Hill, Jack and Suzanne – Georgia Food, Wine & Culture

January 09, 2017 | Lois Farley

“Are you crazy?”  “You may never get home again.” “You could be kidnapped.”  These were the kind of reactions we got when we announced that we were planning to go to Georgia and the Caucasus.  After a phone call from Max Johnson one afternoon, telling us how much we would enjoy the adventure, we were convinced by his enthusiasm that we should go. That, as well as encouragement from Lois, our travel advisor at The Great Canadian Travel Company, was the catalyst for our plan.

Wine, food and culture, what else could we ask for? Who knew that it would turn out to be such an exciting, enchanting and enjoyable time? Actually, we didn’t expect it to be so inspiring.

We dined most days in a fine restaurant or hotel which would rival many that we see at home. Every meal we had consisted of more Georgian food than we could eat. Cheeses, fruits, vegetables, salads, meat and breads perfectly presented were the order of each day along with many different wines which were interesting and greatly appreciated.

Castles, vineyards, ancient churches, friendly people, absolutely stunning views and massive food markets where you could find anything that tested your palate. We also encountered the largest flea market we have ever seen. We might have expected some of these but not medieval villages and buildings over a thousand years old many which contained beautiful icons just as old. We even visited a winery where the monks have been making wine since the year 1011.

In Gori, where Stalin was born, we visited an interesting health spa which deals with various maladies. Our guide, Tamara, was able to convince those in charge that we would like to sample some of the treatments. We all decided to have a water massage, a regular massage and a dip in one of the mineral pools for which Georgia is famous. What a hoot!! Imagine having such a good time after visiting the Stalin Museum which wasn’t a hoot at all.

One of the hotels we stayed in had been a resort for Russian officers during the occupation of Georgia from early nineteen hundred’s until it attained its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed. You could see evidence of the previous opulence of the place with its fountains and extensive lawns though it was in need of repair on the exterior.

Through all this, we began to appreciate the Georgians and their culture and admire the pride of its people. Through many years of occupation by the Russians and many others, they still held on to their religion, beliefs and customs.

It’s difficult to pick one thing or experience that highlighted the adventure. There were so many. In Sighnaghi we attended a traditional Georgian Supra at Pheasants Tears Restaurant.  There we heard polyphonic singing for the first time. What beautiful sounds came from a group called Zedashe. It was made up of men and women some of whom danced and sang chants from ancient Georgia. They sat at one end of our table and we watched them enjoying their performance while we wished we could partake and we were welcome if we wished.

Our guides, Tamara and Max and our driver, Oudja took care of us as if we were one big happy family. No requests were ignored nor did any questions go unanswered. Now we miss our big family, their friendship, their stories and opinions and the excitement of every morning of finding out where we going, along with what we would learn and whom we might meet that day.

Suzanne and I have done some travelling over the years but this, no doubt, was the best trip we’ve ever had. Now it’s time to see what else Lois can come up with.