While D was away in Tbilisi, taking advantage of his work trip to see the Georgian countryside, S did a bit of traveling of her own, albeit closer to home. A good friend from our Kenya days whom S has known since grad school was flying from Nairobi to Chicago and asked if she could visit for a couple of days, instantly doubling the number of friends who have made it out to Chisinau to see us.
On the way back from Lagodekhi, D’s friend made a detour through Sighnaghi, an unassuming little town that was recently thrust into Georgia’s tourist limelight. The transition — from hiking well off the beaten path to the heart of Georgia’s tourist track — was a bit surreal. One moment D was wading almost waist-deep in snowmelt in the middle of the Lagodekhi wilderness, and an hour or two later he found himself jockeying for position with Russian tourists so that he could snap a couple of photographs.
In preparing to bid adieu to Georgia after many years working and living there, D’s friend had scribbled down a short bucket list of hikes, treks, and bike routes he wanted to traverse before leaving the country for good. After spending a week in the capital, D was all too happy to get out of Tbilisi and help him check a few items off the list. Birtvisi, a ruined medieval fortress nestled in the limestone cliffs of a small river gorge about an hour outside the city was the first stop on the itinerary.
Tbilisi is not a beautiful city in the way that some European capitals are, but it has plenty of charm and is not to be missed if one plans to spend time in the Caucuses. By the time D had a chance to walk around and see the main sights, he had spent the better part of a week in the Georgian capital and developed a feel for the city, which is equal parts bustling metropolis and ancient reliquary ensconced in a crumbling post-Soviet shell.
Munchkin is now in the second month of his second year. By some accounts, this is a golden era of early childhood, as he runs around, babbles nonstop, and actively interacts with us and the world around him. In other respects, however, parenting has become considerably tougher. We’re still many months from the dreaded “terrible twos,” but Munchkin has already developed several stereotypically infuriating behaviors that test our patience.
D’s first full day in Tbilisi coincided with a national holiday — Georgia celebrates Mother’s Day on March 3. D had planned to spend the day wandering around the city and getting acquainted with its charms. Instead, his colleague suggested a trip out to David Gareji, an ancient complex of rock dwellings, churches, and monastic caves that straddles Georgia’s border with Azerbaijan.
D brought a guide book with him to Tbilisi, but hardly looked at it. D’s local coworkers were eager to introduce him to Georgian culture, and his American officemate took him to all her favorite restaurants. Moreover, D’s TDY overlapped with the return to Georgia of a friend from our Nairobi days who has spent so much time in Tbilisi over the last decade that he has acquired Georgian residency. This fortuitous coincidence meant that D not only got to see much more of the country than he would have venturing out on his own, but also that he benefited from many insights into the Georgian way of life.