Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A trip to Bodbe and Sighnaghi

Fr. Theodore thought it would be nice if we left the city and saw some of Georgia's countryside, in particular, Sighnaghi. Fr. Theodore has a cottage there where we planned to spend the night instead of racing back to the city.

It is a two hour drive from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi, but as tired as I was, there was no nodding off, for two reasons: 1) The landscape is just amazing. Rolling green hills stretch out into the distance and are for the most part treeless. As soon as we left the city, we were plunged into agrarian society. It is actually believed that agriculture was first developed in the Caucasus. As we drove by, we saw farmers tending to there fields of potatoes, onions, and herbs as well as vineyards. Shepherds herded their sheep and goats right by the side of the road; cattle roamed freely. 2) Georgians are crazy drivers. There is no real licensing institution in Georgia, and as a result, half the driving population don't know how to drive. Add to that the fact that many of the cars on the road are Soviet models (ever hear of Niva?) meaning that they are both old and poorly made. There is no speed limit, and we ourselves would travel in excess of 120 km/hr at times--but we were safe in the hands of Fr. Theodore who was once a rally car race driver. There were many times that we came close to witnessing an accident as cars would try to pass each other on steep hills and sharp turns.

We arrived safely in Sighnaghi. First order of business was to stop by Fr. Theodore's cottage, which Fr. Theodore himself had not seen since its remodeling. The cottage is nice and quite comfortable but its true value lies in its view. From the front porch is a breathtaking panoramic view of the Caucasus mountains. Even at this time of year the peaks are still capped with snow at elevations exceeding 3500meters (the Caucasus are even higher in other parts). On the other side of the mountains lay Chechnya and Dagestan.

We drove into Sighnaghi to meet a friend of Fr. Theodore's and were met instead with an amazing amount of construction. John, Fr. Theodore's friend, told us that 500 men were working in Sighnaghi to give the entire town a facelift. The goal is to make the town look as it did in the 19th century in order to attract more tourism. John is an artist from America who fell in love with Georgia and lived here for several years and now has a young family. We had a lovely lunch at John's house complete with some of his own wine.

Less than an hour after eating with John, we were invited to another "dinner" by Sergo, a good friend of Fr. Theodore who was responsible for the renovations in the cottage. This time we at at an outdoor restaurant that looked out onto the plains below and the Caucasus in the distance. Again we had wine (which I told was good, but not super--there is no such thing as bad Georgian wine) for our many toasts. Stuffed, tired, and a bit tipsy, we finally turned in at Fr. Theodore's cottage.

The next morning we packed our things and stopped at the nearby convent. Unfortunately we had arrived too early, and as Fr. Theodore had to be back in Tbilisi for an appointment, we decided against waiting and instead visited the springs a little ways away. The spring is believed to have healing properties and is tended to by nuns. We each took turns dipping ourselves into the frigid water.

Then off to Tbilisi. When we returned, I was greeted by the news that my lost luggage had arrived.

Note: I apologize for not posting photos of my recent adventures. I do not have easy access to the internet/an easy way to transfer my photos. When I do, I'll be sure to upload them asap.


inga said...

hey cb,

no worries. i had the same problem when i first tried blogging here. i guess since the internet connection was local all sites just autmatically come up in korean. anyway, sounds like you are having a really action packed trip so far. don't take up driving like a georgian. if all the georgian drivers jumped off a know.

callie peters said...

was he really a racecar driver, or just trying to make you feel more at ease?

either way i'm really impressed - it sounds like your having an amazing time. and i'm jealous.