Georgia On My Mind
You’d be forgiven for thinking I was about to wax lyrical about Atlanta or Savannah, but if I ever catch a strain of Ray Charles, my mind drifts to Tbilisi instead.
Perched on the shores of the Black Sea and surrounded by the exotic delights of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, Georgia has a few cool delights of its own.
Apart from the impossibly picturesque Caucasus Mountain villages, sprawling cave monasteries, and wonderful, chaotic cobblestone streets throughout old Tbilisi, there is an earthy mysterious mix of ancient cultures blended into an unusual ethnic identity and a language with 33 alphabets.
If you know anything about me at all, you will know I often describe destinations in food and wine. Georgia is no exception!
Drawing its influence and flavour from Greece, the Mediterranean, Turkey and Persia, Georgian food is the perfect expression of the culture and hospitality of its people. Warm and embracing khachapuri, or cheese stuffed bread, rich fillings and sauces enhanced with herbs, nuts and garlic will tantalise your taste buds. Khinkali, Georgian dumplings, are stuffed with spiced meat, while roasted eggplant is served with walnut paste, and thick, delicious bean Lobio is paired with corn bread. Chakapuli, a herby lamb stew, and Satsivi, a winter chicken dish served with walnuts, garlic and herbs, jostle for my attention with the more familiar dolmas, kebabs, Shashlik, yoghurt, flatbread and bizarrely, mashed potato, which is a traditional farmer food.
Wine was accidentally produced in Georgia over 8000 years ago when grapes were stored in a container and forgotten. Now, the country boasts many ancient varieties including the most famous of all, Saparavi, a decent red when you find a good one.
Most importantly of all, however, Georgians believe a guest is a gift of God. Welcomed by everyone, you will be hard pressed to avoid locals insisting you try local specialities as you are invited to eat and drink as a member of the family. ‘Gaumarjos!’
“Ah Georgia, Georgia, The whole day through”. Just an old, sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.