Side note: In my 21 years’ experience and love affair with Georgia and Georgians, I have never experienced anything like this write shared. I take that back…. Once, when I was lost with a dead phone battery, a female shop keeper was super rude when I asked to use her phone… but the hair salon next door, more than made up for her shocking rudeness. He took my predicament personally and assisted me with the kindness of a big brother and delivered me safely home. Otherwise, every encounter with Georgians have been nothing but Southern hospitality on steroids, full of charm and profound generosity. I’m sharing this article for the food and photography illustration, only.
It is not the best wine I’ve drunk since arriving in Tbilisi the week before, not even close. Lightly effervescent, with a distinctly sour edge. Also, it is 10 AM, and I’m not a morning drinker. Not so the men clustered around Dave and I, watching with keen interest our every sip, our every nibble from the dishes on the counter in front of us. One shortish fellow with a stubbled head and double chin breathes alcoholic fumes on my cheek, then leans back on his heels and smiles, swaying like a Weeble.
I don’t know what to make of him, or of this mid-morning liquor-fueled scene in the near-dark of Dezertiri Market’s rear recesses. And that pretty much describes my state of mind for most of our short time in Georgia. We’d come from eastern Turkey, a place of big smiles, bigger welcomes, outsized hospitality. In eastern Turkey turning down invites to tea, to lunch, to dinner, to a night or five on the spare bed or couch of a perfect stranger has become normal. In Tbilisi, people smile …. or scowl. Shopkeepers are gracious … or rude. Trying to smooth the way with a nicety uttered in (my mangled) Georgian are met with a thumbs-up …. or a cluck of the tongue, a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head. They love you or are annoyed by you (some seem to despise you), these Georgians, and it is near impossible to predict which it will be. But here, in Dezertiri’s boozy back room, we are most decidedly welcome.