Monastery Tour Impressions, June 2006
The Delights of Hospitality
In some ways, simplicity is the best tonic, because Georgian hospitality, in its simplest and purest form, is best revealed in the village setting outside the city. We found our greatest hosts in the villages along the Alaverdi Valley in eastern Georgia. Home to burgeoning collective of artists and poets, the town of Sighnaghi in particular provides visitors a particular insight into the warmth and vitality of the hospitality culture present in this land. Perched on a hilltop with a birds-eye view of thousands of hectares of vineyards spread across the wide valley floor, beneath the majestic snow capped Caucasus, Sighnaghi is the ideal resting place for a romantic vacation in Georgia.
Residents of Sighnaghi, like Nona, a local bed and breakfast operator, welcome visitors with open arms. With limited financial capabilities, Nona has converted her modest house to allow foreign and native visitors to stay with her family at reasonable rates. While a hotel being built in the center of town threatens to eventually take potential customers from her, Nona is optimistic about the future, because this entrepreneurial job not only provides financial assistance, it also enables her to share her home and stories with those who want to discover more about her beloved country.
While Georgia may not be the most well known wine producing country in the world, it does have its share of world-class ‘black’ (as the Georgians refer to red wines), and white varietals and a history of wine production that pre-dates any western country. Pitchers of local wines flow easily, without the hint of modern technology or bottling restrictions – this is the real stuff!
Georgians, as a rule, drink in moderation to appreciate the wine, and respect the gift with which God has provided them. They also only drink the wine after toasts are given during a meal. Lucky for Georgians, there are many toasts during each meal. One person is appointed as the toastmaster or Tamada at a feast, and throughout the numerous courses of locally grown fruits and vegetables, freshly cooked meats, and mouth watering cheeses, the Tamada will leads those around the table in praise of God, their ancestors, their friends, and even their enemies if the occasion calls for it. Each toast is only complete when followed by a healthy drink of the local vintage, and a requisite song to please both host and guest!
For the untrained ear, Georgian singing may sound like the participants have been drinking the wrong wine. However, listen carefully and discover what musicologists and ethnographers have termed to be the ‘perfect trio.’ Following centuries of specific rules and musical patterns, Georgian chant, both the sacred and the secular, blends three unique parts to form one sound which resonates deep within the soul of the Georgian people. Whether the songs are from the fields, the cities, or recount love sought or love lost, the music of Georgia binds the nation in many ways, serving as the greatest storyteller between generations.
David Lucs is a member of the chancery staff for the Orthodox Church of America's national headquarters and has been to Georgia three times. He was able to introduce his wife Alexandra to Georgia on the 2006 Monastery Tour, and enjoyed being a tourist for the first time. David and Alexandra are from Long Island, New York.