We stayed with two great G9s, Heather and Jeff, in Kakheti's biggest town, Telavi. I was really excited to finally be going to Telavi, which all you fans of Soviet movies know from the hit movie Mimino. I especially like this scene. If you haven't seen Mimino, you should watch it. It's pretty good and available on YouTube with English subtitles here.
Me, Heather and Jeff in Telavi
We were lucky to pick this specific weekend to visit Kakheti. When we first got in to town, we learned that G9 Barbara had decided to celebrate her final birthday in Georgia in style. She and the other PCVs were in the middle of cooking a big, American dinner for all the volunteers to share. They made grilled, marinated chicken, salad with blue cheese dressing, biscuits, flourless chocolate torte with caramel sauce, sangria... it was overwhelmingly delicious. By scouring the western-style supermarkets in Tbilisi, they had even managed to find fixings for s'mores, which we somehow or other managed to consume, despite the feast we'd just enjoyed.
PCVs living the life
Sam, with his triumphant s'more
The next day, we got up and took a marshrutka to a nearby town, Kvareli, where another PCV, Johnny, has spent his two plus years of service working with a winery, to take a tour and do some tasting at said winery. You can watch a short Peace Corps video that highlights Johnny's work here or you can go and see him talk about his experiences live and in person at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, which will be featuring the Peace Corps this year. Seriously, if you're in DC, go to the Folklife Festival (June 30-July 4 then again from July 7-11)! It was always one of my favorite summer activities in DC. If you see Johnny, tell him Melissa sent you.
But, side notes and plugs for the Folklife Festival now done, let's get back to our trip!
We got into Kvareli a little early for the winery tour, so Sam and I had time to check out the Ilia Chavchavadze museum. The highlight, besides the swarms of school children on a tour, was the family's defense tower, where Ilia was actually born because the family had to take shelter there during a raid (by Dagestanis, possibly from Lezgin tribes).
Sam, outside the Chavchavadze Family's Defense Tower, watching out for raiders
Inside the family's wine cellar
The museum's grounds were beautiful
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this was not here in Ilia's day.
Later, we took our winery tour. Johnny likes to point out that his winery's namesake wine, the Kindzmarauli, was Stalin's favorite wine, which he ordered specifically from this winery. (Some of you lucky family members that got a bottle of wine from Georgia when we were home for Emily and John's wedding got just this wine!) We tasted a lot of wines and then had a short tour of the gift shop to allow the G9 PCVs to buy wine to take home when they finish service either later this month or next month. We topped the day off with loads of yummy Georgian food from the winery's restaurant before heading back to Telavi for a sleepy, hot, summer afternoon doze.
Johnny, being a great tour guide
PCVs waiting patiently for their taste
One of the items for sale in the gift shop, chacha "for real men"
We capped the weekend off with a movie viewing session. We watched the movie Five Days of War (alternately called Five Days of August), which is all about the August 2008 war. It was really a pretty terrible movie (what the heck is wrong with Val Kilmer these days? I swear he just showed up drunk and ad-libbed his way through this one) but has some beautiful shots of Georgia and some really kitschy portrayals of Georgian culture. At any rate, this movie is supposedly being released in theaters in the U.S. in August, so watch for it (or just read the review that Eurasianet.org wrote about it)! It might not be worth the price of a movie ticket in America these days, but if you do go see it (if it is in fact released in America), maybe you can explain what the heck Val Kilmer is doing. Seriously.