Monday, July 6, 2009

Chargali

Yesterday (July 5), I visited Chargali, the birthplace and home of Vazha-Pshavela, in the Pshavi region of Georgia (~60 kilometers north-north east of Tbilisi).

The trip was organized by my former Georgian teacher, Nana. During my previous stay in Georgia, it was through Nana's trips that I visited Gergeti and Bodbe Monastery. I enjoy going on Nana's trips, not only because they're great opportunities to visit extraordinary parts of Georgia, but because Nana always manages to invite such an interesting and fun-loving group of Georgians.

This time, we were a party of nine: Nana, five middle-aged Georgian women (Nino, Tiniko, another Nana (Tiniko's sister), Gunda, and a half-Russian whose name I've forgotten), Temo (my Georgian host-dad and good friend of Nana), Adam (a PhD student from the States, who is doing research on the Georgian wine industry--lucky fellow--and is also a student of Nana), and myself.

Chargali is a tiny little village tucked away in the green foothills of the Caucasus. The first half of the drive was along the relatively well-maintained Georgian Military Highway, but once we reached the Zhinvali reservoir dam, we went off the highway onto a very poorly maintained road which followed the Aragvi River up to Chargali.

Besides Vazha-Pshavela's two-room house, which is now a museum, and the beautiful surroundings, Chargali is an unremarkable village. Nonetheless, Georgians revere this poet and writer, and still flock to his birthplace. As Temo explained to me, Vazha-Pshavela's (whose real name was Luka Razikashvili) poems while beautiful in their own right, all contain a strong political message: Don't mess with Georgia. Since last August's war, Vazha-Pshavela, not surprisingly, has become rather popular again.

After touring Vazha's bedroom, complete with a butter-churner and 19th century German sewing machine, we piled back into our marshrutka in anticipation of the main event of the day: our supra. We each had brought food for our picnic feast. I provided cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and apricots; Adam, of course, wine. We found a nice shady spot by the river and began to feast. Nana told me earlier that Tiniko was a great singer, and sure enough, after a few glasses of Saperavi, she was belting out Georgian folk songs. A few glasses later, I found myself trying to learn a traditional Georgian dance from the other Nana, and failing miserably.

Just about when we had finished the last of our wine, it began to rain, and so we quickly packed our things and headed back to Tbilisi. We all had such a good time, that we're thinking of where we should go next weekend. Right now, it's looking like Lagodekhi (a state-protected area in eastern Georgia).

Meanwhile, I have Temo's birthday party today to attend... My goodness, I think Georgian hospitality is going to kill me this time around!

1 comment:

Ian said...

I only experienced a sample of Georgian Hospitality: wow. It is a shock coming from somewhere where such practices are not usual.

Sounds like more great adventures: thanks for sharing. And continued best wishes for all you are doing.