Georgia welcomed me with open arms. Glistening lands full of life and colour. Crystal rivers flowed through swampy farmlands and deep, green forests where the homes of bee keepers, wine growers & shepherds lay hidden. I’d crossed through the tunnel border and into another world where the last of the stormy spring skies were painted a bright and clear blue.
There were sunlit valleys. Snow capped mountains. An intense and summery heat with nature in full swing, at is highest and most vibrant. No more were the mosques and hidden away women, Georgia and it’s endless crossed church spires rose out of the forests as far as the eye could see.
A mile from the border I noticed a group of people standing, singing. Choirs on a village green beneath a statue of a saint. Another hundred metres and buses and cars were pulling into to a row of wine, beer and vodka shops. The people rushed in and staggered out! Cows wandered the highways, free to roam, whilst sheep munched their way through the fields.
It was glorious. Truly. For a place I had never meant to visit it was, simply, beautiful. Maybe it was the timing, at the height of summer, maybe it was the relaxed nature of the locals who sat around in the sunshine getting drunk and smiling and laughing. Maybe it was the sight of women in the streets and in the fields and the petrol stations again with their faces a mixture of Russian and Turkish.
It is said, in biblical fiction, that all life began in the vales of Georgia & Azerbaijan, not far from the slopes of Noah’s Mount Ararat in Iran. I can see why the writers chose the location: the cradle between Russia, Europe and the Middle East was a hidden gem, a mix of cultures and, for me, an unintended diversion into a magical land.