Journey to the land of “Mimino” and Prince Chavchavadze - Mediamax.am

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Journey to the land of “Mimino” and Prince Chavchavadze


Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Mediamax

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

From right to left: Yulia Petrossian-Boyle, President of Georgia Salome Zourabishvili and Georgy Ramishvili
From right to left: Yulia Petrossian-Boyle, President of Georgia Salome Zourabishvili and Georgy Ramishvili

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Photo: Silk Hospitality


Often states, companies, partner organizations invite journalists for press tours. Many years have passed since my last press tour, and, to speak frankly, I was not going to participate in them anymore. But after receiving an invitation from the Radisson network and its partner in Georgia, Silk Hospitality, which is part of the Silk Road Group, something told me that it was worth going. What attracted the most was that apart from Tbilisi, the program included a visit to Tsinandali, where the Tsinandali Estate operates in the Chavchavadze family estate, which includes the house museum of Alexander Chavchavadze, vineyards, a winery, the Tsinandali Estate, A Radisson Collection Hotel and the recently opened the Park Hotel.

 

Radisson Blu Iveria

 

At the Radisson Blu Iveria, located at the very beginning of Rustaveli Avenue, I stayed 10 years ago, just for a night. It was a very busy business trip, so I really did not see anything in the hotel apart from my room. But I remembered well the long unusual sofa along the large panoramic windows, lying on which you could see Tbilisi.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

This time we stayed in a room on the 14th floor with amazing views opening from our window: the whole of Tbilisi was in full view and it was even possible to look for familiar places.

Photo: Mediamax

An even more incredible view opened from the last two floors of the hotel, where Anne Simonin Spa is located.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

The next morning, the female part of our group combined enjoying a bird’s-eye view of Tbilisi with no less pleasant procedures.

Photo: Mediamax

“Late lunch” was waiting for us in the hotel’s Italian restaurant Filini and was predominantly Italian in content, but Georgian in the number of hot dishes. There were four of them! Amazing risotto with mushrooms, Florentine steak, mussels and well-known Georgian chicken. Truly a cornucopia for people who departed from Yerevan early in the morning and were tired from the road!

 

From “Andropov’s Ears” to Republic

 

In 1983, ahead of the arrival of the Secretary General of the USSR Communist Party, architectural ensemble “Spatial Arcade of the Tribune of the Celebration Square” was built in the Republic Square in Tbilisi – opposite the Iveria Hotel. However, everyone called it much shorter and wittier -“Andropov’s Ears.”

 

In 2005, the complex was demolished, and a few years ago, on the site of the “ears”, the Silk Road Group built a four-storey multifunctional building – Republic.

 

The Republic 24 restaurant has been located on the ground floor, the Republic Event Hall for events and concerts for 800 guests has been located on the second and third floors, and the Republic restaurant with a huge veranda has been located on the fourth floor.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

This decorative panel was created especially for the Republic by Georgian artist and designer Tamara Kvesitadze, the author of the “Nino and Ali” statue in Batumi. We will see her work again at Tsinandali Estate.

Photo: Mediamax

Dinner, of course, was not inferior to lunch in abundance. Salmon and chicken in a creamy sauce were followed by khinkali and Imeretian khachapuri which “arrived” from Republic 24 - a 24-hour restaurant of Georgian cuisine. So if suddenly late at night or early in the morning in Tbilisi you would like to eat khinkali or Adjarian khachapuri, you know where to go.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Night club, breakfast and cafe “Iveria”

 

After dinner, we cross the street and, not far from the entrance to the Radisson hotel, we go down to the former underground passage, where Silk Hospitality’s Noble Savage nightclub – one of the most fashionable places in Tbilisi – is located.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

It is a very beautiful and mysterious place. The idea comes that something similar could have been established in Yerevan, in the underground passage near St Sarkis church that has been empty for many years.

Photo: Mediamax

The club begins to fill up closer to midnight, and everyone disperses early in the morning. I think that before they go home, many of them drop by Republic 24 for a bite.

Photo: Mediamax

What I love about traveling is breakfast in hotels. With little to no travel in the past three years, the abundance of breakfast at the Radisson Blu Iveria was really pleasing.

 

Before leaving for Kakheti, we had a light lunch at the Iveria cafe, located next to the hotel. In this way we rounded out a kind of “square” of Silk Hospitality in the heart of Tbilisi: Radisson Blu Iveria-Republic-Noble Savage-Iveria.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Our “supervisor” (in the best sense of the word), Tako Mgeladze from Silk Hospitality, departed for Tsinandali ahead of us in her car, “to make sure everything is ready for your arrival.”

 

Road to Kakheti, “Givi Ivanovich”, Vardan Minasyan, Kvaratskhelia and Mkhitaryan

 

I never thought I would ever find myself in the city of Telavi, which gained great fame in 1977, immediately after the release of the legendary Soviet film “Mimino.”

 

We get in a minibus that will take us to Kakheti, and it turns out that the driver Rafik is an Armenian. He is happy to carry his compatriots and tells with annoyance that in the morning he drove some Arabs to Mtskheta who strew the car salon with chips and that he had to clean it before taking us.

 

Two roads take from Tbilisi to Telavi and Tsinandali: a longer highway and a shorter mountain road. We are driving along the Gombori mountain road. It is very beautiful, but if you do not feel good while on “serpentines”, I advise you to take a Dramina tablet before the trip.

 

Shortly after the car begins to descend from the top of the 1620-meter-high pass, a mighty and incredibly long mountain range appears on the horizon. And then I realize that this is the Great or Main Caucasian Range I have read so much about and which I have never seen. It seemed that an Armenian, who was born in Armenia and lived all his life there, cannot be surprised by mountains. It turned out he can.

 

Soon we drive up to Telavi and see a sign indicating that it is 4 kilometers to the airport, the head of which Givi Ivanovich “was not respected by the traffic police” (from Mimino film). Ten minutes take from the center of Telavi to Tsinandali. During this time, I remember that a couple of months ago, the former head coach of the Armenian national team Vardan Minasyan has been appointed the head coach of the Telavi football club.

 

The night before, we talked about football during the dinner with Vato Shelia from Silk Hospitality. He lamented the fact that Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia did not score an important penalty in the Champions League quarter-finals against Milan and was glad that Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s Inter reached the semi-finals, where they will meet with this same Milan.

 

Arriving at the Tsinandali Estate

 

At the entrance to the Tsinandali Estate, A Radisson Collection Hotel, we are welcomed by the Operations manager Alex Kobelashvili and his staff with glasses of Tsinandali Estate Sparkling Extra Brut. After a mountain road, a glass of cold sparkling wine is like manna from heaven!

Photo: Silk Hospitality

We go up to the room, go out onto the balcony and ... The Great Caucasus Range is in front of our eyes. It seems that Radisson in Georgia specializes in views – city panoramas in Tbilisi, mountain panoramas in Tsinandali. On the table in the room there is a fragrant bouquet of lilacs and a bottle of sparkling Tsinandali in an ice bucket. I manage to resist the temptation to uncork it.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

The authors of the hotel’s interiors are German designer Ingo Mauer and Tamara Kvesitadze, we already know.

 

“Secret room” and loyalty to the Chavchavadze traditions

 

Alex tours us in the Tsinandali Estate. There is a swimming pool with stunning views of the Greater Caucasus and Anna Semonin Spa on the roof of the hotel.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Another 27-meter pool in the hotel overlooks the vineyards and amazing tennis courts. Both pools are available to guests all year round – during the cold season, the water is heated.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

In the underground part, where in the 19th century Alexander Chavchavadze established the first bottled wine production in Georgia, today are restaurants Natella and Prince Alexander, a bar-library and a “secret room” – a small hall for very important guests.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

A special pride of the Tsinandali Estate is an outdoor amphitheater for 1200 people and indoor halls, which have been hosting the Tsinandali Festival since 2019.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

World-famous musicians – conductor Zubin Mehta, pianists Yuja Wang, Martha Argerich, Mikhail Pletnev and many others – performed here.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

We are told that while reviving the estate of Alexander Chavchavadze, the founder of the Silk Road Group, George Ramishvili, sought to revive important symbols as well. The Chavchavadze family was very musical and the Tsinandali Festival symbolizes loyalty to the traditions of the princely family. Vineyards and a modern winery are also a tribute to Alexander Chavchavadze.

 

Pan-Caucasian Orchestra, Park Hotel and Prince Alexander

 

Every year the Pan-Caucasian Orchestra gathers under the baton of the Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda especially for the Tsinandali Festival. Young musicians from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Turkmenistan perform during the festival. The Park Hotel opened on the territory of the Tsinandali Estate largely thanks to them: musicians usually arrive 2 weeks before the launch of the festival and live there. The rest of the time, young people attracted by affordable prices usually stop here. The guests of the Park Hotel, however, have access to the entire infrastructure of the Tsinandali Estate – just like as those who stay at the Radisson Collection Hotel. At dinner that evening, Alex tells us that a group of young people celebrating a birthday at a nearby table are staying at the Park Hotel.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

We are dinning at the Prince Alexander restaurant. Alex Kobelashvili apologizes that the cuisine is not Georgian and promises a traditional Georgian feast for the next day. We do not really understand what Alex is apologizing for – we are served a delicious trout and very tender meat. Delicious food is accompanied by white Tsinandali, and then we are offered to try aged “orange” wine - amber wine is one of the hallmarks of Georgian winemaking today.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Museum and a bit of history

 

The next morning starts with a visit to the Alexander Chavchavadze house-museum.

Photo: Mediamax

Most of the house was destroyed in 1854, 7 years after the death of the prince, when Imam Shamil invaded Kakheti and raided the estate. Shamil’s warriors captured Chavchavadze’s 26-year-old daughter-in-law – Princess Anna. Eight months later, the princess was exchanged for Shamil’s son Jamaluddin. However, Anna’s husband, David Chavchavadze, also had to pay a huge ransom, which he had borrowed from a Russian state bank. A few years later, the prince failed to repay the loan, and the estate became the property of the bank, and then the Romanovs’ family.

Photo: Mediamax

Walking around the museum, I thought that, perhaps, it was from this very room in October 1811 that Alexander Chavchavadze was sent to Yerevan to Major General Lisanevich to collect information about the expedition undertaken by the latter against the Persians. And on this veranda, he probably collected his thoughts before the trip to Yerevan after Paskevich conquered the city in 1827. In February 1828, it was Major General Chavchavadze who was appointed regional chief and commander of troops in the Yerevan province. In the same year, during the Russian-Turkish war, Chavchavadze commanded an operation to capture Bayazet.

Photo: Mediamax

In the summer of 2019, before climbing Ararat, standing where the Bayazet Fortress was used to be located, I could not even think that 4 years later I would find myself in the house of a general who fought here almost 200 years ago.

 

Park and winery

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Two centuries ago Pushkin, Lermontov and Alexandre Dumas père visited the estate. In the giant park, on the territory of which the estate is located, there are many huge trees that may well “remember” these classics. The air in the park is so clean and “tasty” that you feel dizzy.

Photo: Mediamax

The dizziness becomes more specific after a trip to the winery, where we are treated to young wine from recently purchased Italian containers, in which the wine is stabilized after being in qvevri - huge clay amphorae.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Leonid Parfyonov climbed into one of these qvevris in his film “In Qvevri Veritas” - watch from 06:50.

 

 

Besides wine, the winery also produces grape vodka – chacha. An amazing one!

 

Magic evening

 

In the evening of the last day, we are going for an open-air dinner on the veranda of Natella restaurant. The chef of the restaurant Irma and her staff conduct a master class for our group: we learn to make khachapuri, khinkali and churchkhela. Irma promises a surprise for dinner: tolma in cream and parmesan sauce. I will say right away: the tolma was very tasty!

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Alex tells how he studied hotel business in England with the funds his father somehow managed to put aside in the hungry 90s. He, like me, loves to go to the mountains. Alex talks about climbing Kazbek, I talk about climbing Ararat.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

Soon we are joined by George Kharabadze, Tsinandali Estate Managing Partner, and his guest, an Iraqi-born Armenian woman with a Lebanese passport who lived her whole life in France and is writing a book about outstanding women of the Caucasus.

Photo: Silk Hospitality

George Kharabadze talks about life in Moscow in the late 80s, about the peculiarities of communicating with the stars of world classical music, I recall our adventures with rock stars. I tell George that my friend and classmate Yulia Petrossian-Boyle, Vice President of National Geographic, in partnership with the Silk Road Group has been publishing in Georgia National Geographic Magazine in Georgian for many years. George smiles and says that Yulia was his guest in Tsinandali in the fall of 2022: she arrived on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the publication of National Geographic Magazine.

From right to left: Yulia Petrossian-Boyle, President of Georgia Salome Zourabishvili and Georgy Ramishvili From right to left: Yulia Petrossian-Boyle, President of Georgia Salome Zourabishvili and Georgy Ramishvili

Photo: Silk Hospitality

And I realize that the idea of the Tsinandali Estate works and the traditions laid down by Alexander Chavchavadze continue. We are sitting against the backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains, drinking wine, switching from Russian to English and vice versa, finding common friends. And it is not a standard “press tour”, but a wonderful journey in which we are lucky enough to meet wonderful people.

 

Ara Tadevosyan

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