Before I visited Georgia, I had read about the country's legendary hospitality. The country is known for many more things but remains off most tourists itineraries. Few know that the country has the subtropical region around Batumi, called Adjara, and mountains where even skiing is possible. Little is known about the capital Tbilisi, maybe just by historians or people having a keen interest in the Caucasus region. Georgia is a diverse country with many sights to visit and apart from that, the country's people made my trip unforgettable. The examples are plentiful and I will just describe a few on this page. They are some of the reasons I would visit Georgia again in a heartbeat.
Many people were so friendly to offer rides while I was walking and offering a place for the night in case I had nowhere to sleep. If I stayed at a family pension, coffee and something sweet was often served without having asked. Georgian dinners are quite famous as well with abundant food and even more wine. Georgia, as one of the oldest wine regions in the world, has millennia-old traditions and unwritten rules regarding the drinking of wine and having guests over. From 4000BC, inhabitants of the region buried vessels in which they stored their wines to be served at a cool temperature. From that point on there is evidence of strong culture in wines and hospitality as well.
Having had several occasions with endless toasts of the host and many small sips of wine so as not to drink too much, my most memorable experience was near Gori. The town Gori is infamous for being the birthplace of Stalin and its Stalin Museum, located on Stalin Avenue. Outside the museum are the actual house Stalin was born. The train carriage with which he travelled is also on display. The museum even has a souvenir shop, selling many presents depicting Stalin, such as snow globes and mugs. As the cave city Uplistsikhe is quite close to Gori, I decided to pack in this extra sight as well in my day trip from Tbilisi. I was impressed Uplistsikhe, so much that I missed the last bus to Gori and there was no other option than to hitchhike. The ticket vendor of the cave city complex even offered me a place to stay but I decided to try to get back to the hotel in Tbilisi instead.
I walked back to the small village from which the bus I missed would have left and decided to try and catch a ride. First I met two soldiers and even though I didn't manage to clarify what they were doing in the village, we had a friendly conversation about the country. I asked if I could picture them and as they held their guns in the sky, a brown dog passed by which can be seen in the picture below. Right at that moment, one of the soldiers thought it would be nice to shoot a pidgin from the sky. Both me and the brown dog got scared senseless of the loud bang but no other villagers seemed to look up. The pidgin dropped from the sky and rather unfortunately plunged into someone's garden. A strange experience.
As I stood along the main road, I tried the first car. A low-hanging black Mercedes with as far as I could see four guys stopped right away. I was allowed in the back seat. The four men seemed to be helping a friend moving furniture. In the backseat and with my legs wrapped around a large tv (no flatscreen), we drove to Gori. I don't like passive smoking but had little choice in this case. As we arrived at the house of one of the four men, we dropped off the furniture and the tv as well. After asking many questions in broken English and me answering in broken Russian, the driver introduced himself as Levan. With rather slow and charismatic arm movements he pointed to sights with a cigarette in his hand, steering the car around a hole at the same time. Levan had lived in Moscow but said to like Georgia better as he missed his friends. The friends nodded along. Suddenly Levan got an idea and got his phone from the inside pocket of his leather coat. He called someone and I heard some words such as restaurant. He later explained he owned a Georgian restaurant and could not let me go without me having tried some specialties.
I did not know how to get back to Tbilisi but was too curious to reject the invitation. Arriving at the restaurant, it seemed that the two waitresses had opened the place up just for this occasion. Levan seemed to have called many more friends, whose names I don't remember. They were all seated at the table closely paying attention to what I was saying, translated through a lady that had lived in Bermuda. The meal was very good and the table too full for even a wedding. The wine was served in a handmade clay pitcher that I found beautiful. I noticed a collection of them standing on display along the wall. I pointed and said how much I liked them. Levan said "Then pick one". I replied that I couldn't as I didn't normally drink wine and had no place in my suitcase for it. That was not the reason, I just felt guilty receiving such a beautiful gift. As I went to the bathroom and got back, I found the most beautiful pitcher next to my backpack for me to take home. I was truly humbled by such friendliness, of all of these people gathering for a foreigner visiting their town.
I was accompanied by one of Levan's friends, a blonde lady with large earrings and as I suspect a good sense of humour. We took a shared cab to Tbilisi and she was continuously joking with the driver and even though we had little of a common language, she later said "Please come back to Gori some time, my friend". As I arrived in the hotel, I opened my backpack and looked at the beautiful pitcher. To my surprise, I found another small one in my backpack as well. I looked in the bottom and found "gaumarjos", cheers in Georgian written on there. As I looked on the large pitcher, it said "From your friends in Gori".