I’m in Mtskheta, Georgia to participate in an international art festival called “Paint for Georgia”. As soon as I was accepted, I realised I knew nothing about the country. I chose this first photo because I soon learned that Georgia is famous for its hospitality and good food.
“A Guest is From God” ~ Georgian expression
After being picked up at the airport by the festival organisers, brothers Giorgi (George) and Irakli Tabliashvili, we met Ieva Vedeikaite and went for a meal in old Tbilisi. Georgia makes uniquely excellent wine, and while we were waiting for our meal, Irakli spirited Ieva and I across the street to a wine cellar for some speedy wine tasting.
We tried two white wines; the first, of Georgian grapes made in the European method, was crisp, light and smooth. The second, of the same grapes, made by the Georgian method, was a characteristic deep amber colour. It tasted similar, but deeper, earthier, and unlike any wine I’d ever tasted.
“Gagimarjos” ~ to win!
Back at the dinner table, I had my first taste of khachipuri. Described as Georgian pizza, it’s simply a thin crust topped with Sulguni cheese and baked. And of course, more wine. I learned the traditional toast of eastern Georgia: “gagimarjos!”
I had travelled two days by air to get to Georgia, so I was beginning to get giddy from lack of sleep, crossing several time zones, and a couple glasses of wine. Arriving at the guest house hotel was a welcome end to the evening. George showed me around, explained that he stocked the kitchen and that we were to help ourselves. He also introduced me to the hotel’s owner, Shote.
Tea with Shote
After settling in my room, I ventured down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Shote appeared from nowhere and insisted on making my “chai”. I knew three Kartuli (Georgian) words, and Shote as many in English. We managed to communicate somehow through sound effects and wild gesturing. He showed me his art (he is a well known ceramicist). Before I knew it, a 2 litre pop bottle of homemade wine emerged from the ‘fridge, and I had the opportunity to practice
And that brings us back to the first photograph. The next morning, I stumbled down to the kitchen, and Shote again materialised and began to prepare breakfast for me. I hadn’t yet learned the phrase “ara madloba” (no thank you), and he pretended not to understand my head shaking in the negative and waving of hands. This photo is the breakfast laid out for me alone, the sole guest of the hotel at this point.
Now that’s hospitality.
…Next time, the story of how “Paint for Georgia” began, and the amazing people behind it all.