Everything is possible in Georgia
15 December, 2018
Lately, I went to West Georgia in order to learn more about the challenges of organic hazelnut farming in the region. My travel experiences give a good impression about how Georgia works and help explain why I feel so comfortable here during my internship at the Georgian Journal.

For the 340 kilometer journey form Tbilisi to Zugdidi, I decided to take the coach. In contrast to the minibuses – the so-called “Marshrutkas” – a coach is a lot more comfortable
and the drive less hazardous. Buses start from three different station’s in the Georgian capital. My coach would leave at 12.00 from the one in the south. Or so I thought. To play it safe, I left my apartment one and a half hours prior to departure.

Read more: Georgia – too dangerous to visit?

When I arrived at the bus station, I had to find the right coach first. This is not as simple as it sounds, as I neither speak nor read Georgian or even Russian. But the people at the station were all very helpful and eventually, they directed me to the coach company’s office– instead of accompanying me to the coach. Definitely not a good sign, I thought. And it wasn’t. The staff informs me that my coach actually leaves from Didube station, on the other end of Tbilisi. In 15 minutes, notabene. No way a taxi could make it in due time.
On my way to Zugdidi, tracking the journey on the map

In the same situation in my home country Switzerland, I would just go home and forget about the whole trip. But this is not Switzerland, but Georgia. Here, staff called the coach driver and told him to wait for me, ordered a taxi, and at 12.30 I was standing in front of my bus to Zugdidi.

Slightly embarrassed I entered, apologetically mumbling "boschidi" to my fellow passengers. I was very surprised to see that no one really cared or was angry for having to wait half an hour for the departure. Whether we would arrive in Zugdidi at 5 or 6 pm was of no big importance to them, it seemed.
Pigs and cattle walking freely in the streets is a common sight in the countryside

The next day, together with a lady of the organic farming association and the agronomist, we headed to the villages. Partly because of the invasive stink bug from Asia the farmers had and still have enormous crop losses for the last two years. That is why they get trainings in order to improve their cultivation techniques to make their hazelnuts more robust.

Read more: Escape to the country: Visit Lagodekhi

Naturally, the farmers invited the three of us to dinner after the training. We all gathered in the house of one of the farmers. Although the people live very humbly, nothing would prevent them of hosting us as if we were kings and queens.
Boozy atmosphere at the dinner party

As customary in Georgia, toasts were held. Each one of the dinner party wanted to orate. At least one time. So we rose our glasses over and over again and drunk a toast on me, on the farmer’s organization, on the future of the farmers' cooperative, on Georgia, on the wisdom of the young agronomist, on the fact that not all young people leave their village. I could easily add a couple of more toasts.

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The men were joking and laughing. The cheerful mood and the wine made me laugh too, even though the translator had stopped translating. The only discordant note to me during this beautiful evening was the fact that the wife of the host did not sit down at the table. She cooked and brought the food, but she has never joined the party.

This is a situation I have never encountered before, whether in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, in Russia, nor Tbilisi. And I do not approve of it. And yet, even those rough edges that I got to know in Georgia from time to time cannot change my generally positive feelings. For me it is simply impossible not to fall in love with Georgia.

Text and pictures: Martina Polek