It may sound lame and a bit hippyish but a feeling both Alexei and I often get when travelling is the need to get out of cities, especially as we live in the centre of London. I mean it was great to see a place like Batumi but after experiencing being off the beaten track in the mountains of the Black Sea region and around the dusty barren cities of east Turkey, our first city of Georgia just wasn’t feeling foreign enough!
Georgia men doing Georgian men things
It was like God was listening to our prayers or rather like Facebook was! We received a message from a family friend of Alexei, Vera, out of nowhere one night. She had told their Georgian friends about us and they would love for us to visit them at their summer house, something every good Eastern European has. This is what I love about this part of the world – true kindness! We didn’t hesitate to accept and so we raced to our guesthouse to grab our backpacks and find the last of our remaining clean clothes to wear.
We were going to be heading a little further up the coast to a town called Shektaveli. This was a quieter resort with a real sand beach (black magnetic sand no less), not the back breaking stone stuff like Batumi! I was excited as this is going to be my first and last beach experience before we made it to south-east Asia. Plus after spending a couple of weeks in Turkey dressing conservatively and wearing trousers all the time, I had begun looked like a human Neapolitan ice cream. Nice and chocolate brown on the top half and pasty vanilla on the bottom half. I needed to even out this tan quickly! We Google mapped the route which told us we would be on the sandy shores in just over an hour… perfect.
Exploring ‘mini Georgia’ park in Shekvitili with our new friends + a pretty bad Michael Jackson statue
In Turkey we were spoilt with efficient running bus services, Georgia could certainly learn a thing or two! As soon as we arrived at the bus station we were quickly ushered to a waiting martshuka. “We’ll be leaving in 10 mins” yells the driver. An hour later we were still waiting! In Georgia, they have a special bus timetable system which is called ‘the bus will leave when the driver feels like it!’ After watching every other martshuka leave, the engine eventually started, finally we would getting out of Batumi! We decided to sit next to the driver so we could witness the dangerous driving first hand and also if we felt there was going to be a sudden traffic accident on the motorway, we could leap out the passenger door. The martshuka sped off, I could feel the wind in my hair and we were zooming… for 200 metres! No sooner than we’d started, we’d stopped again at the side of the road where we waited again for who knows what reason!
Eventually the bus driver did us a favour and started again. To kill time Alexei had invented a new game for us to play. It was called ‘Guess how many bumperless cars we will see before reaching Shektaveli’. Trust me, Georgians drive faster and wilder than anywhere we’ve ever been, it is totally common to see a brand new Mercedes half wrecked with the whole front and/or back missing. If Mercedes/ BMW checked out Alexei’s Georgia Instagram posts, I’m 99% certain we’d leave them crying. Suddenly the martshuka pulled over on the hard shoulder of the motorway. “Over there!” shouts the driver to Alexei. “Are you sure?!” We were in the middle of a busy motorway and apparently we just needed to cross it to get to the Laguna Relaxing Complex?! The answer was yes! And so we waddled single file along the hard shoulder, cars beeping and zooming past. There was only way to get across – leg it!
Panting heavily and now completely sweaty in our only remaining clean clothes, we made our way to find our hosts – the Bakoradzee family and a gang of girls who love fashion (Nata, Tako and Sally). We had no idea where we were going and the only thing we knew about our hosts was that the daughter was called Tako and they were staying somewhere in the Laguna Relaxing Complex. That’s it. And we had no local sim card to call. We walked for 20 mins until we came to a local shop and asked if they knew Tako. They stared looking confused and clearly thinking where the hell did you come from? After a few minutes we worked out they didn’t have a clue (“no Tako in this town”) but luckily the shop lady had called for some help. A bald, shirtless man turned up. He had clearly been disturbed from his sunbathing session to help the poor foreigners and kept repeating “Tako?!” For the next ten minutes we followed him round the town while he knocked on random houses asking if anyone knew Tako, nobody was sure and this wasn’t looking good for us. Then out of nowhere, a breakthrough! The man received a phone call (who knows how that happened), Tako was on her way to find us! News travels fast in this resort and Tako arrived a few minutes later. “Ah Taaaa-ko, why didn’t you say it was Tako!” exclaimed the man when she arrived. Hmm, clearly we need to work on our Georgian accents.
Georgians have a saying that guests are a blessing sent from God. From the second we stepped in to the house we were treated like we were part of the family. We were treated to plenty of delicious home cooked foods, taken to a local outdoor exhibition (a miniature city of all the famous sights in Georgia, so we wouldn’t need to visit them all now!), the beach and even invited to a traditional Supra.
Not your average dinner party, a Supra is something that everyone needs to experience at least once
The Supra is traditional Georgian feast which only happens at special occasions and on the day we arrived it happened to be St Marias day, with a neighbour hosting his big annual Supra. When we arrived, in front of us was a humongous banquet. Alexei almost passed out from excitement. Sprawled across the table were gallons of wine, piles of kachapuri and stacks of barbecued meats. At the end of the table sat the men – shirts open, belly outs, downing glasses of alcohol, chugging on cigarettes and shouting in each other’s faces. I was at the women’s end of the table where most of them looked like me when on a night out with drunk Alexei – fed up and hoping he doesn’t get up on top of the table and start dancing.
One of many good dishes – there were better ones but we didn’t get shots as Alexei was swaying a lot for some reason 🙂
Throughout the night, as per tradition, the host male would say a toast. This is it not your average ‘thanks for coming cheers’ kinda toast. This was a full on speech about love/ family/ honour/ etc which lasted for ages (while everyone had to stop and listen), every 5 minutes, and you had to down a WHOLE GLASS OF WINE each time! If you don’t like drinking this is not the place for you and the Georgians would never believe that you don’t like downing whole glasses of wine anyway.
Tako and the gang
Real Georgian men, about 400 glasses of wine in
After being separated from Alexei (he stayed with the men getting pissed, I had to go to a funfair with the girls), at the end of the night I returned home to find Alexei sitting on the porch with some other men… with his shirt unbuttoned, pot belly out (Georgian food works fast!) and a beer in his hand. The man from London was already settling into the Georgian lifestyle and it would be a long time before he’d be able to button up his shirt again!
The head of the table doing what the Georgians do best…
Cheers to Georgia!