We haven’t been to Kakheti or any Georgian village since February.
I was expecting a slight culture shock, but in a way it ended up being surprisingly comforting to see things exactly as we last left them.
We left Tbilisi a little later than planned, so ended up getting a taxi instead. The TV screens built-in to the headrests were impressive, until we saw they didn’t work… But still, for Georgia that’s something.
Although a Mercedes Benz, it was missing seatbelts in the back. I learnt quickly to hold on to the handles above the window as Giorgi, our driver, was someone who liked to overtake.
I soon felt guilty for judging his car after he told us how his friend, and godfather of his children, stole 2000 euros from him which he needed to buy a car, until he ended-up with this one…
My favourite part of the journey – crossing a rail track in Gurjani.
Kakheti is known for it’s wine, being one of the most prominent regions during harvest. That’s happening right now, so the vineyards are bare and instead trucks full of grapes line the roads. The first time I visited Kakheti, I was given a tour of one of the factories which I highly recommend if you’re in the area!
Soon after arriving at Shota’s sister’s house, we went with her and her two sons to Ilia’s Lake, near Kvareli. Ilia Chavchavadze is a huge figure in Georgian history, hence why so many things are named after him.
He was actually raised in Kvareli, and you can visit his house and museum today. Again, highly recommended.
Ilia’s Lake is a beautiful space, hidden amongst mountains. There’s a large area for kids to play as well as Royal Batoni which seems to be a very popular wedding venue. In fact, this weekend we were stuck for about ten minutes as weddings guests streamed up the hill towards the hotel, beeping, cheering and leaning from the windows.
One of us had the idea to jump on the paddle boat for half an hour. It was 10GEL for the five of us, which is actually quite expensive for Georgia, but it was worth it.
Once I got past my fear of capsizing, it was actually quite fun, and quite the workout!
The boys dipped their feet and pretended to be ship captains.
While I soaked up the last of the summer heat!
Afterwards, we grabbed some icecream from the staff who were busy having a supra, before heading up the left side of the lake towards a restaurant. With the best views.
… And adorable stray dogs who were seriously excited to see us. I nearly took this one home!
We soon headed back, dopey from the sun, and went via the butchers. Before we left, Shota and his brother-in-law decided they were going to do Mtsvadi that evening, so him and his sister put an order in for 2kg of pork.
I’ve experienced enough village butchers to know the drill. I cringed as we drove further through the village past another butchers, where a man emerged from the small, brightly-painted room to a plump pig waiting on the doorstep.
Knife in hand, I thanked the stars we were driving and therefore moving fast-enough that I wouldn’t have to see any decapitated pig heads again.
Let me take a moment to express my appreciation for the quality of life these animals have, especially compared to the West, but it doesn’t make the thought of it any easier!
I firmly stood my ground against eating any of the bbq that evening, now I understand supra etiquette better…
When we got back it was still light outside, so we admired the view of the Caucasus Mountains and pinched a few bunches of grapes from the garden.
There was one type called ‘Odessa‘ which was hidden behind the shed. It has to be the most delicious grape I’ve ever had, it had such a smooth, floral taste I was blown away.
Now it’s harvest time, grapes are everywhere. I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten a tonne since returning from the UK.
We chatted and relaxed, admiring the Van Gogh-esque qualities of the village, before I settled down to finish some work.
An hour later we settled down to the supra. I’m always quietly nervous at supras, even more so in villages where people are much more traditional. However, it was much better thanks to children being there, who were eager to perform for us on the panduri.