I’ve Got Georgia (Proper) On My Mind
Winter is here because November just let her through. With skies painted in clumsy strokes of grey precipitation falls from the sky though it’s not quite rain. Half snow and half storm whatever tumbles down makes the sidewalk slick. It sinks into the exposed skin of my wrists and careens recklessly into my eyes. There is a wet disaster overtaking New York at the moment, the sort that makes me want to hibernate inside the cocoon of my home.
Yet, despite being boxed in by four (centrally heated) walls I can hear the wind scratch against the pane. The cold air seeps through cracks I didn’t even know were there and I can feel the nip of December as it sinks its teeth into my toes. Seeing as I’m at war with the weather, I engage in a strategy to retain heat. I think about warmer times, sunnier days, and let my imagination take me to places far from here. To reinforce my desire to feel nothing but the burn of the sun I open a folder of photos containing images of lands continents away.
My digital reminders are of my summer journey to the Caucasus, the country of Georgia more specifically, which pushes up against the Black Sea and rests between several cultural and political divides. My summer holiday started in Georgia because of a wedding the Intolerants were invited to, the prospect of getting lost in places far from here too great to pass up.
We landed in Tbilisi where we based ourselves during our stay and took day-trips to other parts of the country before and after the wedding. Unfortunately our stay was a mere five days, not nearly enough time to see and do everything on our list, especially since the first day was spent recovering from jet lag. Despite the issue of not-enough-time we packed what we could in and got to experience things fantastic beyond belief. Everything I saw and listened to and ate and drank already has me hankering for a return trip.
You see, Georgia is a country that straddles the past and present with flippant ease. She also harbours the best of all worlds with her desolate landscapes and rolling hills and dizzying mountains and Ibiza-like beaches where rave parties blast into the night.
Shhhhhhhhh! Please don’t tell Armenia, but I’m pretty sure Georgia is my favourite.
The wedding was an experience to behold, if only because I have never seen so much food crowding a dinner table. Plate after plate, the traditional dishes came into view, so much food presented over the course of the night the dishes had to be stacked on top of one another. Note: there was barely enough space for our plates to reside.
Uncovering most of Tbilisi in a couple of days we walked up and down hills and turned a shade of toast under the afternoon sun. Walking and eating, taking photos and walking, we visited a couple galleries and admired the contemporary architecture around town. We also spent a ridiculous amount of time devouring foods that tasted so pure and fresh, I stuffed every last square centimetre of my stomach with walnuts and meat and artisinal bread that makes grown men cry.
Once we had our fill of art many residents don’t like and urban monasteries, we went out of town to visit the rocky plains east of Rustavi along with the wine soaked vineyards of Kakheti. Two wildly different landscapes that stirred my emotions until I could barely breathe. Where some of the eastern parts of Georgia appear as lifeless and vast as the surface of the moon the landscape changes if you go North with towering mountains fencing in the country at the border and deep valleys situated in between; warm depresssions littered with farms and agricultural estates so abundant, they flashed emerald green with affluence.
We stopped in at a few wineries to taste what the country had to offer and were pleasantly surprised at the range of the reds and whites being produced. Within Kakheti alone there are at least a dozen different wines being produced and while, for the moment, most exports are relegated to neighbouring countries and parts of Eastern Europe, the tide is about to turn because of the quality grapes they’re able to grow in the valleys.
I suppose what surprised me most about my trip to Georgia was how forward-thinking and cosmopolitan it could to be, particulary in the face of a deeply religious and conservative norms. More western-leaning than Armenia and filled with legions of citizens bursting with pride, there was something I felt I could anchor myself to in Georgia. A feeling perhaps or maybe a way of seeing the world, but what ever it was it resonated and made me think what would it be like to call this place home?
Mind you, I’m aware this could be the residual euphoria of the wine talking; it’s either that or it could be my longing for the taste of tonis puri on my lips.