Sunday, March 6, 2016

Georgia - Sakartvelo

GAMARJOBA! გამარჯობა! That's "hello" in Georgian.

Nestled between the powerhouses of Russia and Turkey, grazing the Black Sea, and sharing borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan sits the small, and yet somehow huge, country of Georgia, called "Sakartvelo" in Georgian. My family and our close Russian friends traveled to this wonderful land over Thanksgiving week 2015 to visit our parents' long lost friends! From the Black Sea to the Caucasus Mountains to the farms and the cities, the country has a lot of variety to offer in the gorgeous capital of Tbilisi, and the country's nine regions including the historical Mtskheta-Mtianeti, the mountain view filled Kakheti, the Imereti, and the peaceful Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti.

The first Georgian states were established in the 13th-6th centuries BC making the country's history rich and deep. As you can see by the five crosses on their flag, Georgians are extremely religious Orthodox Christians and there a ton of cathedrals in every town. Also, ALL 3.7 million Georgians make their own wine, some make their own cheese, those with land grow persimmons, pomegranates, grapes, and all sorts of other fruits. Georgian culture is very, very big on sitting down with their friends and family for long dinners during which pitchers of wine are imbibed and long toasts on Georgia, God, friendship, love, and other important topics are shared all night long - mixed in with some traditional singing and dancing, of course!

Georgian people are a true exemplar of friendship and hospitality:-from our friends who took good care of us the full 8 days and connected us with people all over the country who also took excellent care of us! - to the random farmers we met along the road who insisted we try their persimmons and wine.- to the taxi driver who yelled about how Georgians still love Russians regardless of the politics and tore the cross off his rear-view mirror and gave it to my father.- to the 4 different Georgian families who gave us 4 different tickets to a Georgian concert for free saying it was better to give it for free to a visitor than to sell it to a local. (Photo on the right: We stopped to take photos of his persimmons, and he greeted us with homemade wine and persimmons. It was a luxurious life.)

My parents had been to Georgia before to visit their friend Valeriy back in the 1980s so they knew about this unique Georgia trait, but my brother and I and our pseudo cousins were in awe of the non stop unconditional love, attention, and care. Georgians speak their own Georgian language but due to the long standing Russian influence and friendship, whose current loss/tension appears to be felt country-wide, many people speak Russian. We traveled Georgia as Russian speakers, therefore this trip was very unique for so many reasons. I can tell you one thing, if you do not speak Georgian or Russian, you will still be welcome with open arms, love, and friendship. They have a proverb that goes something like, "If your enemy comes to your home, you take care of him, feed him, give him wine, give him a place to sleep. When he leaves your home, then you can attack him." The point is - Georgians are a people who do not start wars but welcome all into their homes and treat everyone with great honor and warmth. 

A view of  Tbilisi, the captial of Georgia. Tbilisi means "warm place".
In the front are Eteri, Valeriy, Roma, Beka, Tamara. Our hosts, our parents' friends from decades back. Some of the warmest people I have ever met.
Standing are: Sasha, Jenya, Valya, Masha (our close friends from Moscow), then my dad, mom, me, and my brother Savva.
Churches feature prominently in Georgia.
Dinners of monstrous proportions every night!
It's 9am on a Tuesday and my brother is tasting wine near church ruins.
Welcome to Georgia!
Our group of 8 posed a lot, there will be more of this in my future posts.
Caucasus Mountains!!!
Sheep and mountains!
Get ready for epic photography skills in the coming posts.
The Prometheus cave - it's huge and recently discovered!
Eating persimmons, drying persimmons, living the persimmon life.
Did I mention churches with glorious views?
To market we go!
A gigantic dam!
The Black Sea with mountains and a wedding photo shoot.
 I will have a whole post dedicated to Georgian food, do not worry my foodie friends =)
Georgians love to bring out the drinking horn for chugging wine on special occasions.
That's my little brother committing to Georgia.
There will be many videos of Russians and Georgians (common man and epic dancers) dancing.

And we ate a lot of khachapuri in almost every shape and form.


  1. There are some seriously epic photos in this post. Favorites: Sheep and mountains, the colorful cave, those delicious-looking dried persimmons, and your dad taking on that mile-long strand of cheese (hilarious!).

    Great preview. Can't wait to see more!! 😄

    1. Thank you!! The dish my dad is eating is called elarji and it's made with cornmeal, cornflour and Sulguni cheese. It will make it's way into the food post =)