We’ve been in Georgia for more than 5 months now. When we first entered the country, our expectations were pretty high. Not only about the nature and the culture, but also about the people. A lot of Turkish people had told us about the hospitality of the Georgians. We found it hard to believe that it could be even better than in Turkey. The people there were all so welcoming and friendly, how could it be better? Even our guidebook and some online source mentioned the hospitality, so our expectations were sky high.
To be honest, the first couple of months were kind of a letdown… Maybe because it was winter, but we really didn’t see much hospitality at all. We hardly met anyone, since people were inside a lot. Hardly anyone tried to communicate with us and there weren’t many smiles at all. Most people just stared at the ground or looked a little grumpy. We were pretty disappointed and sometimes even longed back to the nice Turkish mentality. Adding to this fact that the weather was pretty bad the first months we were here, we have to admit: Georgia was not one of our favorite countries at all.
Luckily, things have changed! We are not sure what caused the change, maybe it really has to do with the season and the sun, but boy have we noticed the hospitality lately! Georgians love to go out for BBQs and picknicks and just this past week, we were invited to two of those! Not by people we know, just by random strangers on the edge of a national park.
We spent the last couple of days in Borjomi National Park. Tiny was parked just outside the entrance of the park, in a big picnic area. When we got back from a short hike to a pretty church, two very friendly ladies came up to us. “Modi, modi” (which means come, come), so we followed them and were invited to sit with them. They were having a big family picnic and they really wanted us to join in. Unfortunately, the only one who spoke some English was an eleven-year-old girl. But, with our little bit of Russian and the little girl’s English, we were able to communicate and we had a really fun afternoon with some delicious ‘Shaslick”.
The next day, we got up early to go on a long hike. The hike was rough; the way up was very steep and we even needed our hands to climb up some parts. The view on the top, however, made up for it! When we got back in the afternoon, we just wanted to put our feet up and not do anything at all. We did joke around a bit, because there was another BBQ going on and all the smoke was blowing in our direction: ‘hmm, maybe they will invite us too’.
It was only a minute after we said this and a man came walking in our direction with some Shaslick. He told us to follow him. It’s very hard to say no, because they really insisted and so we did. There were about 20 people on the benches: all teachers from a nearby village. They were having an end of the year BBQ and said they would be honored if we would join them. We had a blast: we enjoyed a meal with 6 courses, sang, danced and had a fantastic afternoon. Again, there was only one lady who spoke English (the English teacher), but that didn’t spoil the fun! It was so nice of them to invite us. We don’t think we would ever ask two random strangers to come and join in on our parties back home and share all our food and drinks. But who knows, maybe we would by now!
Besides these invitations, we have had a lot of people coming up to us lately to invite us for drinks or just to give us food (lots of watermelon, so far). We also got so much wine, we almost get more than we drink! By now, we can definitely say that we were wrong in the beginning: Georgians are super hospitable!
One of our other highlights this week was visiting the cave town Vardzia. Around the year 1200 it was built by ‘King’ Tamar and her dad and it was exposed due to a big earthquake. The city is humongous. We walked around for almost 2 hours and still didn’t visit all the caves, tunnels and ‘houses’ that were there. We did walk a ton of stairs and small tunnels; some were pretty scary too! We spent the night on the hill facing Vardzia, it was beautiful! We also went to a lovely castle in Akhaltsikhe and because of Corona, the entrance was free. It was a huge complex with even a mosque inside!
To end this week’s blog, let’s talk about what we are going to do tomorrow. It’s our never-ending story; we will visit another mechanic. This morning, we were all out of coolant, again. Whenever a mechanic ‘fixes’ our radiator, it always only seems to last for a couple of weeks. Maybe they all use the ‘Egg trick’ our friend Lex told us about. Who knows… Hopefully they will be able to fix it for real one day, preferably tomorrow. We still want to drive up some high mountains and we don’t feel comfortable doing that with a broken radiator. So, please cross your fingers for us!