Tbilisi and My Rug
November 8, 2012
My Dear Family and Friends,
Six weeks ago, on my first day in the Caucasus, I wandered up Kozeveny Street in Tbilisi, Georgia. I spotted an attractive rug hanging in front of a shop window. On close inspection, it was a kelim – flat tapestry-hand-woven-multi-colored. I liked the rug.
I kept on walking.
Tbilisi is a great city for walking. My hotel was on the east side of the Mtkvari River near the Tsminda Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral that towers over the city.
From the Cathedral, I walked down the hill to the river, crossed the pedestrian Peace Bridge, walked up the steep Kozeveny Street where I found the rug shop and also the Beth Rachel Ashkenazi Synagogue and the Sephardic Synagogue.*
The monument of Saint George and the Dragon (35m - 115 ft) dominates the broad, sunny Freedom Square. Saint George is the starting point for a long stroll up Rustaveli Boulevard. On each side of Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare are churches, handsome government buildings, theaters and museums.
The National Museum had an exhibit of Modern Masters of Georgia.
Tbilisi is my kind of city. It’s manageable, walkable, with a mixture of old twisting alleys and modern boulevards. Public transportation is convenient. And of course, there’s that rug shop that hooked me for the moment.
Three weeks later, when I returned to Tbilisi, I stayed at a hotel in the hilly Old City. This is a charming area with many shops selling local red and green apples, purple grapes and fresh walnuts. Little old ladies sell warm aromatic bread, pastries and cheese sandwiches. Several small restaurants serve authentic Georgian cuisine. (My favorite was chicken stew with carrots and potatoes, loaded with garlic.)
And, yes, once again, I wandered down to Kozeveny Street to visit “my rug.” And, yes, once again, my rug was hanging in the window. This time I spoke to the manager. We discussed the “provenance” and also the price. I was tempted to buy the rug. But I was on my way to other international destinations, and since I never know my exact itinerary, I was averse to carry it with me and reluctant to store it.
Instead, I strolled around the Old City, wandered down to the river, crossed the river, and took the cable car up to the lookout over the city where I found the Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) Monument and the Nariqala Fortress.
For the next two weeks I traveled to Israel and Azerbaijan. But I never stopped thinking about “my rug.” It would fit perfectly in an area in my apartment and I loved the bright colors and bold design. But, what are the chances that the rug would still be available when I returned to Tbilisi for the last time?
I cut it close. I flew back to Tbilisi from Baku, Azerbaijan on the afternoon before my flight home the next morning. I checked into the hotel and made straight for Kozeveny Street.
Unbelievable! I was astonished! After six weeks, “My rug” is still hanging in its accustomed place! Kismet!
Now, to my embarrassment, many years ago in Istanbul, I learned my lesson dealing with a rug merchant, but that’s a whole other story. So here in Tbilisi I took my time. The lady manager understood. She patiently unfolded many rugs for my inspection. One or two were quite attractive. Then I asked her to take down the rug in the window. When she placed it side by side with the others, the shop seemed to “light up.” There was no question that “my rug” was The One!
I negotiated the price; we both agreed with a smile. The lady folded up my rug and put it in a large shopping bag. I estimated that the rug would fit snugly in my backpack that I would check with my luggage for the flight home. (4’x8’ – 122cm x 244cm)
To celebrate my purchase, I went to the wine shop next door. After a few tastes, I bought a bottle of Georgian Chacha.
Chacha is the Georgian version of vodka. Georgian grapes are pressed for wine. Then the skins are fermented and aged for Chacha.
Chacha is tasty and smooth, almost like a good scotch whiskey or brandy. There are several flavors, depending on the aging casks. I chose the oak variety. I admit that after just inhaling the aroma and wetting my lips with a sip of the golden potion, my whole body feels the power.
The store-bought variety of Chacha is 50 proof! Georgians told me they make Chacha at home from their own grapes: 70 proof! (A small decanter of Chacha is placed on the breakfast buffet at my hotel for those who need a good bracer to start the day.)
My friends, if you can’t find a bottle of Georgian Chacha at your local wine emporium, my bottle will be around for a long, long time. And if brandy is your favorite, I also have a supply of authentic Armenian brandy on my shelf.
Come on over! We’ll lounge on my new Georgian rug. We’ll snack on goat cheese and olives, dried apricots and walnuts. We’ll take a sip or two of Georgian Chacha and discuss matters of international importance … “Where do we go for dinner?”
Just lucky sometimes,