I just noticed that a person from Georgia is reading my blog. I do not mean the state in the U.S., but a small country that used to be a part of the Soviet Union and since separated from Russia. It's name is, actually, pronounced as "Gruziya" (emphasis on a first syllable).
I can't tell you, what a beautiful place that is! I was there in 1977 as a tourist. The plan for that trip was to start in Ossetia, Gruziya's tiny neighbor, hike in the mountains and live high up on the top of one of them and then walk for thirty kilometers (about twenty miles) though the hills and the valleys into Gruzia.
Taking into consideration that I lived a pretty sedentary way of life the year before that, it was quite an undertaking! We didn't do any serious mountain climbing, but even so, - the strain on our systems was tremendous.
So, we started in Ossetia. It is also very beautiful, but in a kind of severe way. After tromping up and down the mountains there, our legs and backs became stronger, we began to feel like real pros. That was before our trek into Gruzia!
Most of the people in my group were the honeymooners, too poor to afford a lazy vacation by the sea. Considering that there were no private rooms available on rare bases where we had a chance to rest and recuperate, they opted for quite an unorthodox method to begin their married life! Wives brought extensive wardrobes, though, and on a trek poor husbands ended up carrying not only their backpacks but also their spouses'. They would eye my small backpack and complain: "Why couldn't you pack lightly, like Dina here did?!"
We had a good, energetic start on our way to Gruzia. The day was gorgeous: not a cloud on the sky, temperature - somewhere in the 80s. We walked and sang and laughed, when a slope wasn't too steep or our guides weren't hurrying us too much. About an hour into the journey, a sudden downpour put a stop to our happy mood. It was as if the heavens opened up and dumped a whole waterfall on us! I guess, there were not enough professional guides, because our gang became separated, small groups helping each other across the streams that only minutes ago were a finger's width and now raged and splattered like Niagara Falls. It was cold! We were dressed lightly, ready for a sunny day, and here we encountered icy waters! Somehow, a few of us ended up in front of a pig farmer's house. We didn't have courage to go on anymore. We just hugged each other for warmth and stood in a numb circle.
Fortunately, rescuers showed up right at that desperate moment. They guided us to a base, where we changed our clothes, each of us had some hot soup and - it was Russia - a finger of vodka. "Drink!" - the instructor growled at me, when I hesitated slightly before downing bitter, burning liquid. It was marvelous after that! From the fiery heat of vodka, warmth spread through my whole body, thawing me out and making me incredibly drowsy.
The sleeping quarters had a huge bunk going around the whole perimeter of the room. In other words, we all had to sleep next to each other. In the morning, I woke up and, the first thing that I saw was a young woman, who was leaning on one elbow in her place on the bunk and watching me with a murderous expression on her face. I blinked the sleep away and looked, what she was upset about. To my horror, I saw her new husband in his blissful slumber, lying much closer to me than to her! Nothing happened between us, at least, I hope it didn't, but, I assure you, my embarrassment was profound!
Going away from that base, I happened to look behind me at the skies. Clouds hid most of it, but in one place they parted, leaving an almost perfect, clear triangle, where the pink and gold glow of the sun shone through. Later on, we came upon an old chapel. At the apex of it someone painted the same scene that I saw a little while ago: a triangle in the clouds and God's glory shining through it. It was my first encounter with such thoughts. I grew up in an atheistic society, which didn't prepare me for these things.
It turned out that, half of our provisions were lost in the rain. The rest of our time on the road, we existed on some bread and condensed milk, which for young people was just another perk!
Towering, gloomy peaks of Ossetia eventually gave way to the smooth, green slopes of the Gruzia's hills and mountains. Change of the scenery was gradual, but dramatic. I've never
seen such beauty in nature before! Luscious green grass covered everything. Dark blue ponds shivered among the green in the evening breeze, white lilies gently rocking on their surface. We walked in a kind of a daze, not able to believe such a blessing!
The rest of my vacation was spent in a small seaside city, soaking up the sun and swimming in the Black Sea.
|Traditional dance from Gruzia|