Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gori: Supra in a Fiat

I've had some great days in Georgia, but this may have been one of the best.

I joined TLGer Sandy in "her" town of Gori, which, I may as well get out of the way now ... is the birthplace of Stalin. Yeah, that Stalin.

Two of Sandy's police students, Mariami and Sofi, had invited her to go with them up to Gorijvari today, which is a church atop a mountain in Gori. They welcomed me along.

To get to Gori, I took a marshurtka from Rustavi to Didube Station in Tbilisi, then a taxi to Gori. The marshurtka between Rustavi and Tbilisi costs 1.30 lari, which is less than a dollar USD. The taxi from Tbilisi to Gori costs five lari, which is about 3 dollars USD. The thing with the taxi is that you don't leave til the taxi is full. In the case of "my" taxi, this meant waiting for four passengers. This was accomplished in about half an hour. 

Gori is a little less than an hour from Tbilisi.

Upon my arrival in Gori, Sandy gave me a short walking tour of the town center, then we sat on a really pleasant, shady bench in front of the university and passed the time chatting about our experiences in Georgia thus far while waiting for Mariami and Sofi to pick us up.

Main square in Gori
While we talked, I looked up and damned if I didn't see my teaching assistant for my English classes in Rustavi, Gio! Gori is his hometown, and he was walking down the sidewalk with his mother.

Gori city hall in main square

We did introductions, talked for awhile, and Gio and his mom moved on.

Eventually, Mariami and Sofi, Sandy's police students, arrived in a tiny Fiat. Cute little thing - looked terribly small from the outside, but was surprisingly roomy inside. We headed  off for Gorijvari with the plan to drive up part way, then walk the rest of the hill. Mountain. Lucky us, we parked the car, began walking up the steep mountain, when a man and his daughter, happened by in a 4x4, and offered us a ride. Hell, yes.

The road was seriously rutted. Truly, I'm surprised we made it at all. But we did, and wow, the view of Gori from this mountaintop church was fantastic. What a change from Rustavi! Two rivers converged below us. Green forests. Rolling hills. Mountains in the distance.

The current church itself is relatively new. It is a replacement (and not the first) of the original old one. The current iteration replaces that destroyed during a earthquake in 1920. 

Mariami told us that if you walk around the church three times, your wish will come true. She and Sofi proceeded to do just that, pausing to kiss the church at each of its facets.

It began to rain a bit as we left the church to walk downhill. The rain did not deter us from the next stage of our adventure, which was to have a picnic.

In the little Fiat, Sofi drove us through a postcard-beautiful town called Ateni - rich because of its good wine. Garden vineyards everywhere. There were even pergolas over the road heavy with grape vines and grapes. The metal gates and wood fences to the family compounds were all spring green. A winding blacktop road led us between the mountains.

It had begun to rain in earnest, but nevertheless, we pulled into a picnic spot by the River Tana. Mariami jumped out of the Fiat, and pulled dish after dish from the Fiat's trunk, along with the small china plates Georgians use for eating, plus utensils. Sofi sliced farm-fresh white cheese and Mariami, now back inside the Fiat, made a tomato and cucumber salad in the front seat. Sofi laid a flat "loaf" of Georgian bread on the Fiat's dash. Mariami produced several one-liter Fanta and Coke bottles filled with local red wine. She said several times, "Now, let's begin!" Since we'd already begun eating the fabulous dishes she'd made - pastry filled with boiled potatoes, beet salad, a decadent and salty griled onion dish, a warm carrot salad, a bean dish - she meant, "let's get started with the drinking of wine!"

Mariami poured wine for all of us (though not poor Sofi, our designated driver), made a toast, and said, "Complete!" as in "Drink the whole thing!" She repeated this again. And again.

By the second cup, Sandy and I, both infrequent drinkers, were already giggling at stupid things (such as how our English skills have plummeted since living in Georgia, as our English has picked up a Georgian accent, and we have regressed to caveman English such as "we go now."). But presently, even Mariami was laughing tipsily. Poor Sofi, the designated driver, stolidly stuck with mineral water. 

By the time we finished this fantastic supra, the rain had stopped. We got out of the car, and Sofi sliced watermelon by the river.


We finished our feast and then went to the "Mother's Church" in Ateni. Unlike Gorijvari, which had been rebuilt in the last century, the Mother's Church is very old (though I don't know age).

My hostess, Nino, feeling anxious for my whereabouts (Georgians are very solicitous hosts), called me while we were at the church. For efficiency, I handed the phone to Mariami, who assured her I was well.

Mariami reassures my hostess
We wended our way back through the picturesque Ateni (damned if I neglected to push the 'on' button for the otherwise terrific video I took of the trip through), listening to dance rap and waving to passersby.

Mariami and Sofi gave Sandy and me wine, dropped me off at a taxi to Tbilisi, and then took Sandy home.

A great day.

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