This is going to be tough…
Georgia has left an impact on me that’ll be hard to relay to you. I haven’t processed it all, myself, but as I traveled, I took detailed notes about what I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, and touched. My notes are extensive… It’s a beautiful, interesting, often-easy-going-sometimes-intense place… I loved it.
Just a one hour flight from Baku, Tbilisi, the capital of the country was our first stop. It was early in the afternoon, and though we were all a little tired from the early trip, there was no way we could arrive in a brand new place and not explore just a little bit, right? … This turned into a 7.5 mile hike around the city.
We were hungry, so after we stopped at an ATM to get some Lari (the Georgian currency) we walked to a nearby restaurant. It was here that my life was forever changed as I was introduced to khachapuri for the first time.
Khachapuri is a hollowed out loaf of fresh bread that is filled with hot, melty cheese, butter, and a runny egg. Yes, this is a real thing. It was one of the least health-conscious, and most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Seriously so good. At the end of our meal, a complimentary glass of warm, homemade, spiced wine was served as a dessert.
From there, we walked extensively: through the government center, the markets, the old city, and across the river to the Narikala skyway tram (which reminded me of the Wonka-vator from Willy Wonka).
The tram lifts you high above the city, into the hills overlooking the homes and shops, and the top is stunningly picturesque. We just did our best to take it all in.
You learn quickly that Georgians love their country, food, wine, and language (which is unique to Georgia) very much. For example: What would you crave when you’ve just hiked through an ancient fortress and climbed 40 flights of stairs? Water or a bench to catch your breath perhaps? Don’t be silly. How about a long row of merchants selling homemade chacha (a local homebrew) and wine.
In a rare scheduling anomaly, our travel day was back-to-back with our rest day, so we took full advantage of our time, laced up our shoes and went for another walk. Farther this time, and more stairs, across the river and through the pedestrian walking tunnels, up into the hills on the opposite bank of the river where Sameba Cathedral is located. It’s the largest church in Georgia, and was beautiful to behold.
From there, we walked more and stopped at a restaurant with an open-air second floor. We had a street view, a snack, some Georgian wine, reviewed our schedule for the week, and just enjoyed the warm, sunny day. We rested well, and prepared our minds and hearts for our mission ahead.
The simplicity we felt in those first two days (and so many times throughout the week), was fascinatingly juxtaposed with the complexity of the place, the people, the politics, the recent violent history from the 2008 Russian invasion, and the estimated 200,000+ refugees the Russo-Georgian War displaced.