The last glimmer of sunshine lies above the cobbled street, which is surrounded by more or less decaying buildings. The roadsides are lined with cows and sheeps, here and there is a shepherd, old women look down from their wooden balconies. A man breaks up fragile roof battens in front of his house by using the channel grate of the street as a lever. He calls us and asks if we want to use his toilet in the garden. We end up in his four-meter-deep cellar.
What sounds like the intro of a class B psycho-thriller is only a sign of Georgian hospitality. The old man proudly shows us his garden and his cellar. „The cellar was built by a dozen Germans at the time!“ He tells us proudly. Here in Asureti once lived German Settlers from Swabia, who took the long way to the South Caucasus about 200 years ago. Amirani is still enthusiastic about German engineering, his cellar is never warmer or colder than eighteen degrees. One more reason that he stores his treasures there. In old wooden shelves are countless glasses with pickled cucumbers, on the ground you can found some potato heaps. However, the most precious things are his home-made drinks – well preserved in old water cans and aloe vera bottles.
He quickly pulls out some glasses and holds them in front of us. Despite the risk of blindness, all diligently try his cognac, which, however, has little in common with his French counterpart. Hardly set glasses are already filled again. We strive to process so much hospitality, but the wife of Amirani brings already a colorful collection of legumes on the table. While the 75-year-old cuts an apple, he tells us about his past in Frankfurt at the KGB and his participation in the Vietnam War.
Despite Georgia’s special European path, Georgia faces a whole series of challenges. Low pensions, high youth unemployment and constant political upheavals continue to create a precarious situation within the country. Economic cooperation with the European Union and Western countries ensures a huge flow of money into the South Caucasus state, and also the transatlantic interests pay special attention to the region. Economically, Georgia provides access to markets in resource-rich countries such as Iran or Azerbaijan. With its exposed strategic location, it is of great interest to NATO as a bastion in front of Russia and the Middle East.
In Amirani’s place of residence, Asureti, a small village just a few kilometers from Tbilisi, the political and economic struggles for supremacy in the Caucasus region hardly seem to care anyone. Especially the situation in the north of the country is quite complicated. Here, where the two breakaway areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been in a power vacuum since the 2008 Caucasus war, they start developing into a Russian-Georgian buffer zone. The West assures the territorial integrity of Gerogia, but a real solution to the conflict seems a long way off.
The country remains the melting pot of East and West, Orient and Occident. Rich in culture and gifted with a breathtaking landscape, Georgia is attracting more and more tourists. Hospitality, as we have experienced in Asureti, is not uncommon. But the double-edged sword of tourism promotion of a country that hovers somewhere between traditions and commercialization does not stop at the Caucasus either. Dozens of off-road buses grace the plateau in front of the Gergetier Trinity Church near Stepandzminda, a popular destination in the north with a view of the Kasbeck. A new road is being built here. Much to the chagrin of the locals, who hitherto transported tourists to the church on the only rough road with their off-road vehicles, making their living.
In Tbilisi the impressions of this versatile country are condensing. On the one hand old people trying to supplement their pension by selling junk and rummage. On the other hand there is a young generation that wants to break out of the post-Soviet structures and take refuge in the nightlife of the big city. The club scene in Georgia in big. The Bassiani even won one or the other award before the international greats such as the Berghain in Berlin. In the Keller Bar next to the Vera Park near the old town I meet two young Georgians. I question one of them about the situation in the north of the country. „Sure it’s shitty situation, but the Russians bring money into the country, and most just want to spend a few days vacation here,“ he replies.
A few days later I get into conversation while driving with a taxi driver. His English is very limited, but he even speaks a few words of German. He keeps saying „Georgia People good. Ivanishvili, President Pig „. The internal political situation is constantly unstable. Especially in the past, there were repeated allegations of corruption against government members, entire ministries were shut down or restructured, ministers were deployed and dismissed. Especially towards the elderly, many reforms are difficult to communicate. If one were to introduce a goods vehicle test certificate in Georgia, as planned for a year, it would be likely that half of the population would to give up their vehicle.
Luckily, Amirani does not need a car – most of the time he cares for himself and if he wants to go to town or across the country, there’s the Mashrutkas – small, yellow intercity buses that travel all over Georgia. Before we say goodbye, he fills us half a liter of his own self-burned cognac into an empty fanta bottle. We give him 50 Lari for his hospitality – a third of the average monthly pension in Georgia. He leads us back to the road and turns back to his battens as we make our way back to Tbilisi. With a whole piece of Georgia in the luggage.
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