A top-notch Travel person wants their clients to have the best possible experience; one that is tailored to their expectations. To this end, there are FAM (familiarization) trips that give these professionals first hand knowledge. This is how I found myself embedded in a group of dedicated travel specialists, all of whom were as curious as I was about Georgia and its attractions.
I was there primarily to experience the culture, with an emphasis on music, art and food, although of course, it is always wonderful to meet new people and to learn about their histories. I found an abundance of all these things in Georgia (BTW, Sakartvelo is the actual name for this country). I had already known about the fantastic polyphonic singing tradition, and so before I even committed to the trip I made sure that we would catch some, but I was unprepared for the beauty of the country, and –dare I say it?—the good vibes of the place. For a nation with a history of invasion, surrounded by encroaching empires, the people have a tremendous vivacity and pride.
I hope you will enjoy my memoire of the trip, and here are a few footnotes:
When I mention that Alexander Chavchavadze was an exceptional man, consider this: he was probably Georgia’s most influential writer in the Romantic tradition, and a fervent nationalist. But as Georgia’s precarious position made it fair game for the Persian and Turkish empires, it became politically expedient to align itself with Russia, which if nothing else was also Christian. (Talk about a dangerous liaison!) Chavchavadze became a highly successful military commander. So much so that even after his patriotic actions landed him in a Russian jail on charges of treason, he was released so that he could continue to command the Tsars’ armies! All this, and he was a famous winemaker, too. Fascinating stuff.
Speaking of wine, the wine making tradition in Georgia goes back 8,000 years. As a matter of fact, many of the grapes that we taste in our own traditional wines originated there. The fermentation process is quite different however. The juice of the grapes is poured into huge terra cotta jugs lined with beeswax, called qvevri, then buried and left to age. This process produces wines that are extremely clean in taste, and Georgian wines are gaining more and more of a place in the international market.
And ah, Tbilisi! This is truly a fond memory, of antiquity alongside striking modern architecture, and intriguing side streets vs. massive plazas. The glass dome you see in the video is a symbol for transparency in government, and the energy one feels in the streets is anything but tired! This is a city that small as it may be, offers cosmopolitan pleasures and stimulation. Everyone in our group wished we could stay longer, and that is saying something!
My thanks to the Georgian National Tourism Office and Vera Pearson, who jointly organized the tour.
Thanks also to Nadine Godwin for letting me use several of her photos.
For the complete song from Teatraluris Kvarteti: huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/a-rainy-night-in-georgia_b_8258134.html
For another song from that night, visit: worldmusicandculture.com/a-folk-song-from-gurya/#more-2727