Today in Tbilisi, it is terribly hot. Taxi drivers drive with the windows open and say "Wah, my brother!". Even the traditional means of transport for the Caucasus tour with the windows lowered with a crank handle does not help to fight against the heat. In the evening, things don't get any better: the sun hides behind a mountain, but the city's stone begins to generously share the heat accumulated during the day. In this context, Nadia, who is Belarusian, takes me to a café called "140 steps". Having got up, the customer is ready to immediately drink glasses of fresh white wine. "However, look, what beauty there is here", - behind my back you can see a beautiful poster, on which a beautiful view opens onto the whole capital of Georgia. Two and a half years ago, this Belarusian woman, without a salary increase, moved to work in her company's Tbilisi office. Now she eats tomatoes, drinks wine and has no regrets.
In Minsk, Nadia worked as a designer in an advertising agency.
Belarus sometimes likes to brag about something that in the world has long been irrelevant. With Georgia, things are different.
- The office of the advertising agency was opened here with the active participation of Belarusian managers. According to my estimates, the local advertising market is five years behind ours. It is not surprising that things happened quickly: business is easy to do here, so there is a lot of publicity. Neither alcohol nor cigarettes are subject to media censorship.
Georgia is a comfortable country for a Belarusian woman. There is a common post-Soviet mentality, language, history and topics of conversation.
Georgians are actually super communicative beings. Be sure they will ask you how things are going in your country, and then, with disappointment, they will necessarily tell you about their life in their country. Why? Why?
"Oh, they always argue with politics. When Saakashvili was the president (Mikheil Saakashvili, or Mikheil Saakashvili, born on 21 December 1967 in Tbilisi, is a Georgian statesman and Ukrainian politician.Wikipedia), everyone complained about him, now many miss him and complain about the present. Dissatisfaction with power is a normal thing here. Personally, it seems to me that under Saakashvili, the density of reforms has reached such a level that the country has changed rapidly. It was so many changes: roads, police, reconstruction. They say that in the 1990s you could shoot guns in the streets, and now I walk at night and I've never been afraid. We have to try very hard to have adventures.
Have you seen how many police officers are here? But the population gets along well with the police. They're not afraid of it, the police are friendly. They will always help you and drive you somewhere if necessary. All police cars drive with flashing lights. It is not because it is simply beautiful (although Georgians like bright attributes), but so that people know: the police - here it is, close and everywhere at the same time. All police stations are made of glass - which emphasizes transparency. No bribes, and it's true. If they get caught - both parties go to jail. I don't know how they got out of a corrupt country so quickly to do things honestly now.
While I was waiting for Nadia at the city's tourist centre, I witnessed a special situation: a group of young people - tourists - were quickly moving away from a small group of small beggars. At one point, a girl, whose height is just above an adult male's knee, grabbed a guy's leg. He took a few steps with the load, then dropped the conventions and shook the beggar with a menacing look. The little girl did not lose her head and, kicking, shouted insults at him for a minute in a row. In his own language, but the meaning was clear.
There are many beggars in Tbilisi. In the streets, at intersections, in subway cars, in shops and just like that - a normally dressed young man comes to you for money to buy his bus ticket to get home.
Georgians are always negligent. I have a salary, I let my friends down - and I live until the next payday. Think about the future? No, I didn't do it. Well, they're always late. In fact, the warmer the country, the less it seems you want to work.
So don't be surprised if a kopek is asked for by a normally dressed person. The house may have an empty refrigerator, but the "iPhone" in your hands and life in restaurants are indicators of a successful life. Everyone tries to be more flattering than they actually live.
I'm not asking Nadia what her salary is, but she claims it's the same money she received in Minsk. Another thing is that life in Tbilisi is cheaper than in Belarus.
- The vegetables and fruits of the season do not cost a penny. The food is very natural and clean: there is enough sunlight. Here the tomatoes here have more flavor, than some pieces of meat in Belarus. There is also a lot of meat, but I don't eat it, even though Georgians look at me with an air of misunderstanding when I tell them.
I pay for the rental of an apartment on my own salary. Real estate is cheaper than in Minsk. Accommodation in a prestigious area costs $300 per month. Maybe I could have my apartment built? In Batoumi, you can buy an apartment at 700 € per square meter directly on the coast. It would be nice in summer!
Cars here are cheap: cleared through customs or not, we don't really know but it's cheap. But for several thousand dollars, you can buy a normal car. I'm really scared. Have you seen how they drive? The marking of the strips here is a conditionality. A horn signal at each manoeuvre: it is not to offend, but to warn or say hello. If a pedestrian runs across a busy street - it's a stranger. Georgian pedestrians go everywhere with dignity on the road, without hurrying. At the same time, they are able to drive without an accident.
All live in large families. Parents do not throw their children out even adults, and they are happy to live up to 30 years under their mother's wing. Then the son will bring his bride home, but he will continue to obey his mother. They will marry early, have children and are likely to divorce. Divorces, of course, are not very encouraged, but the Western world comes here with its traditions, Georgia is no exception.
Georgians are very gallant towards women. It is considered offensive if the Georgian woman herself pays her restaurant bill or is on public transport in front of a seated man. If a man invites a woman to a date, he will pay for the restaurant and make sure to take his lady home safely. Sometimes we sit with girls in a café, and the guys at a nearby table pay the bill or offer us a glass of wine. There is nothing special to do for that - just thank and appreciate. It's nice for a girl to live here. Of course, Georgian women no longer pay much attention to these signs of attention and do not particularly appreciate it: "I am not going to pay for me and my girl friends, let men pay for us! »
With a Georgian girl, it is not so easy to get to know her or to start a relationship. You must have serious intentions. Traditional values, the first sexual intercourse after marriage and all that. So, if you are a lover of non-binding relationships, then prepare to have problems (the girl always has a brother and a father to avenge her for your lack of respect), or prepare to make a marriage.
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It's getting dark quickly. It is already almost eleven o'clock, and the streets continue to be filled with tourists. If it wasn't for them, the impression is that Georgia would be much worse. Tourists pay a taxi driver $5 instead of $3 or $20 instead of $5 for a dried khaki yarn, and everyone is happy: it is much cheaper than at home. And they fill all these hundreds of small and different cafés and restaurants.
"Do you see the mushroom-shaped buildings over there?" This is the house of justice. There everything is done during the day: opening a business, wedding, passport. It's very convenient. Plus cheap rent, low taxes and indiscriminate employees.
If you launch our inspection bodies in Tbilisi - no more than a third of the facilities will remain open. Georgian cuisine is the pride of the country, not an obligation. There are no national cooking weeks. Under the sign Pizza you will see local people who will order khatchapuri (khatchapouri is a very popular culinary specialty in Georgia. Khatchapouri consists of a flattened or slipper-shaped bread dough stuffed with a local cow's milk cheese called Soulgouni, but not only. Wikipedia) - the famous round cakes with cheese. For guests in particular: you can't help but get out of the wine and local dishes.
Georgians drink a lot of wine. They probably have a gene for wine. For all the time I spent in Georgia, I saw just two or three times a drunk man staggering in the streets. Meanwhile, a classic Georgian meal is when the characters each drink 5 liters of white wine (they drink little red wine because it is less well supported by the organisms), they drink like holes. The quality of the wine is also important. It was also for Stalin who was born Gori in Georgia.
In the middle of the street, Nadia walks into a café, where the flow of Latin music is heard. Today is the salsa night for this Belarusian woman in Georgia, anyone who wants to can dance. Tomorrow, you can make an evening of wine and cheese, then in the evening, the mountains or the sea. In general, Nadia says, one day she knows she will come back to Minsk, but she doesn't know when.
Georgian women are very similar to Russian women in tradition and character. Of course, everyone knows their ability to have fun, hospitality, kindness and playfulness. We will tell you about these characteristics of the Georgian character, which you will discover when you have already visited Georgia.
If you marry a Georgian girl, then most of the time she often gives up her family name to take her husband's name. According to Georgian tradition, only the eldest son will live separately, and the youngest will live with his parents, even if he already has a family.
The Georgian language is very simple and there are no exceptions to the rules. All words are written exactly as they are read. In addition, all words in Georgian are written with a small letter, including the names of cities and proper names. There is also no male or female concept in the Georgian language.With the name of a person you can know which part of Georgia the person comes from. For example, in Central and Western Georgia, most names end in -dze and East-on-Shvili. In the mountainous provinces of eastern Georgia, the names end in -uli or -uri.
Gamarjoba! I ask you not to perceive the text written below as the ultimate truth and to take this position with humour, but there is a certain amount of truth in my words! So why don't you need to go on holiday to Georgia?
In the fact that I gained 3 kg in Georgia for a month and a half, it is not Georgia that is to blame, but my lack of will, but this weight gain effect is not only visible in me.
In Georgia, you will find very good food, juicy, fresh, and above all very greasy! Khatchapuri with margarine, cheeses, khinkali, lavash and huge cakes will seduce even the person of strong will.
In Georgia, there is a cult of wine. Literally in every village and in every house, you will be treated with La Cacha and the wine of the house. When I arrived in Georgia, I hadn't drunk alcohol at all in any way for a long time, but after three days of travel I was drinking my first glass of wine when I was in the Alazani Valley.
After the first glass followed a second, then a third and fourth. We were offered wine as a greeting when we rented our apartment, they poured us a drink for the meeting and explained that it is useful for digestion.
Over time, I developed a habit of carrying a bottle of pomegranate juice or apple juice to a table filled with alcoholic beverages to fill my glass discreetly under the table so as not to hurt Georgians. At the same time, I poured the wine into the bushes. It's not good, but what can I do?
Even if you are a convinced vegetarian, in Georgia with such a vital position, you will not go far. You will have to stay home without meeting anyone to discuss, or be prepared for the fact that Georgian women will prepare a delicious barbecue for you, with khinkali that will be served with grilled meat or chicken. Khinkali is a Georgian ravioli that can be filled with different ingredients but most often with meat. The cities of Doucheti, Pasanaouri and Mtskheta are particularly famous for their khinkali.
Of course, in Georgia you can eat vegetables, fruits and garnishes, but the basis of Georgian cuisine is to make meat dishes and to experience Georgia, you have to eat them!))
I am periodically asked questions about vegetarianism, so I will answer here. On my first visit to Georgia in 2013, I was still somehow committed to my diet, but this year I let myself go and we ate everything I wanted. Over the past two years, my perception of the world has changed, and all extremes have ceased to enter into the concept of normality.
My long relationships in Asia with vegans, people who practice a raw diet or dry fasting, homemade yogis and lovers of celibacy, in order to save energy have convinced me that happiness is not in what you eat and in specific exercises to do, and that there is no point in rushing into extremes, to turn into a fanatic of the teachings.
The main thing is to listen to yourself, your body and do what is comfortable for you personally. My path is running (no yoga) and delicious food (including Braunschweig sausage and chicken in cheese). So, although I rarely eat meat, I still eat it from time to time.
If it is pleasant for someone to starve to death, to eat the roots of plants, to study philosophy and preserve sexual energy - that is your right, but do not judge others, so that you will not be judged.
After a few weeks in Georgia, a smile appears on his face and we don't want to leave him. In Georgia, you can talk to anyone in a public place. You are always kindly considered, answered and helped.
The habit of communicating with foreigners takes root so quickly that even when you come home to Russia, you keep smiling at everyone, wink and try to have a casual conversation. I don't know how it is in your city, but in Minsk, such behaviour is considered a public misunderstanding.
Live communication is always appreciated in Georgia. People can get up and talk. They sit down without looking at their phones, they burst out laughing, turning off the gadgets. It is customary to visit each other, and the telephone is often used as a means of scheduling an appointment, not as a substitute for the meeting itself.
To feel this effect, it is better to travel to Georgia in summer, most of the time in the streets and on open verandas, drinking coffee and fresh cream, eating eggplants in walnut sauce and eating mandarins, hazelnuts and ripe grapes.
Many of my friends have already visited Georgia, and each of them wants to go back! I myself went to Georgia for the first time without any illusions, but even after being there twice, I plan new trips to this country as soon as I can.
This paragraph is written for men who are going to travel to Georgia. If the previous lines can be perceived as a joke, for what will be written below, I ask that it be taken seriously.
Don't fall in love with Georgian women! Georgian women are cute, passionate, sexy. They can compliment you, do beautiful dances and accompany you to the restaurant. Unfortunately, as practice shows, these are often just words in the air. They're just waiting for the wedding! No sex before marriage or you will have to deal with the family.
Georgian women are hot women like the women of the South who turn you on very quickly and who will burn and consume just as quickly, so don't rush into love too quickly and get to know the woman of Georgia. Look at the actions, not the words. The concept of marital fidelity among Georgian men is also very vague.
I have made similar conclusions based on my personal experience, as well as the experience shared with dozens of people who have travelled to Georgia. On questions about relationships between couples, novels with foreigners and the loyalty of Georgian women and men, as well as Georgian women and girls who had relations with Georgians.
Where the men are only extras: The greatest books are written in Georgia, the strongest feelings for Europe are nurtured in Georgia. A journey to a fairytale country on the edge of our world.
It's like this with Georgians: the women are all beautiful and infinitely educated, they speak softly but firmly, they are institute directors, film scholars, translators, museum directors and writers. The men are rare, but friendly, with a melancholy smoothness that is possibly underpinned by a slight machismo.
Georgia is like that: the wide streets of the capital Tbilisi are lined with shady plane trees, the house entrances are painted in the brightest colours, yellow and turquoise, the wooden balconies of the high town houses are entwined with vines.
The Georgians must have an endless need for flowers, every kiosk sells them, plain white daisies and sophisticated lilies, above them hang in bunches the bananas. In the mountains of the Caucasus, they say, there are still people who stretch sheepskins in the rivers and streams to sift gold from the water. Georgia is the mythical land of Colchis, from which Jason once brought the golden river and Medea to Greece.
Medea is also the name of the director of the "National Book Center", who looks after us during our trip with her colleague Salome; what kind of country is it where the women are called like that, Medea and Salome. "In Fairyland" is the title of a travelogue by the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, who travelled through the Caucasus at the beginning of the last century. That is exactly what it seems to be, a fairytale land.
But first things first. Georgia is the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018, and now that's actually completely unflattering information, because "Guest of Honour" always sounds like a medium-priced plastic medal, dreamed up in some back corner of the mind of a literary bureaucrat. Which is not to say that it's not nice and important that this book fair tradition exists.
When a country is the Guest of Honour, it essentially means that many books from that country are translated, that the country has a pavilion at the Book Fair - and that if the country has political problems, the consciousness machinery of the German feuilleton addresses these problems for a while. Georgia, this country on the far edge of Europe, is a strange case. Georgia does not fit into any pavilion.
"Clack", the stamp digs into the paper and into our notebook eats the likeness of Stalin, all blue on white, photo-realistically stylised, blue beard, blue crown, the leader smiling. We got the museum stamp in the notebook instead of on the entrance ticket, because you want to keep a portrait of Stalin like that. It is the second day of our stay in Georgia, we are in Gori, northwest of Tbilisi, where the Kura and Great Liakhvi rivers flow into each other, and where Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was born on 18 December 1878, son of a shoemaker, boot lover, poet, singer, murderer of millions.
Josef Stalin is a Georgian. The Georgian state has dedicated a museum, a small place of worship, to the man who brought so much misfortune to the world. Oil paintings, uniforms, a pair of boots, three cigars given to Stalin by Churchill rest in a glass case. In the garden in front of the museum is the decadently furnished railway carriage, still from Tsarist times, in which Stalin, who had a great fear of flying, travelled through Europe. The statue of Stalin in front of the entrance has been decorated with fresh flowers, and at the entrance old men sell bright red matchboxes with Stalin's portrait printed on them.
The museum has been there since 1957, it was opened four years after Stalin's death, after the collapse of the Soviet Union it was closed for a time, but now it is open again and enjoying great popularity. A cellar-like room under the wide staircase leading up to the first floor of the museum is dedicated to the victims of Stalinism; there, pink peasant women's dresses hang from the ceiling, the symbolism is not apparent, there is no labelling.
It is not easy to understand all this: Georgia is a semi-functioning democratic state, the country is, as they say, "on the rise", models from Georgia are in high demand, the American "Vogue" has just published a portrait of the Tbilisi "it" girl Nini Nebieridze, the Tbilisi band Young Georgian Lolitaz has just made it to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. Corruption has been successfully fought in recent years, the Georgian parliament is having a discussion about the women's quota, and on the trip we meet only the best-educated women in leadership positions.
The tourists will soon invade; Georgia is untruthfully the most beautiful country in the world, as if it could simply produce nothing but beauty, no matter how hard it tries with a bit of Soviet architecture and some half-hearted graffiti disfiguring the walls. You want to cut it up, this country, you want to cut out the facades of the houses, their beige and turquoise. The pines, the palms, the firs. The monasteries. The snowy hills of the Caucasus, the green of the plains. You want to cut it all out to survival size and hang it on your wall.
Even the street dogs are friendly and shy, the traffic noise muffled. Out of sheer gratitude for the visa-free regime coming in summer, EU flags are currently hanging everywhere in front of the official buildings. That's a bit sad, because the EU doesn't want Georgia.
Georgia has a great and justified fear of Russia. And yet there is this place of pilgrimage at the birthplace of the man who today also serves Putin as a reference point for his reawakened thirst for expansion. Georgia is about the size of Bavaria, constantly invaded by its neighbours: the Turks, the Persians, the Russians. Before Georgia was occupied by the Red Army in 1921, it had been an independent state for just three years. There is no pre-Soviet generation, everyone over forty grew up with communism here. One is, in any case, perpetrator and victim at the same time, there is no clearly defined group of victims, there are only the Stalinist mass killings from 1936 to 1938.
If you call up Georgia on Google Maps, you will see two delicate dotted lines, one delineating a territory on the country's northern Black Sea coast, the other, starting a few kilometres above Gori, another piece of land bordering Russia. These are the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the self-declared republics that are not recognised internationally and are effectively controlled by Russia.
There are incidents at the borders almost every day, says Lasha Bakradze, the director of the Literature Museum in Tbilisi, who is accompanying us on our four-day trip through the Caucasus country. We are standing in front of a bright red, house-wall-sized Stalin graffito above a supermarket, next door is a sex shop.
Bakradze is a man in his early 50s, he has walnut-coloured skin and tousled hair, most of the time he carries his five-year-old son around on his shoulders while he explains the country to us. Bakradze is the only non-slovenly, the only angry Georgian we meet these days. He says that what Russia is doing is a creeping occupation; every day the border fences are moved a little, the soldiers advance; the goal of the Russians is to devastate these areas, to drive the people away. There are refugee camps near Tbilisi.
"In August, the Russians dropped bombs on us. In September, Elene separated from me. In October, I left for Lisbon." These are the first sentences of the novel "Literaturexpress" by Lasha Bugadze, it is the funniest book ever to start with a war and has just been published in German. Incidentally, you have to get used to the fact that the Georgian names all sound very similar, they either end in "tschwili", which means "child of", or in "dze", which means "son of".
Bugadze tells the story of an unsuccessful Georgian poet who, for some inexplicable reason, was invited on a train journey through Europe together with 99 other poets. It's one of those books you shouldn't read while riding the bus because you keep laughing out loud. It starts with this absurd little war on the edge of Europe, and the way the protagonist's first concern when the bomb hits is mobile phone reception creates the kind of cultural closeness you need to have empathy with a war that isn't your own.
Growing up and dreaming - "The Long Bright Days"
The year is 1992 in Tbilisi. Georgia is plunged into civil war shortly after achieving independence. Friends Eka and Natia become women during this time of upheaval.
Nino Haratischwili has translated the book into German, and it whets the appetite for what is to come in terms of Georgian literature in translation in the next three years. Nino Haratischwili was born in Georgia, but she is a German writer, having come to Germany as a child.
Her book "The Eighth Life" tells the country's terrible history in the 20th century over several generations; in her book, too, the men are really just extras, melancholy patriarchs who ruin the lives of the women at their side through stubborn passivity and ongoing traumatisation; and it is terrible, terrible things that happen to the women in Nino Haratischwili's book, which was published back in 2015, during the revolution in 1921, during the mass shootings in 1937. Now, of course, it's a little too easy to sketch out the psychology of a country from this bit of literature, including melancholy men and clichéd strong women.
But as the evening settles over Tbilisi, as we sit with wine in the restaurant next to the Tbilisi theatre opposite Nino Haratischwili, who is currently in the country for three weeks because she is staging a guest performance, she also tells a similar story. The men were simply so traumatised by the wars of the last century that nothing could be done with them. Society is also patriarchal, although we often hear this, but it has not been the case for a long time.
People know each other in Tbilisi, Anna Kordzaia-Samadashvili, another writer, joins us, wearing turquoise rings and silver bracelets. We talk about the Rose Revolution of 2004, which brought down the then president Eduard Shevardnadze. "Oh, revolution, it sounds so romantic," says Kordzaia-Samadashvili "There wasn't even any blood." She laughs. That the Russians will come again, she is sure.
The fear of the Georgians seems to be a gentle fear, rather a kind of resignation, mixed with what seems like a certain sacrificial pride, a permanent theme of existence as a miniature paradise that the others, the neighbours, have always tried to hijack. "It's a warm country," says Anna Kordzaia-Samadashvili, taking a drag on her menthol-flavoured Slim cigarette. "It's a warm country, it's easier to forget."
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