Telavi

Erekle II Moedani, Telavi

Erekle II Moedani, Telavi

We arrived in Telavi late in the afternoon on a warm, sunny day, the center of town packed with people.  The main street, Erekle II gamziri, was closed to traffic and lined with stalls representing various government departments interfacing with the people, and we later learned that President Saakashvili was in town, opening the new Gombori highway.  We stopped for a late lunch—we hadn’t eaten since breakfast—and then walked around checking out the guesthouses and looking around the city.  This picture is of the main square in the center of Telavi, flanked on one side by the castle walls, a park with a cafe or two vis-a-vis, and a large, rather ugly and apparently unused building (I think it was the theater) opposite the white government building in the picture. The fountain in the middle, in the distance, is topped by a sculpture of St. George slaying the dragon, similar to the one in Freedom Square in Tbilisi.  I found the town quite nice, as Georgian towns go; a large castle in the center, pleasant gardens with cafes, and some agreeable neighbourhoods bearing traces of renovation.

Promenade along the castle walls.

Promenade along Batonistsikhe Castle.

Since we arrived late in the afternoon, and spent most of the next day exploring the sights outside of the city, we didn’t really have much time to see Telavi.  The castle, for instance, sounds interesting: the residence of the Kakhetian kings in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a Persian-style palace inside, built in 1660.  There are apparently also two museums, an art gallery and a historical museum, as part of the site.

Church.

Church.

Once we’d settled on a guesthouse, we dropped our things and went for a walk around the town.  The areas we visited were cleaner and less decrepit than many towns I’ve been through; a few new shops, recently paved roads, and attractive residential buildings.  The church was closed, so we couldn’t check out the inside.

One of the nicer neighbourhoods we walked through.

One of the nicer neighbourhoods we walked through.

"Hello!  Hello!"

"Hello! Hello!"

Georgian children have a tendency to call our greetings in English if they see someone they judge to be a foreigner.  These two were playing with a puppy by the gate to their house, and as Khatuna and I passed, they called out “Hello!”, so we stopped and chatted to them for a minute or so.

Pakha Dukani Restaurant.

Pakha Dukani Restaurant.

We stopped here for dinner, a great little place near the corner of Saakadzis qucha and Erekle Meore gamziri, by the canal that runs through the middle of the town.  Run by two stout, friendly middle-aged women, the food was great and inexpensive.  It filled up quite quickly, mostly middle-aged men starting their evening supras/drinking sessions.  As often happens, they saw that Khatuna and I were speaking English, and immediately invited us over, proposed toasts to us, and virtually insisted on drinking with us.

Svetlana's place.

Svetlana's place.

After walking around for a while, we decided to stay here, at Svetlana’s place (listed in the LP guide as the Tushishvili Guesthouse).  A fantastic, large old house just off the main square, Svetlana runs the place on her own, with some help from her daughters when they’re home from college during the summers.  Downstairs there’s a large space, opening to the garden but covered by the house, where guests could have dinner around a large dining table.  Upstairs there were three or four rooms, comfortable and quiet, and a few more downstairs.  She said that she’s almost constantly full during the summers, and the occasional visitor comes by in the winter.  Her guestbook is pretty impressive–guests from all over the place.

Inside the door.

Inside the door.

Svetlana’s great; tall and lanky and humourous, she showed us our room and then sat downstairs with us for a long while chatting about various things.  She’d grown up in Kiev, and it was interesting to hear about life during the Brezhnev era.  She met her (Georgian) husband in Azerbaijan, and eventually settled in Telavi.  Now her two daughters are in university, one in the Ukraine, the other in Telavi.  We had a great time there.  Regrettably we had already had our dinner, since she cooks up a storm in the evenings.  The next morning a large and varied breakfast was laid out on the table downstairs, and since it was raining we took our time.  Svetlana came out and we chatted for a while again until the rain stopped, by which time the driver that she’d called had arrived, and we took off to see the sights.

Khatuna and Taso at Svetlana's.

Khatuna and Taso at Svetlana's.

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