A Prince’s Palace and a Youth Palace

Elarji = Cheeeese … we had this for lunch. A cornmeal and cheese dish (similar to polenta), but so much cheesier, and therefore, so, so delicious.

After Gori, our drive continued through mountains and valleys, past forests and streams, as we made our way to the town of Zugdidi in northwest Georgia. At times, we were only a few hundred yards away from the Russian occupation zones.

It was another rainy day. When I woke up, I grabbed some toast, eggs, and good, strong coffee, and sat by a window overlooking the street, botanical garden (which I’m told has a single sequoia tree within its gates), and the prince’s palace (now a museum). 

We had a morning radio interview and performance which was really fun. The host was eager to speak with us, and kindly said it was a breath of fresh air to have our energy and music in her studio. 

We’re on the radio!

After the interview, Gigi asked if we’d like to tour the prince’s palace museum. We had an hour and it was too rainy to be outside much, so it sounded like a great idea. 

We slowly wandered through the palace looking at books, furniture, clothing and paintings. The highlight exhibit was to look upon Napoleon Bonaparte’s death mask. It used to be common to take a mold or impression of a person’s face upon death for posterity. As history enthusiasts it was amazing to be so close to the actual face of Napoleon. 

After that we had a meet and greet with youth at the American Corner. When we arrived, the room was packed to capacity, and on easels throughout were impressionistic-style paintings made by a gifted, young adaptive artist with autism named Gigi (yes, we met a second Gigi). 

Hanging with the Zugdidi Youth (Gigi the artist is in the front right of the photo)

He shared his beautiful, detailed art with us, and then youth folk musicians in traditional clothing played Georgian tunes for us on native instruments. We led a Q&A, and then everyone in the room moved to a venue just a couple of blocks away for an afternoon performance. 

The concert was in Zugdidi Youth Palace – a long room with chandeliers and two grand pianos. Festivities started when a teenage girl sang the U.S. National Anthem, and then another sang the Georgian National Anthem. It was a beautiful way to begin. 

We played our set next, and by the end of the first few songs, the seats were emptied as kids made their way closer to the stage, and the music hall was now the site of an all-out singalong-dance party… If you’ve been reading this blog daily, you may have noticed a pattern by now… The youth and the audiences in Georgia were so consistently eager, excited, and fun. We had the best time trading off songs with the folk group, and getting everyone involved. 

Afterward, a local restaurant owner who’d been at the performance invited us to her shop for coffee and a snack as a thank you for the time with the students and the visit to Zugdidi. 

Getting coffee and a snack with friends after the show

The rain started to clear as we left town and drove south along the green, hilly coast of the Black Sea to our final destination in Georgia: Batumi.