A Sunny Sunday at Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake.

Turtle Lake.

Today I went up to Turtle Lake, a short drive of 7-8 minutes from the center of town.  I’m told that during the heat of July and August it’s packed, but today there were no more than 100 people or so.  It’s quite a small lake, beautifully located amid the peaks of the hills around Tbilisi.  Two relatively new cafes sit at the water’s edge, overlooking the green water and the mountain that rises up on the other side of the lake.  

The view towards the cafes on the opposite shore.

The view towards the cafes on the opposite shore.

The stage.

The stage.

At one end there’s an open space of grass where people stretched out on large towels; a small pier jutts a few meters into the water where a group of young men were fishing.  At the other end a stage had been set up facing four or five rows of tiered benches on the shore, like a miniature, approximate amphitheater.  Close to the cafes is another pier,

On the paddle-boat.

On the paddle-boat.

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this one flanked by paddle-boats.  A pleasant path leads around the lake through the surrounding forrest, a walk of perhaps 20 minutes.

Sunset.

Sunset.

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Khatuna and I went for a short jaunt around the lake in one of the paddle-boats, and returned to the jetty as the sun was setting over the mountain-tops.  As we drove back into the city an enormous ocher moon loomed over the city, like a vast, circular bronze door-knocker worn luminous from years of handling.  We stopped at Kolkheti for dinner before heading home.

At Kolkheti.

At Kolkheti.

Mushrooms, mtsvadi, spinach with walnut paste, greens, and...

Mushrooms, mtsvadi, spinach with walnut paste, greens, and...

...the de regueur plate of khinkali.

...the de regueur plate of khinkali.

Kolkheti.

Kolkheti.

Aside from a short reprieve the past three days or so it’s been quite cold the past few weeks, sweater and coat weather.  The leaves have started to turn, and there are reports of snowfall up in the mountains to the north.  Everyone says it’s very unusual for it to get so cold so early in the year, and I remember when I got to Tbilisi around this time last year it was still sultry and summery.  Taxi drivers have all become amateur meteorologists, commenting on the unseasonal cold—how they can’t remember when it was so cold in the first week of October; how it’s going to be a long, bitter winter; how the mountainous region of Svaneti will be closed off much earlier than usual.  The last taxi driver I had was from Sokhumi, in Abkhazia, and he ranted about how frigid it is in Tbilisi, and how he wanted to go back.  He really sounded like a Sicilian transplanted north to Trieste or Austria or Germany: “Here there’s nothing.  And it’s cold.  You should see the oranges in Abkhazia!  Big as small melons.  And banana trees—banana trees everywhere.  Ah, Abkhazia is the most beautiful part of Georgia, and those bastard Russians have stolen it from us.”

Khatuna and I have been planning a long weekend in the southern district of Samtskhe-Javakheti, and if weather permits we’ll go later this week.  Highlights will be the cave-city of Vardzia, and a number of sites around it, and the National Observatory in Abastumani.  I asked Khatuna to phone them a little while ago, to ask for details about their night tour, but the guy wasn’t very helpful.  “I see from your website that you provide night-tours; do I have to reserve?” “It depends; what would you like to do?”  “Well, I’d like to look around the observatory, and if possible, be shown the instruments.” “Well, it depends what you want to see.” “I see.  Well, what time do the tours start?” “It depends….”   So we didn’t get very far.  Shortly afterwards, I emailed them asking a number of the same questions, phrased as clearly and precisely as I could, but I have yet to hear from them.  Perhaps we’ll just show up.  I also see that there’s going to be a conference going on during the time we’ll be in the area, so I’m not sure if that means it’ll be full of earnest astronomers and off-limits to visitors, or if it’ll be a large congenial gathering of scientists having supras around their telescopes.  We’ll see.  It’d be cool to see the conjuction of Venus and Saturn that occurs this weekend…

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