Georgia on My Mind

by Max Hartshorne on October 14, 2014

The Alaverdi Monastery where great wines are made.

Monastery in Alaverdi Georgia.

Georgia: some random thoughts as we drove from the center of the country, Tbilisi, to the west:

Along the road, we came to a detour, with two policemen directing our bus shunting us off to a dusty rutted road. We were driving through the remains of an old Soviet factory, one of hundreds that have been dismantled or left to rot. Everywhere along the roadside is litter–bottles mostly–it’s a depressing site to look out on gorgeous fall foliage in the distance like Vermont, but then up close it’s trash along every road.

Our bus driver was determined to pass anyone who dared drive in front of him, we’d come right up close kissing the rear of an ancient Russian Lada, the tiny four-door staple vehicle of Soviet times, belching the smoke unblessed by catalytic converter, and I’d just close my eyes. We’d pass by massive Soviet era trucks, with bulging tires and old men in blue suits. Outside of shops, identified by a few hams hanging down, groups of men playing dominos or backgammon on boxes.

In some of the towns, a yellow pipe ran along the roadside and wherever a driveway was, it would loop up and around and then continue on. Exposed yellow pipe on an on, I was told that it is cheaper to do it this way instead of burying it.

Dancing at the Pheasant's Tale, Sighnaghi, Georgia.

Dancing at the Pheasant’s Tale, Sighnaghi, Georgia.

There is an excitement here about the development of tourism and especially of the wine market. I’ve been told at least a dozen times that there has been wine here for 8,000 years, and that Armenia and Azerbaijan also make this claim. They age the wine in ancient clay containers called Qvervi, where the skins and the stems add to the flavor.

The food has been spectacular here–last night we enjoyed spicy pumpkin, smoked eggplant and onions, delightfully fresh yogurt, beet greens sauteed with peppers, warm olives topped with almonds, rolled up eggplant filled with ricotta, roast chicken with pomegranite, the mezze plates were spectacular and endless at our long feasts. ¬†Toasts too, play an important role, and so many of them here have been from the heart, speaking of gratitude, reverence for ancestors, and especially–to love life this very minute, because we never know how long we might have left. Amen!

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