This is a new tourist attraction in Kakheti, East Georgia. Sunday was a wonderful clear day so Sloph (visiting for the week from Moscow) and L, my Bosnian friend, who also appears here from time to time, and I bagged the office car and driver and set off on a day trip.
We didn't know much about it, except that it had only recently been "done up", so the guide books had little to say. The website is here. When I got there I found my camera wasn't working and so I had to take these photos on the mobile phone.
The mountains in the background are the Caucasus and beyond them is Chechnya or perhaps Dagestan. It gives you some idea how open Georgia is to Russians coming over the border, once the snow on the main passes has cleared.
As you can see, Sighnaghi looks pretty similar to French hill towns in the south, and clearly they though so too, as the only restaurant we could find which was open had a French menu (in French). We sniggered about profiteroles au lardons. Perhaps there is such a dish, but it doesn't sound nearly so good as pissenlit au lard or profiteroles au chocolat. We were the only people in the place, so we just had coffee. We were disappointed to find that there was no terrace to sit out on the square.
The buildings have been beautifully renovated, with the nice timber balconies (that are rotting away in Tbilisi Old Town).But the place was empty, on a beautiful spring Sunday when it was only an hour and a half from Tbilisi, and most shops and cafes were closed. Before Easter is not prime tourist season, so I suppose we were cheeky expecting too much. We finally found a map, but the brochure was in Georgian. "English coming soon" they said. There seemed to be a lot of donor money around (USAID did the museum, rather nicely we thought) and GTZ seemed to be doing the souvenir shops and SME advice. But who on earth allowed them to make such an out of place French restaurant?
Some places were clearly for show as these shutters and windows in front of an open staircase show:
There were some interesting touches like this portrait of Stalin hanging on a nice shady balcony:
And it wasn't clear whether these hens were tied up like dogs and horses, next to a supermarket while their owner was inside, or were actually for sale. Perhaps you got one free when you took money out.
We were rather disappointed not to have a leisurely dinner out, so we dashed back to Tbilisi and went to our current favourite restaurant, The Mill. Despite being enormous, it has about 4 dining halls, it has excellent food, you always feel welcome even if you don't come in a crowd, and it's just far enough outside Tbilisi to feel in the country. It's on the river, but I've never been in the summer, so I'm not sure if you can sit out.