How To Make Traditional Georgian Bread

How To Make Traditional Georgian Bread

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When you travel do you search out the local restaurants? Do you try to get at least a glimpse of the culture and history of a place? I’m admittedly a history nerd and love to meet with the people who live where I travel to get their inside stories. Georgia is one of those magical places that celebrates and shares its own culture. With warm hospitality, Georgians are more than ready and willing to give you a huge traditional dinner party, dance, and song. Many people struggle on a daily basis in the country, but their pride in culture and tradition are a foundation and bring an optimism for the future.

Traditional Georgian bread pin, tonis puri

The bread and salt of Georgia

My husband is from Georgia, and this summer we got to take the kids over to see family, the people, and places he loves. Guests are greeted with the “bread and salt”, in Georgia generally meaning a feast, always including bread. Most any meal you eat in the country will involve a plate of bread on the table. Moreover, bread is a respected food, almost revered. It’s a huge insult to throw it away or waste it. The salt on the table represents the spice, or the relationships and friendships made.

Being Georgian, my husband has always emphasized the importance of the bread. Can you imagine my 8-year-old’s excitement when she was invited to help make it in the traditional oven? If you look at the picture below, it’s sort of an earthen kiln, called a “tone”.

Traditional Georgian bread, tone

Georgian culture is rich and deep, full of emotion. It’s fascinating to see bread being made today in the same way it’s been made for hundreds of years. It represents the welcoming hospitality of the Georgian people. Take a dive into Georgian culture and learn how this traditional Georgian bread is made. 

Preparing traditional Georgian bread, tonis puri

First of all, make the basic bread dough and set it to rise. Families use a simple recipe including flour, salt, water, and yeast. Then, prepare the oven (kiln) by starting a huge fire in the center and burning down the wood or dried grapevines to ashes. Every household (nearly) in Georgia has their own grapevines and make wine. I could go into the significance and symbolism of using the grapevines, but I’ll save that for another time. The fire must burn for half an hour or more to get the oven hot enough to bake the bread. While this happens the dough rises and you set out the cooling racks.

Preparing the dough

Once the fire burns long enough, the ashes will smolder down at the bottom of the oven. At that point, place large sheets of metal over the hot ashes so the dough can be safely placed on the sides of the oven (tone). 

Traditional Georgian Bread preparation

The oven’s ready

Then, pat out the risen dough and press it in a sort of oval form all over the insides of the kiln. This is not a process you go through for one or two loaves, no! A family will bake 10-20 or as many as fit in the kiln. Then, that bread is used for a large event, or for the family for the next couple of days or so as well as for the cousins and neighbors surrounding. The next time it will be someone else’s turn to bake.

Dough put in the kiln

Bake the traditional Georgian bread

As soon as you stick the bread dough to the walls of the kiln, carefully remove the metal sheets from the ashes below. Now the heat and steam can come up and hit the dough to bake. Finally, close the top of the kiln (tone), and bake the bread for 20-30 minutes.

Traditional Georgian Bread in the kiln

When it’s ready, take off the top of the oven and remove the bread loaves (tonis puri) and set to cool.

Baked traditional Georgian bread

Have you ever smelled freshly baked bread? If so, you will know your mouth immediately begins to water, and you’re drawn to the smell. This is the time the kids, and some adults, suddenly decide it’s time to help so they can rip off a bit of that delicious yumminess. Bread brings the family and guests together with smiles and laughter.

Traditional Georgian Bread supra

Grandmother Tamar’s story

Several years ago we visited my husband’s grandmother’s home in the village of Ali, Shida Kartli region of Georgia, for her 100th birthday. She shared many stories during the time we were there, but one stood out for me. With a big smile, she told me the story of two naughty little boys, my husband and his brother, who used to “help” her around the house.

They would get into everything, but one day she was making the bread in the “tone”, as she did often. The boys were told to stay away from the oven, she would give them bread when it was dinner time. But being two mischievous and impatient boys, they could not wait for dinner. When she found them they had the lid off the oven and two heads were down inside the kiln (oven). Thankfully, it had already cooled down, but there were bits like cracker still stuck to the side. My husband reached far in to get one of these pieces and actually toppled inside. Grandma Tamar had to jerk both boys out, and my husband’s head was covered in the ash from the bottom of the oven.

She cackled and said he had some scratches, was covered in ash, and looked a mess. Really, it could have been worse, but the bread was medicine. They made and shared it together just as her ancestors did and her grandchildren do today.

So tell me,

How do you welcome guests to your house? What traditional foods or crafts does your family enjoy?

Do you want to learn more about Georgia?

Read about our favorite places to visit as a family in Batumi, Georgia, on the Black Sea.

Batumi with kids feature

Learn more about Georgian food and traditions:

Tasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the Caucasus by Carla Capalbo

Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking by Tiko Tuskadze

Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet


Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows

This page contains affiliate links. Tbilisi, Georgia

I’ve always been attracted to different kinds of architecture, specifically doors and windows. Over the summer we took the kids to Tbilisi, Georgia and then around the country. Naturally, I spent much of the time chasing the kids around, but I also tried to get some good photos to remember the trip. Time and time again I found myself taking pictures of doors, windows, and buildings.

What draws your eye to a door or a window?

To me, a door or a window can say or hide much about a culture. Moreover, a closed-door always makes me more curious. Curiosity’s not a bad thing, so the monkey tells us, but it makes one wonder. What is behind that ancient wooden door?

When I was in college, I spent some time in Oxford, England. There you can walk the streets and see so many closed doors, but then suddenly one opens up, and you get a peek in. Is it to a stairway or a room? No, it opens up to a beautiful quad grassy area with pathways and more buildings across. The colleges of Oxford allow only the chosen ones in through their doors to the beauty of the grass, gardens, and the inside buildings. As a curious one, I had to get myself invited into a few: to a play, a lecture, and even in with a tourist group.

Possibility

So really, it’s the possibility of what’s behind that door or window that may draw you to it. Whenever I travel I look at the different buildings, old, new, run-down, or immaculate. Especially when traveling in Tbilisi, Georgia and the surrounding areas, what you expect to find on the inside of a door is not at all what you find when you go in for a visit. A run-down building with trash around it, some broken brick, and wires hanging about can lead you into to a modern state of the art apartment, nothing like you’d expect.

Imagine

Now sit back and imagine. Look at some of these buildings and doors in Tbilisi, Georgia and around the country. Georgia is a beautiful mountainous country with beaches on the Black Sea, skiing in the Caucasus, vineyards, and powerful traditional music and dance. This area of the world’s also had a difficult history, but so many of the strong people there have risen above the hardships and celebrated their culture and traditions in a modern Georgia.

What do you think’s behind that door?

Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia, Cat in a doorway

What’s inside this building? Is it someone’s home, an office? Has it been abandoned or now inhabited by cats? Who owns the car in front of it?

Tbilisi, Georgia door with ivy

Now, what’s behind this door? Is it a church, an office, or a storage area? In addition, who goes through this door, and what does that symbol mean?

Tbilisi, Georgia Parliament

This building has seen a lot. Built in Soviet times, members of Parliament convene here and make decisions for the country. What is the monument on the front steps? Furthermore, who else has walked those steps and tried to go through those arched doorways?

St. Nino metal door

A woman carrying a cross. Who could she be? Why Saint Nino brought the distinctive cross to Georgia, formed out of grapevines and entwined with her own hair. Orthodoxy is a major part of the daily lives of many Georgians. Who’s behind this door?

Tbilisi, Georgia church

What has happened to this once ornate church? Did this happen during Soviet times? Who goes through those doors now?

Old town Tbilisi wooden building

How many people live in this house? How long has it been in the family? Does the design on the rug mean anything?

More Tbilisi, Georgia

Door with grapevines

Do you see those vines hanging down? In Georgia, you will see grapevines on nearly every house. Traditions run deep, and Georgians make wine to celebrate and welcome guests. It’s truly an art form. I wonder who planted this vine in the middle of the city?

Brown church door

How long has this door been in place? It’s not a work of art like the Saint Nino door, but it tells a history just the same.

Opera house

What is this place? Can you imagine a famous opera singer on the balcony? The people are dressed up to attend an orchestra or boys’ choir performance. It’s the Tbilisi Opera house!

Restaurant overlooking Tbilisi

If you’re a fan of old Soviet movies, I’ve been told this restaurant appears in all the ones with scenes in Tbilisi. Famous movie stars, politicians, and the well to do have dined at this restaurant at the top of the mountain overlooking Tbilisi, Georgia. The funicular brings you up to the top from the center of town. I can imagine quite a few scenes happening here!

Beyond Tbilisi, Georgia

Train station at night

Train station doors by night. Was that a bat that just dive-bombed me?! Look out for ghosts! Phew, that’s just my shadow.

House front

Here’s a cheerful house front. Grapevines, laundry, a happy yellow with open doors inviting over the neighbors.

Batumi blue apartment building

What is it like to live in one of these giant apartment blocks? How could each one be individualized to the tastes of its owner?

Soviet Batumi building

Imagine this building in its prime. Who would have stayed here at this prime location on the beach of the Black Sea? Vacationers, government leaders? Maybe someone on house arrest?? What do you think happened here?

St. George Batumi

Saint George is not only the Patron Saint of England but also of Georgia. Who doesn’t love the idea of George slaying the dragon?

Batumi green apartments

Again we have the apartment block, but here at the seaside, it’s a brighter shade of green. How many people live here? Incidentally, are they rented out or for vacationers? Hmmm…

Explore Batumi, Georgia!

Batumi with kids feature

Metekhi gift shop door

Small church by the church

Wooden doors

Follow the Open Door

Gonio Fortress

Be curious. Wander. Travel is an education in so many things. Listen to the stories of the people around you. The doors will open up, and you’ll be invited in to be a part of a new culture, tradition, and way of life.

Writing Prompt

Any one of these pictures would make an awesome writing prompt for a short story. If you use one I’d love to read it! Take the time and go through that door to a new world!

Curious to know more? Click on the object to take you to it on Amazon:

   

Top 10 Things To Do in Batumi With Kids

Top 10 Things To Do in Batumi With Kids

*This post contains affiliate links. Batumi with kids

Are you looking for an awesome beach vacation with a giant dose of culture and post-Soviet vibe thrown in? Have you heard of Batumi, Georgia? We just took an amazing trip to explore this up and coming city and had an awesome time! It’s true we have connections to Georgia (the country, not the state) because my husband grew up there and has a bunch of family still living there. We wanted a fun place to take the kids, along with his mother and niece, for a family-bonding vacation everyone would enjoy.

Batumi was the perfect spot for our vacation and has a lot to offer for kids. We had a clean fast train out from the capital and back, and a great flat experience with Airbnb. For Americans, the exchange rate was about 2.4 GEL or Georgian lari to the dollar so great for us, although not fabulous for native Georgians! We heard a ton of languages around, Russian, Azeri, Georgian, English. My mother-in-law got to relive some of her youth, and her grandchildren were introduced to her past. It was perfect.

Batumi with kids pin

Our Top 10 Things To Do in Batumi With Kids

1. The Batumi Boulevard

Overhead Batumi Boulevard

The Batumi Boulevard was a great place to go to walk, stare out at the sea, and let the kids run. So often on a vacation kids need space to just get out and run around, and this was a scenic, calming place for Mom at the same time. The Boulevard runs North and South along the Black Sea so on one side you have a view of the sea,

Palm tree along Boulevard

and on the other, you have restaurants, hotels, buildings, and art.

Lower Boulevard

The Boulevard includes the larger walkway, and next to it the small red road for biking. Another awesome thing is that there are bikes (1 to 6 seaters) you can rent at several locations along the way. So, of course, the kids get tired, and if they’re old enough you can just grab one of these 4 seaters and pedal your way down enjoying the view.

Warning: We saw a lot of foreign tourists biking with selfie sticks filming themselves as they pedaled. Beware of traffic and people not always paying attention!

Highlights

While I enjoyed the sea view and palm trees, my son’s favorite part was his chocolate ice cream cone. And admittedly yes, we got ice cream several times! The Boulevard has so much for all the senses. First, we just walked, ate some ice cream, and then used the random exercise equipment. Then, we pondered the art sculptures, sat under a gazebo staring out at the sea, and listened to the traditional Georgian songs of the street musicians. The kids ran, laughed, ate more ice cream, then collapsed on benches because they were so tired and “could not go a step further”. It’s a great place.

Georgian musicians

2. The Ferris Wheel (or in Georgian: “Eshmakis borbali” = the devil’s wheel)

Ferris wheel panoramic

Who doesn’t love a ferris wheel?! The ferris wheel is a fabulous way to get some great views of the city and the Black Sea and definitely makes our top 10 for Batumi with kids. My daughter was initially scared to death of the thing because it looked so high. But actually, it goes around slowly, and the seats are in a circle with bars around them, not with your legs dangling. Also, it never truly stops so you get on and off as it continues to turn.

Harbor view from ferris wheel

Go buy a ticket at the little ticket booth for 3 GEL a person. If you miss the ticket booth and try to buy some as you get on you’ll just get yelled at in Russian (well that’s me since I have blond hair and most Georgians assume I’m Russian) to go back to the ticket booth.  Don’t forget your camera, and enjoy the ride!

City view from ferris wheel

BONUS! Just next to the ferris wheel is the famous Ali and Nino statue that moves continuously to tell the story of the two individuals from the book of the same name. It’s a good resting spot, AND there’s a fairly clean public bathroom near it as well. It’s 50 tetri and so worth it!

Ali and Nino statue

3. The Dolphinarium

I’ve been to many sea lion shows at zoos around the United States but never to a dolphin show. Doesn’t just saying the word “Dolphinarium” sound like something unavoidable in Batumi with kids? Going into the show, I really didn’t know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised.

Dolphins throw trainer

The Dolphin Show was fun and upbeat from beginning to end (it lasted about 45 minutes total with the dolphins performing). There was music throughout the entire show paired with each dance or trick of the dolphins. Also, the announcer was pretty amazing going from Georgian to English to Russian pretty seamlessly, excited and engaged in the program. Everything was clean and professional, and you could tell the dolphin trainers loved working with their intelligent dolphin friends.

Dancing dolphins

My entire family loved it, 4 up to 73-year-old, and there were smiles throughout. It was also a fun mix of locals and tourists as we sat by some Russians, but there was a local elementary class just up a balcony to our left. At 15 GEL a person (under 4 free) it was a great time. You should visit too!

Dolphin jump feature

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 4. The Boulevard Beach (the northern section)

Batumi rock beachBeach umbrellas

What’s the first thing you notice? It’s the rocks, right? Yes, it’s a rock beach, and can be hard on the feet (so bring sandals!), but it’s great for Batumi with kids! The kids play in the sand all the time, and beautiful, colored rocks are a novelty.  Both my kids made rock collections, towers, practiced skipping rocks and had a blast. The other thing that won the day? The sea life. There were little jellyfish everywhere and dolphins playing in the distance. We went from screams of fright to joy every two seconds. Loved it.

Medusa jellyfish

5. Europe Square

Europe Square, golden fleeceEurope Square, bikes

Europe Square is what it says and probably the most European-looking location in Georgia. It’s fun for the adults to look around at the architecture, take pictures, and have a coffee. The kids loved the water jumping fountain in the middle and thought the statue of Medea with the Golden Fleece was “super-awesome”. The Astronomical Clock was impressive, and the kids were in the mood to explore and thought it was pretty cool. There’s also some well-tended plants, flowers, and of course palm trees to enjoy as you walk around. It won’t take you too long to walk around but don’t miss this square!

Astronomical clockEurope Square, fountain

6. Sarpi Beach and Turkish border

There’s just something about the beach and cafés at the border at Sarpi I love. It’s about 15 km from Batumi, but you see a lot more Turkish influence in that short distance. We even heard the Muslim call to prayer from the Turkish side. Again, we met with a multi-cultural mix of people (Georgians, Russians, Turks, Azeris), which was great for the kids to see and interact with. My daughter and niece played with some Russian girls for awhile, and to me, that’s a huge educational piece in friendship, understanding, and differences.

Sarpi beach

It’s a little crazy right at the border, but you usually have the beach with only a few other tourists. It gets a lot busier in August and September, but since we were there in June we had a huge section of beach just to ourselves. In addition, we stopped at a fun, open café-type area with lots of tables and umbrellas just before the border. We all got penovani khatchapuri (the cheese bread with puff pastry) and a drink. There are convenient pay toilets close by too, look for the WC sign. Pay toilets mean they’re much cleaner, and it’s not all that expensive. Also, did I mention it’s gorgeous?? I love the views you get around this area of the beach.

Turkish border at Sarpi

Here’s the border crossing. Note the Georgian and Turkish flags.

Sarpi beach with towels

 

7. Alphabetic Tower

Alphabetic towerThe Alphabetic Tower is located near the Ferris Wheel at the northern end of the Boulevard in Miracles Park. It’s an impressive structure made to look like a DNA helix covered in the letters of the Georgian alphabet. Yes, the Georgian language has its own unique alphabet with 33 letters that are not Cyrillic or Latin, but Georgian! You can ride up to the observation level or even eat at the restaurant, although we didn’t do that at the time. You get some great views of the city through the glass. We enjoyed the outside more and the playful tone of the architecture!

8. Gonio Fortress

Gonio Fortress

The Gonio Fortress is a Roman fortification within what was Colchis. You know, Jason and the Argonauts, the Golden Fleece and all that!? Awesomeness. It is also believed to be the resting place of the Apostle Matthew, although that has not been officially verified. History buffs, you need to visit this place. If you’re bringing kids make it a morning stop on your way to the beaches and border at Sarpi so you can rest on the beach in the afternoon. My kids basically said, “A castle! Cool!” It’s a fun place ponder the history and people who’ve been in this region of the world.

Fountain

9. Batumi Dancing Fountains

First of all, we happened to stumble upon the dancing fountains during the day, after a small meltdown by the four-year-old. The fountains have some fun bridges that go over them near the spouting water. Kids from all around were running and laughing and trying to touch the water.

Dancing fountain bridge

I didn’t get great pictures, but the day fountain-chasing was a much-needed break. The night show is set to music and lights and is a fun evening when you’re wandering about between the Boulevard and the city. This is a great pick when visiting Batumi with kids.

10. Laguna and Atcharuli Khatchapuri

Okay. So in the country of Georgia, I would say the most popular food people eat on a daily basis is khatchapuri. Khatchapuri is basically cheese bread, and there are many ways of preparing it in which the regions all over Georgia specialize. Batumi is in Adjara, know for their Atcharuli khatchapuri. Oh my yes. This is the kind you’ll see looks like a bread boat filled with cheese, large pats of butter, and an egg broken in on top at the last minute. Just take a look.

Atcharuli khatchapuri

My family just sat staring at the things in awe for a moment, and then remembered proper Atcharuli khatchapuri protocol. First, your boat is brought out to you piping hot with the butter and egg just placed on top. Second, you take your fork and mix it all up inside the boat, pulling out the sides and middle bread even, and mixing it all up to cook the egg. Next, dig in, breaking of the sides of bread and dipping them in the middle as you go. Last, beg for a Borjomi (Georgian sparkling mineral water traditionally used to settle stomachs).

Mixed Atcharuli khatchapuri

I’m drooling just staring at the pictures. Let me tell you, the stuff is amazing. I only got about a third of mine down it was so filling, but my husband cleaned his plate! We went to eat at a place called “Laguna”, recommended to us both by locals and tourists as the BEST Atcharuli khatchapuri in Batumi, THEREFORE the world. I can definitely say it’s the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had it quite a few times. If you are in Batumi this is a MUST – GO, GO! get yourself a bread boat of this gooey, cheesy, buttery goodness.

Laguna

Conclusion

This is longer than my normal post, but Batumi is such a fun, different, amazing place to visit, it warrants more than the norm. There are so many other places around this city I could have included, but I tried to stick to those that were enjoyed most by my kids. Several people told us to check out the Botanic Gardens, but I didn’t include them in this list because the four-year-old is not a hiker who enjoys the ups and downs and meandering trails to see plants. It may be perfect for your visit though!

I have so many good memories of this place and fun times with the family. If you’re heading to Batumi with kids definitely look up some of these places before you go. Or, if you’re traveling without kids look them up anyway! You won’t regret it.

Aba hey! Kargat iqavi.  Me at the beach

What are some of your most memorable travels as a kid?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Batumi things to do

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