents, but I am also happy that we could go not as early as we always do and I got to spend Christian Christmas with Dani’s family and New Year celebrations (there were a few) with my friends who all also stayed in Vienna this year. It’s a magic!


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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!