September 10: Signagi, Georgia
8:00. As you might expect at a place called Nana’s, breakfast was over the top. Just when you thought the parade of homemade breakfast foods had stopped, Nana emerges from the kitchen with two big trays of steaming meat dumplings. These aren’t traditionally eaten at breakfast but Nana thinks I’m wasting away so she plunks a tray down directly in front of me. “Eat, no problem,” she says.
9:00. Sopo, our female Georgian guide takes us on a walking tour of the highlights of Signagi. It’s a short tour. I covered much of the same territory yesterday on a quad bike so I’m not too upset. The main industry in the old town is tourism (and a short tourist season at that) so it’s not surprising that local ladies have plenty of time to knit in the winter. It must be tough selling knitted hats, scarves and mitts when it’s 35C though.
11:00. We leave for the short drive to Telavi where we will spend two days and two nights at another small guest house that comes highly rated.
13:00. Duncan, Helen and myself are staying at an auxiliary guest house, a few blocks away from the rest of the group. It’s also my turn to get the private room. Bonus!
13:15. Nelly’s Guest House is fantastic and Nelly herself is beyond fantastic. The interior reminds me of childhood visits to the Wedding Cake House in Markham, Ontario. The rooms are huge, with 12′ high ceilings, elaborate crown mouldings and carved baseboards. The stairway is walnut. While we are settling into our rooms Nelly is in the back yard cooking about 20 gallons of tomato sauce over an open fire.
15:00. I venture into town and soon run into Rodney at a sidewalk Shawarma joint. A 35 minute wait for shawarma is crazy but I have to say that it might be the best I’ve ever had.
19:30. I’ve spent the last four hours strolling the streets and back alleys of Telavi. The main streets are relatively neat and tidy but many private homes just off the main drag are in a sad state. Rodney mentioned one two storey house where the roof had collapsed – after several hundred years of neglect, no doubt – yet a family was living on the main floor. The view from the old fort is pretty good even if the fort itself is closed for restoration.
19:40. The group reconvenes at the larger of the two guest houses where the lady of the house has prepared a four course dinner. (Breakfast and dinner is included in the price of our rooms.) Duncan cracks open some Georgian sparkling wine that he picked up for under $5 a bottle. I’ve had worse. How worse? Every single bottle I’ve tasted since leaving Australia was worse. I’ll happily drink bubbles at this price — which is another way of saying “free” because Duncan bought and paid for it. Big jugs of red wine from the host family’s vineyard are on the house so that flows freely too.