Roadside curiosities of the Caucasus
The South Caucasus region of the world is made up of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan - 3 countries separated from Russia by the Caucasus mountain range, with the Caspian Sea to the east, the Black Sea to the west and Turkey and Iran to the south.
We travelled by bus, taxi and hire car, from Batumi on the Black Sea coast, to Baku on the Caspian Sea coast, with a detour in the middle to visit Armenia.
In this region, we've bought all sorts of weird and wonderful fresh produce from markets and roadside stalls. I've noted some of my favourites in this blog post.
Sevan is Armenia’s biggest lake. Naturally, fish are a local resource there. I couldn’t resist stopping our hire car to buy one of the dried fish on display from the boot of one of the region's iconic, Soviet-era Lada cars.
Who doesn’t love dusty roadfish? It was probably/maybe/questionably delicious. I chose to donate this dusty delicacy to a lucky street dog. He seemed unsure at first but then tucked in to his bounty, no doubt grateful for the omega-3 boost.
500 of the world’s 4000 grapes varieties grow in Georgia. You see grape vines everywhere so it’s no surprise that many locals make wine at home. Some is sold, often in re-used coke bottles, by the roadside & in markets.
The quality does of course vary but you can try before you buy & haggle if you want to. I paid about £1.50 for a 500ml bottle of medium-sweet red. Lovely!
Cha-cha is similar to rakija - a type of homemade brandy. It's basically rocket fuel. I tried a little but I didn't buy any bottles of it. If the old saying were true, this stuff would definitely put hairs on your chest!!
We only saw roadside cheese in a small area of Georgia so we had to try some. We bought some walnuts, bread and grapes to go with the hard cheese (a little softer than parmesan), on a bus journey from Tbilisi. Such middle class backpackers - haha! Very tasty though, so I make no apologies ;-)
So much fruit! Very cheap and very fresh. Almost certainly pesticide-free. Often organic: grapes, pomegranate, apples, oranges, kiwi, persimmon. Fruits of all shapes & sizes grow all over the place and can be traded for a small amount of cash at roadside stalls & just about everywhere else...or just pluck some off a tree!
No excuse for not getting your 5 a-day, here!
You get to meet the locals and somehow it feels nicer knowing that they grew and harvested these things themselves. So much more fun than buying groceries from big business supermarkets!
We try to cook our own food as much as possible, but we also love going to restaurants to try the regional specialities. My next post will cover the delicious national dishes that we tried in the South Caucasus region...