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Friday, October 30, 2015


Our hotel owner/guide Nikoloz decided that our second full day in Georgia would be the best day to go to Kakheti, which is to the east of Tbilisi, because it was supposed to be somewhat less rainy that day than the next.  So we got an earlyish start after another one of Mia's wonderful breakfasts.  When we got ready to leave, we found out that Nikoloz did not have a vehicle large enough for all of us.  He introduced us to his elderly father, Lado, who had brought his car.  We decided to divide along gender lines, with the women in Lado's car, and the guys with Nikoloz.

At some point, soon after we got into the car, I said something to one of my friends.  Lado asked me if I was speaking American English, and I replied that I was.  He said he couldn't understand me at all.  I knew then that I could say whatever I wanted during the drive.  But I also knew we wouldn't be learning much about Georgian history or the places we were visiting from him.

I found out later from the guys that despite Nikoloz's English skills, he wasn't providing much information about the sites, either.  Also, one of his favorite topics of conversation reportedly was going to the bathroom outdoors (!).  So, it seems likely that our language barrier with Lado didn't cause us to miss out on particularly sparkling conversation.

I spent the day seeing sites with little to no context provided, and with rain and fog sometimes obscuring the views, but enjoyed them all the same.  Our first stop was the David Garjeja monastery, which was amazing.

After exploring there, we got back into the car.  We passed a lot of livestock, including pigs.  Pigs are somewhat of a novelty to me while traveling, since I've traveled mostly in the Islamic world.  At one point, we drove through a very impressive flock of sheep, which I desperately tried to photograph while Lado yelled at me not to open the car door.

Next up was the monastery of St. Nino, by which point it was raining quite convincingly.

The next stop was supposed to be a wine tasting, since Kakheti is famous for its wine.  Our group of friends ranged from complete teetotalers to people who really enjoy wine and were very interested in the wine tasting.  I was somewhat neutral.  Under other circumstances, I probably would have been more interested, but (a) it was way past lunchtime, and I didn't particularly want to drink on an empty stomach, and (b) the "free" wine tasting turned out to actually cost 15 lari once we got to the wine museum.  The cost wasn't insurmountable, but on top of all of us already being hungry, it was enough to turn the non-teetotalers against it, much to Nikoloz's consternation.

Fortunately, our next stop was lunch, albeit at an hour much closer to what many of us would think of as dinner.  Wine was available for those who were interested, as well as great quantities of badrijani, a dish I particularly like that's made from eggplant, walnut paste, and often pomegranate seeds.

Unfortunately, the weather had not improved at all, it had gotten much darker outside, and we had a long drive over hilly terrain and roads dotted with potholes.  I've written before about not terribly smooth rides I've taken, often on roads in a bad state of repair with drivers swerving all over the place.  But this ride was the first one in a long time in which I actually felt in danger.  Lado didn't slow down even for potholes filled with water, and I felt the car skidding a number of times.  I finally put on my best obey-me-if-you-want-to-live voice and told Lado to slow down.  He understood me, despite the language barrier, and protested that he was driving slowly.  Fortunately, as we got closer to Tbilisi, the traffic picked up, and he was forced to slow down so as not to crash into other cars.  Rarely have I been so grateful to see traffic.  In fact, I probably would have refused to get into a car with Lado the next day, except that we were going to see parts of Tbilisi and Mtskheta, where I anticipated there being enough traffic to slow him down.

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