Into the East



View of Greater Caucasus mountains from Signagi (or Sighnhagi)

The east of Georgia that is. But, before we set out on our bus, I would like to revisit the Georgian language.

I found out that the alphabet has 33 letters and, similar to the Cyrillic alphabet, each letter has one sound.  No diphthongs or triphthongs but lots of back of the throat action. The word for hello is something like ”gamarjoda” with the “r” being a pretty abbreviated sound.  I think I have that in my brain. We learned that the equivalent of “cheers” is something along the lines of “gaumarjos,” which we were told means “to our victory.” I’m still working on “thank you.”  Enough for today’s lesson.

Back to the east of Georgia.  We headed out of Tbilisi to a little town of Telavi where we visited the home/workshop of a qvevri (or kvevri) maker.  A qvevri is a large, egg shaped terra cotta pot in which Georgian wine is traditionally made.  The pots are formed by hand, fired and then buried up to their necks in the ground.

ZaZa, our qvevri maker, was in the process of making 16-2000 liter pots.  They will be over two meters tall when complete.  They are built up in a very moist, cool shop at a rate of about 10 cm/day.  The entire process takes over three months to complete.  It was fascinating and ZaZa was as cute as can be.  We tasted some of his wine straight out of the qvevri.  We also tried his “ja ja,” which is a potent brandy type liquid that is distilled from the leftover grape skins and stems. Mamma Mia!!! Is it ever potent.

Lunch was at a charming restaurant, The Pheasant’s Tears, in the village of Signagi. Georgian food is proving to be pretty darned tasty. Wonderful cheeses and breads, fresh salads with walnut sauce dressings, stewed meats, braised veggies.  Good food.

We also discovered a traditional Georgian candy called churchkhela, which looks for all the world like hand dipped candles but is actually nuts (walnuts or filberts) that have been strung on a string and then dipped in greatly thickened grape juice.  Traditionally, they are either white or red, the color of the grape juice, but they are now being made with food coloring and perhaps artificial flavoring added as well.  We tried the traditional; interesting is the word to best describe this particular treat.

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