Thursday, April 22, 2004

Dinosaur baths

It has been a while, unfortunately, but I have three good excuses: 1. dealing with Georgian bureaucracy; 2. elections; 3. my first guest with almost no Russian.

Also, my phone line is off, so I can’t do email from home! This means that I must seek out the mysterious desk in charge of Vera phone lines in the giant post office, and find out to whom I owe money. But I’ll do that later, whenever I get my salary.

Ok. Excuses over, two weeks with Rachel the lovely, who brought me parmesan cheese and Thomas Mann, and her own magic mountain of law books to work from in her spare time, went by with much goings on. On top of the eggplant parmesan to be made and consumed, there are all sorts of things that a tourist must do in Georgia.

Since it was Easter weekend while she was here, we arranged to go to Kutaisi, which is the capital of western Georgia – not an official capital, but the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Georgia. One of our friends has a beautiful house and a beautiful family in the center of town, and we were lucky enough to get three days in their company. We did the usual things: we visited Bagrati, a church with no roof on the hill; we visited Gelati, a monastery on the hill where David the Builder had himself buried in the floor of the entryway, so everyone coming in would have to walk on him. I climbed up a big rock and couldn’t get down again, a feeling I haven’t had in a long time but I remember very clearly from home videos of me as a small, chunky two-year-old on a picnic table. For Easter we ate the special Easter cake, which our architect/amateur composer/singer/businessman/famous gynecologist host and his wife made for us, and pointed out the pre-christian symbolism of the shape (phallus) combined with hard-boiled eggs painted red. We chose the eggs we thought would be the strongest, and made barbaric noises of war as we hit them against each other to see which would break first, capturing each other’s eggs as symbols of victory. We ate mountains of eggplant and other good food. On the last day, we went to see dinosaur footprints in the mountains, and an underground cave complex.

Then we went to an old resort called Tskhaltubo, just outside of the city. There used to be a direct train, Moscow-Tskhaltubo, daily. The roads are wide and lovely. There’s a botanical garden surrounded by neoclassical sanatoriums and baths dedicated to the coal miners of Siberia. All completely falling apart – the only bath left that works is the Stalin bath, which has a lovely bas relief of Stalin giving something to the people, and amazing ceramic lamppost-sized sculptures inside with frolicking pioneers on top. Inside is gorgeous art deco and beautiful marble everywhere, in almost perfect repair. There are huge frogs in the fountains. We drove by the four-story department store, every window of which was broken, and in the first floor a herd of ponies had made itself very comfortable. Despite this, the place is ready to be used – people need work, the baths are still there, the mineral water hasn’t gone away. It’s like a lot of things here – it needs a little careful investment and it could be amazing, but who?

The dinosaur footprints were from hot lava by the seaside, probably about the same time the mineral waters were forming. You can actually see a big dinosaur chasing a small one, and some others coming to drink.

Anyway, I think Rachel had a good time - she said she'd come back in October even if I'm not here (everyone's expecting you!) and all my friends loved her. And thank you for the cheese!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?