Friday, 2 November 2012

Day 218 – Dancing, Eating and Laughing. (Georgia)

Sighnaghi is a quaint mountain town in the West of Georgia, where we stayed at the guest house of our chance wine tour guide (Blog Day 217 - Armwrestles, Monasteries, and Wineries). Our timing was very fortunate, coincidingwith a festival which included a concert in the main square displaying traditional dance and song. Quite a crowd was gathered, and bands of mostly children and teenagers marched through the streets in traditional dress on their way to and from performances.

For lunch, we found a slightly odd but very lovely cafe where we feasted on pizza and the spectacular Georgian dish of “khachapuri” which is essentially a cheese pizza, stuffed with a generous helping of very good quality cheese, and in this case huge and straight out the oven. Very satisfied with our meal and having greatly enjoyed the service, we were still trying to figure out the peculiar vibe of the place. The plain wooden chairs and tables, although regularly sized, felt like ones you might find in a kindergarten, and between them, the piano in the corner and the handmade pictures around the room, we felt like we might be in a primary school. I refrained from tinkling on the piano, although we were the only customers, as a sound track of 80’s love ballads was playing in the background.

As we got up to leave, we had a quick gander at the goods laid out along one wall which seemed to be for sale. When the girl who was in charge of running the cafe saw us, she explained that this is a disabled home and the toys and trinkets that we were looking at were made by the inhabitants and sold to raise funds. Suddenly the decor and ambiance made sense, and as we realised that the waiter and cook were residents of the home, we were glad we’d chosen to eat lunch here over any of the other options. We bought a couple of their products and continued on our way around Sighnaghi.

The city wall is the main attraction inside the town, so that was our next stop. As is usually the case, the town is centred at the top of the hill. Peculiarly though, the old wall mainly surrounds the valley, which is predominantly forest now. From the towers and the top of the wall, we had a great view over the valley and the town, covered at this time in layers of low laying cloud. A group of American girls who had possibly had some wine or chacha over lunch very amusingly assumed that we were locals – even though I assume locals rarely climb the touristic city walls. As a result they were quite vocal about how they thought we looked (oddly dressed apparently) and how funny they found us, not being in the least bit discreet and speaking to each other about us right in front of our faces. Well, joke’s on them.

By this time the clouds were rolling towards us and the rain was starting, so we headed back to our accommodation to sit in front of the open fire place. Conveniently our lunch was plenty to take care of dinner as well, so we used their ancient oven and enjoyed the evening at home. The hospitality we experienced from Guram and his family at the Zandarashvili Gueshouse was genuine and bountiful. We were paying for our beds, but the family was so helpful and friendly and took us, as with all of their guests I would imagine, under their wing quite sincerely.

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