Friday, July 20, 2007


Off to Zugdidi for a couple of days earlier this week. It's in the west of Georgia, very close to the conflict zone of Abkhazia - roughly a five hour trip from Tbilisi. This area of Georgia has a subtropical climate, as evidenced by the palm trees and banana trees in the streets. That's apart from the lurid yellow and red plastic palm trees which the municipality seems to see a need for.

Many people in and around Zugdidi have animals, especially cute brown calves. The larger versions of these wander round the town quite happily, as was a horse. The most bizarre sight, however, was a lady's foot poking out of an open window at 7.30 in the morning; looking a bit more closely, I could see the other leg in another stirrup and a guy calmly going about his gynaecological business.

This part of Georgia is called Samegrelo, or Megrelia, in olden days. Megrelian is a different language, apparently (not sure I can tell how different) and people are much more traditional. I was told that it was not really done for a woman to flaunt her legs (bit too late that was), and it seems that foreigners are very rare, what with the stares I received in the streets.

Stayed in the Samegrelo hotel which has everything a hotel needs. The room smelt distinctly better, though, once I closed the bathroom door. And the eggs for breakfast, which seemed to have landed in the pan rather drunkenly, did not really need the addition of a long, dark, hair. I should have realised that when I asked for bread, I would not get butter as well....

The market was like all markets; crowded and damp underfoot. I noticed here, though, just how many women wear the black widow's garb, which even covers their hair. Particularly because I saw a very young widow, which is unusual. I'm told she has little chance to get remarried in that part of the world.

Finding somewhere nice to eat out at night was a bit difficult. The hotel dining room did not inspire me (as was confirmed by the following morning's breakfast), a lot of the cafe's looked dark and gloomy, so after walking all round the centre of Zugdidi I finally homed in on a new restaurant, the D(i?)arioni, in the parallel street east to the main street, near the park end. I was the only customer....

But very nice it was, too - with excellent service and excellent food. The fact that the menu was only in Georgian and I could only order what I knew limited my scope a bit, but here I probably had the best mashed potatoes I have had anywhere out east, bar my own, which are quite good. The beer was nice and cold, too!

Oh yes, and on the way back from Zugdidi the car broke down. There seems to be a curse on me and coming back from the west - last time also the car broke down, but luckily both close to cities.