Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nothing There Tour #2: Gardabani, Part 1: Town of Surprises

Gardabani, Georgia. Dancers waiting.

Sadly, my experiences in Gardabani, Georgia, in spring 2012 are only now being brought to life in the written form. I smile every time I think of Gardabani.

In Nothing There Tour #1, I told you about Vakhtangisi, which is on the Georgia-Azerbaijan border. In that report, I explained how Georgians wondered why anyone would go to Gardabani because "therrre's nothing therrrre!"

Now I've gone twice to Gardabani!

Some highlights:
  • Something called "kubdari," which is a tasty meat pie - a small pizza with a lid, say
  • A surprise supra with strangers
  • A good white wine made by an Azeri-Georgian
  • Men in black
  • Georgian rap
  • Filthy WC
  • Chickens having sex
  • Horses running down the street

What do you mean nothing is there?!  

Gardabani, Georgia. Restaurant door.
The first time

The first time I went to Gardabani was with Sandy; we stopped on our way back from Vakhtangisi. Had lunch at the restaurant next to the Orthodox church. Like so many Georgian restaurants, it had a fine door.

Georgian servers are also skilled at upselling their products, and we ended up with far too much food on the table. In addition to a tomato-cucumber-parsley-onion salad, we had a khachapuri and kubdari, a sort of meat pizza pie. Delicious. Most of the stuff we carried out with us to take back home to Rustavi. 

A Georgian restaurant tradition I like is the prevalence of "kupays"in most places. They are private rooms or alcoves. They let you escape from the noise and smoke of the larger dining room.

Another Georgian custom I like is that when there's live music, the band plays one song, then takes a break instead of the one-hour or half-hour sets in the U.S. One song, then break. The Georgian way is the perfect win - you can listen to the music, dance, and also talk to your companions throughout the evening.

When we emerged from the restaurant, we walked across the main drag to find a marshrutka. In the yard of some official building, we saw chickens engaged in digging a hole in the ground. Or maybe just laying eggs in an existing hole. Kind of interesting, what those hens were doing getting in and out of that hole in the ground. Then we saw the rooster come over and, well ... it was over very quickly.

We caught a marshrutka and returned to Rustavi with our culinary riches.

The second time - Bayrami!

Before we left Vakhtangisi, we learned from the English teacher, Nata, that there'd be a large Bayrami celebration in Gardabani the following week. Sandy couldn't go, but I was happy to be able to make it. I also let other TLGers know about it.

On an April Thursday mid-day, I got into Marshrutka #13 at the Old Bazaar in Old Rustavi and began the short trip to Gardabani. When we began, there were only an elderly woman and man on board, plus me. As we neared Gardabani, however, clutches of young girls boarded, giggling as girls do. Soon, the marshrutka was packed with tween girls. Some boys got on. Some men and women. By the time we rolled into Gardabani proper, the marshrutka was so tightly packed with humanity, individual bodies coalesced into one organ with multiple appendages that had limited range of movement.

The event was held in a park next to Gardabani's city hall ("meria"). There was a large stage for bands and dancers. Representatives from nearby villages had set up feast tables to show off their food and drink. (Though most Azeri-Georgians are Muslim, not all follow the proscription against alcohol consumption.)

Gardabani, Georgia

I saw several Bayrami maidens, bedecked with flowery headdresses, carrying the traditional fruit and new grass, to the village tables. Sometimes a band of music men accompanied them.

Men boiled khinkali.

Gardabani, Georgia

Politicos visited. 

Men gave speeches.


Men ate.

Gardabani, Georgia

Gardabani, Georgia

Tea was made.

Gardabani, Georgia

I saw the director of Nata's Vakhtangisi school - that village was represented today also. I was invited to partake of its table's contents, including wine. All delicious.

There was music on the large stage - dances and concerts!

To be continued ... 

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