I briefly visited the country of Georgia twice, in 2008 and 2018. For my first visit, I was a bit wet-behind-the-ears, unsure of what I was doing there, and more importantly, what to eat.
After a random meal at a wine cellar in Tbilisi, its capital, I was floored by the deliciousness not only of the food, but also the wine. And even after piling on the kebabs, the pomegranate seeds, the walnut sauces, and the spontaneous lessons in viniculture by the waitstaff, I wanted to know more about Georgian food. So, I sampled baklava, cherry juice, quince jam, and khinkali (dumpling)…all excellent.
Yet, it took me the return trip to New York to find out about the mother-ship of savory bread, that being khachapuri.
Khachapuri Adjaruli, quite simply, is a carbohydrate AND fat paradise. What does that mean? Inside of the bread canoe, you will find butter, eggs, and briny Sulguni cheese. Nothing leafy and green – i.e. healthy – to get in the way, just pure corporeal malevolence.
How do you eat it? Mix up the butter, eggs, and cheese to create a “soup,” then start tearing off the bread bit by bit, dunking it into your the heady mix. After you’re done, you may not want to eat for the rest of the year – make sure you’re trying it on December 31st to cheat – but oh is it ever worth it.
On my second visit to Tbilisi, I literally took a cab from the airport to Cafe Khachapuri, not because I read that it was good, but because just look at that name.
Have you ever taken on khachapuri adjaruli? Did you, too succumb to its cheesy goodness?
Coins are obnoxious. It’s not their fault…no, no, it’s because governments ’round the world can’t resist weighing down our jeans or handbags – or not, as you’ll see shortly – with coinage. Is it in deference to those of us easily distracted folk, eager to make music out of the clanging currency? Or, are they still produced so that cuprolaminophobics – look it up! – can amble over to the nearest train track to have their way with coins?
Getting back on track, I guess I used to be something of a numismatist, or coin collector. The majority of my collection consists of coins more useful these days as paper weights than legal tender – for instance, pre-euro, and something from Zimbabwe in the ’80s – but that’s part of the point of it being a hobby, no? What follows is a sampling of some of the less welcome members to pockets worldwide (and yes, I realize that they’re still money)…
The left column, with examples (top to bottom) from Hong Kong, the Maldives, Zimbabwe, and the UK, are ones that have not been eluded by the American diet. However, if one of those ever fell from your hand or pocket, you’d definitely notice it.
At the same time, are those any more obnoxious by their extremely light opposites in the right column? We have the Japanese one (y)en, the Indonesian 500 rupiah, and the bane of my consumerist existence while in China, the fen. If a cashier gives you a fen, it’s a euphemism for the country laughing at you. Bad advice: try spending it in Taiwan.
With the US quarter as a guide, the left column, with Costa Rica and the UK again, as well as the right column with Hong Kong, Belize, and the same 50p from the UK, display coins that are too darn big. Though we’re nowhere near the scale of the monolithic currency of some Pacific Islands, what’s the reason for this? Save for Costa Rica, it seems as if imperialism isn’t the only category in which the British got carried away…
The right column also shows some of the funkier shapes of coins. Someone was asleep at the switch one day, and now his/her handy work gets the attention of bloggers.
Starting from the left, we have the Japanese five (y)en, the US dime, 50 cents from South Africa, 5 sentimo from the Philippines, one tetri from Georgia, 5 koruna from the Czech Republic, and 20 colones from Costa Rica.
The first time I noticed a perforated coin was in Japan. Curious about why some coins have a hole in them? Necklaces are one reason, sewing coins into clothing, another. Thinking about it another way, the Japanese 5 en coin isn’t worth much – particularly outside of Japan – but string it onto some jewelry, and watch your coffers grow.
As for the middle column, that coinage is ridiculous small; the US penny – for its size and its denomination – and the 20 colones, were placed in the photo for comparison. I’d feel sheepish (particularly outside of their home countries) trying to pay for something with tetri, or the colones for that matter. Can you imagine a coin-only checkout line?
I hope that you enjoyed this brief tour of coins around the world. Are there any standouts in your book?
You may not think of Russia these days as a soda powerhouse, and that’s possibly because you didn’t grow up in the Soviet Union, or in a Russian-speaking neighborhood. They’ve got quite a loyal following for some drinks – if I can find the picture, I will also write about the neon green tarragon-flavored soda – and the flavors from decades ago sound equally tantalizing.
Does pine-flavored soda intrigue you? Or, have you given up on sodas all together and go straight for the sugar packets?
Though Russian points of interest will make future appearances on LearningFeelsGood, most fresh in my recent stroll through trip photos is the unexpected amusement found in the form of Moscow vending machines…and here I thought Japan had already cornered the market on this stuff.
Without further ado, let’s take a gander at a few surprising – and one not so surprising – souvenirs:
Now you too can own a t-shirt of Dear Leader Putin wearing shades. Or a hat. Or neither. Not to mention, why isn’t Patriot Box written in Russian too? Because locals. Already. Know.
Contact lenses in a vending machine. Stick your eye into that little slot in the lower right…no, that’s not it. So then, was this purpose-built with one person in mind? Yeah, if I had my own vending machine, it would probably sell pillows. Or tacos.
This is a neat idea–a vending machine selling only Japanese products. When I bought a bottle of green tea from this one, it uttered “有り難う御座います” (arigatou gozaimasu/thank you). Also, note that the upper left sign is pointing to the hot drinks, and the lower right, the chilled drinks.
Actual oranges being squeezed in this Zummo machine, presumably with nothing else added…sweeeeet! But, how long have they been sitting there?
Food. Well, to me at least. This is what you were expecting to find in Russia, right– a caviar vending machine? Maybe by the Caspian Sea.
Even with the agreeable exchange rate, I still didn’t dive in to a jar of икра (ee-kra). Guess I’ll have to settle for the fake stuff for now.
Which of these products, if any, appeals most to you? Seen any vending machines in Moscow that should be added to the list?
Before starting to read books (this is ongoing), I chose maps. That’s right, I can point out where all of the worlds Guineas are (what a novelty). In fact, I participated in a couple of state geography bees (harsh reality?), but am still lamenting over not applying for a spot on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Contestants who were sent to place buzzers on the then-newly independent CIS states were perpetually bingung, rather, confused (sorry, haven’t written something in Indonesian for a while).
A predilection for cartographic creations has helped make flights seem less long, especially when the only movie offerings are Drop Dead Fred or The Room. Having a pen makes it even more pleasant, as I get to gerrymander US states or Cypriot regions to the toot of my own horn (note: haven’t done this yet). Remember when Iran was upset about National Geographic magazine calling it the Arabian Gulf instead of the Persian Gulf? I don’t have a problem with the complaint, but just as thought-provoking, if less well-known, is that (Western) airlines generally used to added a suffix to their names in order to be able to fly to both China and Taiwan. The Dutch airline KLM for example stayed that way on flights to the mainland, but was called KLM Asia to the latter.
This will probably be a thread I’ll continually update, once I’m able to find the Delta inflight magazine that showed Kampuchea instead of Cambodia, or the one where Xian, China is listed as the more archaic Chang’an. Until those encounters happen, take a peek at the oddities, sometimes controversial, sometimes just …odd. -ities:
The red lines stand for code-share flights, in other words not those actually operated by China Southern (airline code CZ), but a lot happens when you’ve been abroad for about a year. Minneapolis relocates to Canada, south Florida travels back to 1995 and Maori Island becomes a misnomer.
Juicy stuff here. The Senkaku Islands(or as China calls them, the D/Tiaoyu Islands) AND the South China archipelago, (not to mention Taiwan- but that’s a been there, done that), are clearly in attendance on this page of the China Southern route map. Might as well add “Africa” and the Solomon Islands to that map too…
El Al (LY), an Israeli/whatever airline, understandably can’t just overfly certain countries. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran (would you ever guess???) Thus, their long-haul routes become that much more long-haul. Say, when flying from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg, they have stay right over the Red Sea, and on their Bangkok route, well, ouch. But this recent news of potential Dubai-Tel Aviv flights might be the black swan moment in their route map’s history…
Etihad (EY) of the United Arab Emirates went a bit overboard. I was flying from Abu Dhabi to Jakarta, but they generously wanted to impress me with their knowledge of world geography. Because what’s going on in Brasilia is directly going to affect my flight over the Bay of Bengal. Good thing they don’t have any domestic routes.
If you squint well enough, you can see…the ocean. Taipei-Honolulu, another route I’m not sure why I took.
This one’s got two-in-the-hand! The West Sea is what the Korean Peninsula terms the Yellow Sea, nothing too offensive. But the East Sea. Well, in another never-ending spat with Japan, the Koreas can’t possibly agree with the Sea of Japan, so they just used their/an imagination. By the way, the Sea of Japan has some delicious Echizen crab…
Maybe all airlines should just take a page from Oman Air’s book, and only label the origin and destination points:
Have you noticed anything “nuanced” on airline route/in-flight maps?
In the 1920s, Robert Ilg, owner of the Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Company of Chicago, opened a park – Ilgair Park – in Niles. Soon after the park opened, he added two swimming pools for his employees; however, he didn’t want to completely ruin the area’s natural beauty.
So as to disguise the water towers, he decided to build a half-sized replica – in other words, 94 feet high, 28 feet in diameter, and leaning 7.4. feet – of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Bronze bells were even imported from 17th and 18th century churches in Italy. Construction began in 1931, and finished three years later.
In 1960, part of Ilgair Park was donated for the construction of the Leaning Tower YMCA, with the understanding that the YMCA would pay a small amount annually for the upkeep of the tower.
In 1991, Niles formed a sister city relationship with Pisa, Italy, and in 1997, the Leaning Tower Plaza was dedicated in the park, replete with four fountains and a reflecting pool. Notably, the Leaning Tower of Niles was designated a National Historic Landmark earlier this year, a first for Niles.
But, how does it compare with the Italian original, which was started in 1173 and completed in 1370?
For starters, a lot less tourists. But I’ve gotta give Italy the edge for pizza;)