Georgia: Country of Love
Country of Love
This story deals with my initial experience in Georgia. At that time, we were living in another house, and I felt rather fresh and eager for new challenges. So this story is, let’s say, about Georgia as seen at first glance. But I must admit that my perception has not changed very much since then.
Our Tbilisi house is located near the road that locals call “the road of love.” It is rarely used, as it lies in the mountains above the Vake Park. Besides, the road of love is in rather poor condition, so your vehicle may not be comfortable here.
In general, it is better not to walk along the road of love road either, especially if you’ve got high moral standards. It is also not advisable to take your children for a walk there, because you will have to explain all the time to your little know-it-all why “some strange lady left her panties or bra in the bushes,” “why there are so many deflated balloons,” and “who would blow them up here in the first place.”
If you forget all your complexes and dare to take the road of love, especially during the dark hours, you may witness interesting scenes, rather frank in nature. Most of them take place behind the windows of vehicles parked on the curb. From time to time, these things happen outdoors, in the bushes, accompanied by characteristic sounds. What do you do – Georgia is an amorous nation.
So, let’s talk about love.
Georgians have the cult of women. They worship women as goddesses and beauties on one hand, and as mothers on the other hand. Never in my life have I seen such tremulous, caring and, at the same time, chivalrous attitude towards women as in Georgia. Women here are respected, loved and pampered. They get help with carrying bags, even if they are not heavy; they are offered seats in public transportation, even if they are just young girls. All of woman’s wishes are read right off her eyes. No self-respecting Georgian will ever allow his date to pay the bill in a café or a restaurant.
As it usually happens in life, there are always two sides of the coin. Cult of a woman also has the other side to it. It is only logical to assume that if Georgian men admire women, they have not one, but at least several subjects of worship. They may not all exist simultaneously, but still… A friend of mine answered my question “what is it like to be married to a Georgian?” shortly and clearly. “Your husband will spoil you rotten, but he will also cheat on you terribly. Unfortunately, it is quite in order here,” she said.
Once before coming to Georgia, I asked a male Georgian friend if it was true that their president is such a passionate person. My friend’s reaction was astonishment and, it seemed, utter incomprehension. “What is bad about it?” he said. Probably, for a real Georgian not to conquer a woman equals to not being a man at all.
Georgians also love and worship children. Any mother of small kids may have a unique experience here: she may feel as if she were the only mother in the world, because her child will constantly receive signs of love, admiration and delight. The kid will be kissed, taken in people’s arms, petted and played with by both by men and women.
At the beginning of our stay in Georgia I was shocked by an acquaintance’s strange attitude towards my little boy. Every time he would come to our house, seat my son on his lap, hug and kiss him. I was disarrayed for a while, not knowing what to do. I was even going to have a serious conversation with him about what reminded me of pedophilic behavior. Thank God I first voiced my concerns to a local friend, who at once calmed me down, explaining that all Georgian men are crazy about little kids and kiss them due to abundance of love they feel.
Once, walking around Tbilisi with our guest from Austria, we entered an antique underground bakery in the Old Town. It was about noon on a weekend, with quite a lot of people in line for fresh lavash. Everyone was patient, keeping almost sacred silence. It seemed that the intensive aroma of the most delicious bread, the lavash, coming straight out of the traditional oven, the tone, would drive any of them crazy any moment. All the shoppers’ eyes were fixed on the baker, who was literally diving into the jug-shaped oven to grab another portion of the crispy and fragrant loaf.
Despite peaceful atmosphere of reverent people waiting, our arrival was noticed by everyone for some unknown reason, although we did not utter a single word. When the lavash was ready to be sold, those people parted, letting us through. As it turned out, they did so only to let us get the first loaf. Our Austrian guest, looking around in astonishment, asked “What’s the matter? Why did we get to buy the bread first even though we arrived last? Do we look so hungry?” “It is all very simple,” I said, all wise from my Georgian experience, “We came here with a small child,” even though our “small child” was not so small, but a real five-year-old romp.
Georgians also love God passionately and devotedly. It is the most religious and pious nation. Majority of Georgians, including the young generation, cross themselves with fervor at the sight of any temple of the Lord, even if they catch a glimpse of a church from a moving bus or a car. According to my observations, even Tbilisi taxi drivers are very pious, driving around the city like fearless thugs, making others catch their breaths. At the most improbable of the moments, they do not miss the opportunity to cross themselves at least three times when passing by any religious building. Another typical scene to observe is schoolchildren going home by bus, who begin to cross themselves when passing by a church.
Religion ranks very highly in Georgia, which is especially obvious during fasting. In this period, everywhere you look you will see people strictly fasting. It is a difficult task to invite Georgian guests to your home at this time of the year. You should be ready for your guests to refuse to eat anything containing not only meat and fish, but also eggs and dairy. They will, however, drink lots of wine, with the sense of proportion and pleasure. Thank God for that! Let’s toast to Him!
Tbilisi, April 4, 2012