Following our excellent trip to Parliament and the delicious cheeseburgers we cooked, Cristen, Marissa, and I traveled to Kakheti–Georgia’s wine region. I had been there before, but this time we were going to Sighnaghi, one of the largest cities in Kakheti.
Four? But clearly there are only three of you in that photo (Two and a half, I suppose). Yes, dear, perplexed reader. But you mustn’t forget that someone took the photo. Who could it have been?
The first stop on our epic journey to Sighnaghi was at a car wash. Georgians seem to really like washing their cars. The other day while walking home at 11 pm I saw three men out washing their cars in the dark. It’s odd to me. Koba’s car was awfully dirty, though.
As we drove we had a blast laughing and chatting in the back seat. Sure it was a little crowded, but we’re all friends! I drew pictures of llamas and camels on Ilya’s cigarette box to show him the difference and Ilya repeatedly told us, “I am killer.” Happily, he reformed and with a scarf over his head he became “Deda Teresa,” complete with a crackly old lady voice! I so wish I had a photo of that.
We stopped partway to Sighnaghi for a stretch break and when we got back in the car the roads became windier. This led to the girls and I feeling very poorly. I swear it wasn’t alcohol induced stomach-aches, but carsickness. By the time we got to Sighnaghi we all felt really quite sick and had absolutely no desire to even sample the famous Kakhetian wine.
As we drove around the side of a hill, Sighnaghi came into view in all its glory. It looks like a beautiful Italian village, swear to God. I had certainly not pictured this when hearing about Sighnaghi previously.
Koba proved to be an excellent guide in Sighnaghi. He knew his way around pretty well and did a great job pointing out the most interesting sites and translating for us. He was also extremely generous (as I have found all Georgians to be) and happily paid for our tickets to the Museum and our dinners (I presume, though I never saw any money exchanged).
When we first arrived we parked outside the restaurant owned by Vano’s mother. Koba told us that they would be cooking all day for us and that food wasn’t ready yet. That was fine with us as we were really feeling ill. Really ill.
Koba explained to us that Sighnaghi is Georgia’s “City of Love” and that couples come here all the time to get married. He took us past the Wedding House and sure enough, someone was getting married right then. We suddenly became suspicious of Koba’s eagerness to bring us to Sighnaghi. Looking around we realized that our group consisted of Koba and his wife, Ilya, Cristen, Marissa, and me. Funny, a married couple and two unmarried “couples”. Thanks Koba, we appreciate your efforts!
As we climbed up the hill to the museum, Koba continued to explain to us the history of the town and point out government buildings, etc. The weather was so beautiful that we couldn’t help but be in great moods as we ascended the steps. What’s more, we found something awesome awaiting us atop the hill!
The Sighnaghi Museum is really nice. It had so many artifacts from a long, long time ago. (In hindsight, that last is maybe the dumbest sentence I have ever written.) We’re talking, old stuff though. Like 4th millenium BC. It also had the famous gold lion statuette that is used by that one bank and as a symbol all over the place. Pik Quinn and Pauli saw a larger copy of it in Batumi the other day! They had a picnic with its butt.
We couldn’t take pictures inside the museum, but there was a balcony overlooking the Kakhetian plains below. It was stunning.
After we left the museum Koba went to pick up the car to take us to the wall. While we waited for him, we perused the WWII memorial wall that listed the names of all the Georgians killed in the war.
Koba arrived and drove us out to the wall. It’s a crumbling but spectacular wall. The tower closest to the road had a little entrance we could even go in, but Ana quickly scurried out saying, “Somebody did something stinky in there.”
We walked around a bit more, admiring the vistas and killing time so that the food would be ready upon our return to town. I am not sure who the wall was guarding against, or if it did a good job, but it certainly provided excellent views of the surrounding region.
On the way back in to town we stopped off to see St. Nino’s grave and chapel. St. Nino brought Christianity to Georgia and is buried just outside of Sighnaghi. A wedding party arrived to visit the holy site as well (surprise, surprise) and we even most auspiciously saw a dove walking around the parking lot!
We stopped on the way into town to take more photos of Sighnaghi, but we were starting to get really hungry, so we didn’t dally too long. We arrived back in the center of town and parked once more outside the restaurant. Since the food wasn’t quite ready, we climbed to a balcony that jutted into the street awkwardly. It was like an architectural non-sequitor in the middle of the town.
We sat around in the tower, watching the sun sink behind the rooftops and Ilya fiddled around with my camera again. A little boy appeared out of a tree to hang out with us but he absolutely did not want Ilya to take his picture, despite Ilya’s pleading with him.
Speaking of deep, sad eyes, I think it’s high time for another “Bitch photo”! This time of Marissa!
With dinner finally prepared we headed down from our perch and entered the basement of this fancy-looking restaurant. A mini-feast awaited us! There were vegetables and herbs that I had never seen before (think pickled leaf buds) and khatchapuri to start. We had endless jugs of wine and mineral water too boot!
When the main course arrived, I was very hungry. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think Ana’s dragon face should give you an idea of how excited we all were!
These had to have been the best mtsvadi I had ever had. I think they were pork. They were pretty fatty, but incredibly tender and juicy. I am describing them in such detail, I think, because I am starving right now. Inspired by the three spears of meat, we struck a pose.
Having had our fill of mtsvadi and other courses, the time had come to pull out our horns. While in Tbilisi the previous day we had found and purchased three drinking horns. Though we very likely got ripped off by the street vendor, we felt we’d gotten a reasonable price for them. We washed them extensively before leaving my apartment that morning as they smelled like rotten cheese/terrible things. Koba assured me that just means “they’re fresh!” and that the smell will go away after drinking with them around twelve times.
When we had arrived in Sighnaghi we were feeling under the weather, as I mentioned before, and so we hid the horns in the trunk of the car, under my sweater. Koba was too wise for us, however, and he got them out during dinner. It was time to do a little triple-arm-linked toasting!
The most astute amongst you will notice that there’s a mechanical problem in the above picture. If you follow the twisted arms to their respective owners you will note that if I continue to drink as planned, the horn will soon stab Marissa in the neck. These are pretty polished, dull horns, but that’s a major impediment to drinking. Needless to say, hilarity ensued.
It only got worse when Koba told us, mid sip, “Now you must do a triple kiss!” We had no idea what he was talking about and therefore assumed he was telling us we should have a three-way make out following the toast.
After making fools of ourselves and laughing our assess off for ten minutes, Ilya and Koba showed us how it was done–true Georgian style.
This was followed by a raucous hour of dancing to Georgian music. Our meager American dance skills were put to shame by the grace and dynamism of our Georgian friends!
After much dancing, we sat back down to a nice dessert of churchkhelas and to finish off one of the pitchers of wine. As we talked and drank, Koba struck upon a brilliant idea, “Guys! What if when we get back to Tbilisi we take twenty minutes at home to change, then we go out to the bars and clubs!” He looked at his wife, Ana, for approval. “Oh why not!” she said, throwing up her arms in mock-exaggeration.
Having had much to drink and dreading the windy ride home (the road had made us sick when we hadn’t even had any alcohol–we hated to imagine what it would do to us now that we were properly buzzed!), the girls and I were initially hesitant. Clubs and Bars with Koba would probably be a lot of fun. Then again we’d had enough alcohol already that this seemed like a clever idea:
And so we left, mildly undecided as to whether we would be hitting the clubs. We were exhausted, after all, and a good night’s rest might have done us well. We said good by to Koba’s mother, a very kind lady who gave us presents (!), and hit the streets of Sighnaghi.
We got back to Tbilisi and Marissa crawled into bed. “I’m sleeepy!” she whined while Cristen and I tried to coax her out. “It’s gonna be fun! If it stinks we can just stay like an hour then leave. Besides, it’ll be with Koba, and he’s awesome!” She finally emerged from the bed and the three of us made a quick cup of coffee before meeting Koba again and heading out into the night.