Archive for December, 2010

Wine Country (Sleepy and Frozen)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by Paul Knettel

I was having a thoroughly enjoyable evening with my friends, some of the other English teachers in the Zugdidi area. We were at a restaraunt eating and drinking when my phone rang. “Paul! Paul! Sad khar?” Where are you? It was Laura, one of the teachers from my school. I responded, in Georgian, then walked the short distance to where teachers and students from the 9th-12th grades were waiting in the marshutka. It was 11:30 pm.

From there we made the 7 hour journey to Sighnaghi, in the province of Kakheti in east Georgia. A long marshutka ride in the middle of night, with Russian, Georgian and the occasional English pop song blaring out of the speakers in the vehicle. That, along with the bumpy road, the constant laughter and yells of teachers and students alike, and the horribly dusty, dirty air circulating around the marshutka and in and out of my lungs, made for a ridiculously unfavorable sleeping environment.

And so, at a little before 7 in the morning, we arrived in Sighnaghi, exhausted and freezing in the nighttime semi-mountainous air. 

We walked around a little bit on the main streets of the city, which were lit up in orange glow and quite beautiful. Afterwards, and after another quick and also unsuccessful attempt at sleep in the marshutka, we ventured back out into the city in the early dawn light. We wandered around the silent streets, eventually arriving at the main attraction of the city: St. George’s Church.

From there, atop the building which also sits atop a hill, we could see all of the city and the old fortress wall which borders one side of the town. On a clear day, we could have even seen the nearby mountains, but alas it was a cold, dreary, foggy morning.

From Sighnaghi we continued on, after countless photos with me demanded by some of the teachers.

Our next stop was St. Nino’s Nunery, where we quickly explored the grounds and the church within. From there we made a short hike, all downhill, to where the well of St. Nino’s “holy water” is located.

It was a longer trek than anticipated, but still we arrived, we drank the water (there is also a place to bathe in the water but it was locked up at the time) then made the arduous hike back up the hill to where the nunery and our marshukta were waiting.

After this we had a small roadside supra, set out on some picnic tables which used to be rented out but which now sit in a state of unkempt disrepair. There were no chairs or benches so we ate standing up. The tables staggered with khachapuri, kupdari, baked chicken, and so much more. Along with some wine, although we drank a suprisingly small amount. That may have stemmed from the chilly weather and everyone’s desire to return to the slightly warmer marshutka.

Next we made our way to Telavi, the capital of the region, along the way stopping to buy churchkhela, a Georgian snack made by covering strings of nuts in a sort of grape jam. In Telavi, despite tiredness and the biting cold which had lingered all day, we visited the palace and museum of Georgia’s King Erekle II. Also in Telavi we saw an ancient, 700-year old tree, a famous landmark of the city.

We moved on from there to Tbilisi. By the time we arrived it was dark out again, and we traipsed out in the city a bit, taking in the beautiful, romantic Christmas lights which had been put up along the main streets and in Freedom Square.

I also went with Nino and Laura, two teachers, to a cafe and ate some kinkhali.

Our final stop on this dizzyingly quick trip was Mtskheta. By the time we arrived, after getting lost and driving backwards about a quarter of a mile on a one-way road and across a bridge which ran over the highway outside of Tbilisi, I had had it. It had been a fun trip, but the lack of sleep, the cold, the bad air in the marshutka, the dozens of stop, all of it made me want to get back to my comfortable bed and sleep, sleep, sleep.

Still, I wanted to see Mtskheta, so I bumbled out of the marshutka along with the rest of our group and zombied towards the main attraction of the city: yet another church. It was of course still night time, but the place was lit up majestically.

After a brief viewing, we hurried back in the freezing night to the marshutka.

We parked there for a few hours and I actually managed to get a bit of shut-eye, before we started along the road back towards Zeda Etseri. Still half-sleeping, half-just sitting and trying to drown out the bad music coming from the car with my own headphones. Finally at nearly 10 am, we arrived at my house. I walked inside, had a bit of breakfast with the host family, then went up to my room and fell blissfully into unconsciousness.