I’ve found a cure for a heavy heart and culture shock. It’s the combination of an old friend, unspoiled landscapes, mountain air, and wine. Amy was my roommate at what I fondly refer to as “nerd camp” (research internship with NASA) ten years ago. We hadn’t seen each other in many years before she came to visit this week.
Our first destination was Kakheti region, in the east of Georgia. Think vineyards, blue skies, and green fields rolling on for miles. Our trusted guide (and taxi driver) Khvicha first brought us to one of his favorite places in Georgia, Davit Gareji Monastery. The 6th century monastery was carved into a rock formation in the middle of (snake-infested) nowhere, a stone’s throw from the border with Azerbaijan.
Along the way, we yelled for Khvicha to pull over and stop for photos every few minutes. Amy squealed at the cows, I frolicked in the fields à la Julie Andrews, and Khvicha laughed at us.
From David Gareji, we drove on to the fairy tale town of Sighnaghi, perched on a mountain top and surrounded by vineyards.
We nestled into a cozy guesthouse in Sighnaghi, where we were greeted with homemade wine and the kind of balcony views that make your heart sing. We spent the remaining hours of sunshine wandering the cobbled streets and catching up on ten years worth of of stories.
The first time I was in Sighnaghi, I discovered a restaurant and winery called Pheasant’s Tears (because the wine is good enough to make a pheasant cry), and I was determined to take Amy there.
We met with a young American who left his life in the United States to wake up before dawn and tend a vineyard and teach visitors about the historical and spiritual significance of Georgian wine. He led us through a wine tasting in the garden behind Pheasant’s Tears and stayed around afterwards to chat and finish off a bottle of chacha.
I hadn’t realized how much I needed this weekend of friendship, flowers, and wine. After four months in Georgia, I’ve spent entirely too much time in the city, dodging mad drivers and avoiding eye contact in the streets. The countryside is where the jewels of Georgia can be found, and where I can refill my little teacup of hope until my next escape.
Next stop with Amy: the mountains of the north.