Marian Babiak, New Jersey, USA
The food was so flavorful everywhere; the Georgians clearly going with what was in abundance, and apparently eschewing the use of chemicals. How much fun when we stopped impulsively at roadside stands for fresh cherries on a stick (Yum!) or baskets of raspberries. You anticipated
our every need (and not only for food, but for other comforts as well), and you were attentive to any requests from the group.
Georgian wine more than lived up to its reputation for excellence, and we’re pretty picky. Most amazing were hangover-free mornings despite the copious quantities of wine we drank the night before, with all that traditional toasting!
The music and the sacred spaces: surely the most memorable and moving of all our Georgian experiences. Yours, Soso’s, and Shergil’s beautifully blended voices raised in chant in the churches and cathedrals transformed those visits into worship. Deeply moving also was the
response of people who had the good fortune to be in church at the moment of your chanting.
And how very wonderful to view in person the ancient structures with their lovely frescoes and icons. One cannot help but notice the great piety of the Georgian people, despite the chaotic activity during services. Your wisdom in downplaying the arduousness of the climbs to both the Vardzia Cave Complex and the Davit Gareji encouraged folks to make these climbs, which we might otherwise not have done. “Well worth the climb”, as you so wisely pointed out.
Your amazing facility with the Georgian language opened doors for us, particularly with the visit to Patriarch and Catholicos Ilya II. For me, the undoubted highlight of our trip. Only after several days of our tour did we even consider our Maya’s urging to obtain an audience. Something about all we attempted and succeeded in doing convinced us to try. And with your intervention, we realized our wish. Oh, happy day!
Our little choir at Holy Trinity is attempting to learn the “Before Thy Cross” you offered us (I found where it is in the Georgian chant books John purchased, as well as the Hymn to the Theotokos we were learning.)
John, you put together a wonderful, comprehensive Georgian experience. The group developed a bond, each person interacting comfortably with all the others. We were so fortunate in that regard. Now sharing our pictures and videos has helped us through the painful period of “letting go of our Monastery Tour”. We were not ready for it to end just yet.