So, after school finished, I went to the bus station where all the marshutkas (minivans) arrive from around the country to meet my friend from Kutaisi, and we caught the metro back to my apartment. We had a brilliant evening, and went out for Chinese, which isn’t quite Western standards, but was still pretty awesome. Its funny because a lot of my Georgian friends are afraid of eating Chinese or Thai food, because they have seen programmes on television about the countries and the kinds of foods that people eat there. They think that if they go to the restaurant they will be served ants, snake meat, and cockroaches, so they are nervous about coming to such restaurants in Tbilisi. I was quite taken aback by this at first, but then it actually made a lot of sense, given the kinds of documentaries that one sees on the National Geographic channel, and it is true that such food is eaten in some places.
I myself have eaten some pretty bizarre thing son my travels, especially when I was with a tribe in the Amazon Jungle. This particular tribe make a drink that they offer to guests, and if you refuse to drink it, its really offensive to them. First of all, they chew on leaves from the trees, then they spit them into a bowl, and leave them to ferment for a while. This is the drink that they offer, and consists mostly of saliva!! In Thailand, my uncle, as guest of honour, was served a rat to eat, and in Selfridges in London, you can buy all sorts of speciality foods from around the world. This includes coffee which has been digested and defecated by an animal, grub worm lollypops and tequila, ants covered in chocolate, and scorpions, etc! I also heard about a restaurant in London which serves meals like this, and is very popular too. Just a few weeks ago, a shop in Covent Garden in London, started selling ice cream made from breast milk for £15 an ounce! And often it is the things that we don’t understand about in life, that we are most afraid of, so I can understand why a person would be so anxious about trying new foods from a different country. But, we had a lovely meal and it was a pretty good restaurant. We were also very unGeorgian and took a doggy bag home! Something that Georgian people in general really frown upon and are embarrassed to do!
Some friends from the regions were up visiting for the weekend too, so I decided to invite them to my favourite haunt as I knew that they were missing civilisation whilst living in the villages. We had the most amazing day, and I was even more happy when they decided that they would extend their contracts if they could and would come back to Georgia in September for the new school year. That news was like Christmas to my ears! So, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, and then had the pleasure of catching up with Nikoloz, a friend of mine who is a Film Director. The next day he was off to Cannes Film Festival to show his most recent film ‘The Sacred Knight’, but it was great to have a chance to catch up with him as I haven’t seen him for a few weeks, and had wanted him to meet my friends (who previously worked in film in the UK, like myself) since January. He had a bit of free time before returning to his post production work of his new film ‘Jeans Generation’, and offered to take us to Mtskheta after lunch.
The language ‘Georgian’ is known as ‘Kartuli’ and comes from the name given to the people of Georgia who were Kartlos. They got their name from Noah’s great great Grandson Kartlos, the story of Noah and his ark comes from Georgia. These people made their home in the town of Mtskheta, which was previously an ancient Royal city and was the Capital of Eastern Georgia. It is said to be the spiritual heart of Georgia, because it was here that St Nino came and converted the Iverian Kingdom to Christianity. Nino was one cool Dame, and was brought up by her Uncle after her father left the family for his religion, Nino was so in awe of his dedication that she began to study Christianity and also took up Christianity. It is said that Nino performed many miracles at Mtskheta (she stopped the rain and also asked god for help and a solar eclipse occurred, which cured the blindness of the Queen at that time) and it was because of these miracles that the people turned to Christianity. When she arrived in the city in the 4th Century, she brought with her two grape vines which were tied together with her hair, to form a cross. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity, and Georgia is said to be the second country. So, the town is of real significance to the people of Georgia and still holds a sense of magic and mystery for them, as well as people one of the oldest churches in the country. Christianity was established here in AD 327. It remained the Capital city until the 5th Century, when the King Vakhtang Gorgasali moved the capital to Tbilisi.
Now, I am not particularly religious, but Mtskheta is still an amazing place to me, and has one of my favourite churches in Georgia. Inside, its really plain, with no frescoes, just bare rock, but its minimal and raw, which I love. In the centre of the church is a large wooden cross, and when you enter from miserable weather (like we did), it has a huge warmth about the place, particularly enhanced by the heat given off by the candles. Sadly, none of us were prepared for our visit, and only had camera phones, but I plan to visit here a lot over summer with my tourists, and to take a lot of photos of the church. Its one of the few churches where you are still allowed to take photos inside.
Its also a great place to go, if you want to see wedding parties, because people like to come here before they go to the wedding ceremony. Just as happened on this visit. Its also one of my favourite churches, because it is close to Tbilisi, but has a different feel about it. Kind of rugged and exposed, sat on the top of the cliffs, with amazing views over the two rivers that meet here. The River Mtkvari which is brownish colour, and the River Aragvi which comes down from the mountains and is much clearer. You can really see the colours as the two rivers meet together, and its kind of special to think that the rivers travel through this special area, and carry their waters to other parts of Georgia. We didn’t have a lot of time, but it was more than worth the visit, even though we did get soaked through from the rain that day. On a good day, the views here are amazing. But, it was really nice to have some rain after all the sun of late, and reminded me of being back in Britain.
The Acid Bar
After our little adventures with Nikoloz, we sadly had to say goodbye, but the day was not yet over. We had ample time, so decided to end the day with cocktails. The Acid Bar is a chain of ‘bars’, but is a great place to hang out, and is always full of students and young people from the universities. You can get snacks and food, and the cocktail list is fairly impressive. We all enjoyed our ‘orgasms’ and ‘sex on the beach’, and the embarrassment of ordering and alcohol soon warmed us all up after the rain.