Bit of a strange afternoon and evening... Nana has been out since before lunch and I haven't seen Rezzo (host Dad) since Sunday, although that last isn't that unusual. Nata is missing too. Took advantage of the rare solitude and spent a very nice hour nursing a glass of homemade white wine and reading my kindle on the roof deck, then went inside and fell asleep.
I woke up as it was getting dark, to the very loud baying of some animal and with an upset stomach. Still no one home as far as I could discover, except that I found Eldari (host Grandpa) alone in the kitchen, watching football in the dark.
Do unexpected naps make other people feel all disoriented and out-of-time? I've got that going on in a big way. Add in, of course, that I am in Georgia...
So I walked to the corner store for a beer, which I've found to fix most problems. Dire Straits are serenading me softly, and it is pretty nicely novel to be beginning a blog post before midnight.
When we last left our intrepid hero....
This past Saturday I went with Mark and Julie to Zugdidi, a city about an hour east of Poti. I was extremely proud of myself that morning, as I got up early, walked to the Bazari, exchanged dollars for lari, communicated my desire to go to the bus station AND negotiated the fare with a cabbie, and bought a marshrutka ticket for Zugdidi upon reaching the station -- ALL without a hitch. Julie and Mark arrived, and we rattled and bumped and sweated our way down the Georgian highway. You can't beat a marshrutka for cheap transport to pretty much anywhere in Georgia, but I sure am not looking forward to my first really long trip in one.
Zugdidi is really pretty, and certianly more Western and modern than Poti. The three of us arrived with only the vaugest idea of what to see (wikipedia and a single short entry in my guidebook). We wandered down the main street, and stopped randomly into an art gallery and asked about the Dadiani Palace Museum. Turns out it was exactly in the direction we had been going. Bonus.
|Me and Julie in Zugdidi -- pretty fountian shaped like the Georgian flag|
|Dadiani Palace Museum|
After the museum, we walked around the very pretty grounds for a bit. I had one brief but extremely unpleasant experience -- an older woman staggered up to me with her hand out, saying something. I said "Arra, bodishit," (No, sorry), and tried to step around her, but she kind of cornered me against the wall of a building and then she siezed my left arm in both hands, talking loudly the whole time. This woman was strong!! I began to shout "arra! arra!!" and tried to get her off, but she had me good. Mark had to step in and literally tear this woman's hands off me. Once I was free she didn't try again, but I didn't look back and I was SO glad I wasn't there alone! I love traveling solo, but let's just hear it for friends who are ready and willing to pull crazy people off your ass at a moment's notice.
After THAT, well, we all decided we could use some refreshment. After some false starts, we found an utterly perfect cafe set a little above street level, that had superb shady outdoor seating. We ordered beers and kebabs and some meat "curry" and the ubiquitous tomato and cucumber salad -- everything was really tasty and it was just so damn pleasant to relax outside and talk about any old thing... After our beers were empty, Mark came up solid twice in one afternoon, and pulled a two-litre coke bottle from his backpack... that was filled with his family's red wine. Being Georgia, the establishment couldn't care less that we were adding our own refreshment to the party. We lingered a good long time at our table. The plan wasn't to return to Poti until late evening, so we figured we had plenty of time.
After lunch, we decided to at least locate the bus station, and find out when the last bus was, so we could enjoy the rest of our afternoon and evening free of worry. After a long hot trek, we arrived at the station to discover that NO buses left after 5:00, and it was 4:30. We sighed, shrugged, and got on one more hot-ass marshrutka for the bumpy ride back to Poti. Everyone was really disapointed that our day was cut short, but at least it worked out that we weren't stuck in Zugdidi overnight.
Back in Poti, Julie invited us to her host family's house. We ended up hanging out outside again, on her front steps, polishing off the last of Mark's wine. Later we went out for food, and found one of those lovely little family-run, out-of-the-way cafes without a name but likely serve the best food in town. We asked for gvhino, and for four lari (less than three dollars), we got a huge pitcher filled with their very own white wine. Love it. Food was delicious and actually a little spicy which shot me straight into heaven.
Wonderful day and evening with good people. I can't wait to travel all over this incredible country.
So, that was Saturday. Sunday then, I decreed would be quiet. I'd come down with a mild case of ick the day of Nata's birthday, and while I wasn't going to let that stop me from something like a day trip to Zugdidi, I also thought that a day of downtime, with the host family, might be in the cards.
In the evening though, I went with Rezzo into the City Center to watch an outdoor concert of traditional Georgian dancing. My host Dad speaks only two or three words of English, and I don't speak much more Georgian, but we've always gotten along great.
I really enjoyed the concert. It turned out to be a kids' performance, but those little guys and girls can really move it. The costumes were amazing too, and it was really fun to see all the diversity in the different styles of traditional Georgian dancing and costuming, which varies significantly by region.
BUT, this concert was four hours long. That's four hours of standing in the street, no facilities, no nothing. I really enjoyed seeing the dancing, but I would have enjoyed it more with a lawn and a blanket and a beer with some chicken fingers, and maybe even a porta-potty. We had to stay until the end because my younger host sister Anna was performing, and she was going... last. Of course. But I really did want to see her and her troupe, so was willing to clench down on the bladder and wait it out. Due to a tall guy with a camera being a douche, I only have a few very crappy photos of Anna's dance.
When we finally got home it was 11:30, and I was wiped. Georgia sure has a lot of culture for a very tiny country that's spent quite a lot of time over the centuries being ruled by outsiders.
Here's a video that shows a pretty decent example of Georgian dancing. If you're impatient, the good stuff starts up around 2:45.