Kutaisi had everything: faded, down-at-heel elegance and cultural richness followed by the soaring experience of Gelati Monastery’s slowly bustling liturgy below the steady gaze of its icons. And if that was all too grand, there was the secret jewel of Motsameta Monastery.
It was a perfect setting for a homecoming to the garden of clucking chickens (and their droppings) under the vine pergola, eggs laid under bushes, confident cats and overhanging cherry branches with the basilica skyline glimpsed through the washing on the line. Then the western sunlight streaming onto the al fresco cornucopia of a groaning table, livened with witty exchanges over homemade wine in quart jugs.
The homestay’s family came and went. It could be Mother taking a corner seat on a spare wooden box, joining in. Or the bright eyes of teenage girls who had left the computer screen for a few minutes to practice their English and then join us late in the moonlight on a noisy walk up the hill to the shrine, chanting hymns and silly songs, until we longed for our pillows.
In the morning we found out there had been an overnight drama because of Grandma’s allergy to a bee sting. But there she was endlessly serving breakfast cheesecake to us, big and beaming as if she had just heard that the Russians were going away forever.