Saturday promised to be a perfect spring day, and three other volunteers and I decided to take advantage of the upcoming glorious weather and hike a mountain. Three of us live and teach in Kutaisi, the fourth lives and teaches in a village very near Kutaisi. A village called Dimi. This village is also near a town called Bagdahti, which is situated in the mountains, which are more like foothills, and supposedly has trails.
My village friend had asked his co-teachers and host family if they knew any trail heads that we could go to. Of course, if they knew of any, their response was to invite him along the next time they went, not to actually tell him where to find the place. We were glad to have our hopes confirmed that there were actually trails in Bagdahti and were undeterred by the lack of specifics.
Saturday morning we gathered at The McDonald’s to catch our marshutka to Dimi, our village friend needed to acquire proper hiking clothing from his host families. After which we would proceed by foot to Bagdahti, about an hours walk.
Per Georgian hospitality, we were greeted graciously by his host mother who gave us apples and showed her their newly renovated upstairs. Wow, it was very modern and as far from what you would expect the inside of a typical village style Georgian home to look like. All it needed was to be furnished.
We were also greeted by the family dog, who was starving for affection and gobbled our apple cores. As we left, the dog bolted out of the yard. As the dog continued to lead us well into the center of the village we were concerned he would not be able to find his way home. We would stop, try and tell the dog to go home and even tried tricking him into thinking we were going home by turning around and retracing our steps for a bit. This dog was dogged and continued to stay with us until he suddenly became interested in something and ran off into a field. We were happy to hear later from our friend that the dog did make it back.
The main road we took from Dimi to Bagdahti was not busy and was scenic with fields, houses and of course the foothills in the distance. We made it to the city in good time, went into the center and found a little bakery to have lunch. We had the new Georgian beer called Mtiel, probably the best beer I have had in this country, which is not saying much, and then lobiani, khachapuri or potato bread- all of which was tasty and freshly baked. We sat under some pines and enjoyed sitting after our long walk. It was rather frustrating because as we tried to leave the owner came out and insisted that we had not paid for our food and drink. Well, the problem lay in the fact that the lady had not taken our orders correctly, so some of us had paid in full while others had not.
Ordering in this country is frustrating. Georgians are not used to foreigners speaking there language (rightly so, there is very little need for anyone besides a Georgian to know Georgian). This usually means that when a foreigner first tries to say something in Georgian, the Georgian is not paying attention to what is being said, only that a foreigner is peaking their language. Good Heavens! Then the Georgian tends to get excited about this and they become sidetracked from whatever was trying to be communicated to either asking irrelevant questions or mumbling comments to surrounding natives about this foreigner. Once this step has been passed there is either understanding between the foreigner and the Georgian, or the Georgian is still confused by the foreigners pronunciation (which is also completely legitimate, try to say “the frog is croaking in the water” in Georgian and you will understand).
So, due to this, somewhere along the way, our orders were confused and we ended up paying the woman more than what we owed so that she would not follow us around and so that we also did not give all foreigners a bad light.
Finally, we followed a road into the foothills. Our intention was to find the end of a road and bush-whack through the forest. The road we picked did not provide us with that opportunity, but we did end up passing a famous Georgian poets house, unfortunately I do not remember his name….At his house there was also a very nice pedestrian bridge over a beautiful river where we took a few photos. All of us were content to be using our legs in a new place on a wonderful sunny day.
Behind the poets house was a dirt road that led up a foothill. We chose that way partially for the shade and mostly in the hopes of summiting the hill to try and get panoramic photos of the valley. Along the road were a few houses with fields or vineyards. One abandoned looking house gave us a fright. In a darkened corner across from the open doorway was a coat hanging in such a way to look like a person staring at us. It was funny how spooked I got! Soon after we spotted a cow path that we trudged up until it became too steep. Our village friend ventured further up only to be stopped by a fence. We had been wandering for three hours or so and were getting very hot, so we decided it would be a good idea to start making our way back.
As we came back into Bagdhati to catch a marshutka back to Kutaisi, we ran into a group of drunken 16 and 17 year olds. They immediately said “Hello! How are you?” and then switched into awkward English mixed with Georgian and the usual pleasantries followed. If any other Georgian showed any interest in us, our new friends would promptly explain in Georgian that we were teachers from Kutaisi. After a few minutes of this, we hear two of them using the Georgian word for wife and marriage. Sure enough, one of them turns to me and asks “Would you marry my friend?” I smiled and shook my head. The boy then continued to try and change my mind with “He is a good boy!”
Our marshutka came and we said goodbye. My potential suitor did not seem to upset by my rejection and departure. What could they be thinking? I have always wondered what is going through their minds when they ask that kind of question. What would they possible do if I had said yes? One of my friends was jokingly saying that “It was clearly a good match and that I should say yes”. I think he was mostly interested in seeing how a Georgian would react to a yes.
We returned to Kutaisi hot, sweaty, and sun burned. We had not climbed a mountain, but we had another mini Georgian Adventure.