My posting for at least the next three months was assigned to me a few days ago—I am in the small city of Telavi in the Kakheti region. We are the former capital of the Kingdoms of Kakheti and Kartl-Kakheti, before the rise of Telavi. The town is on a steep slope that offers a breathtaking view of plains, foothills, and mountains when descended on a clear day.
The people are by-and-large poor, though the occasional large house overlooks the market and plains, offering something of an intimidating incentive to the merchants and farmers. I also had occasion to visit a large house seemingly owned by a young pair of Georgians.
By far the most interesting thing I’ve noticed in my three or four days here is the symbolic choice by the residents to avoid the old Soviet tenements in favor of their older, more classically rustic housing.
Here is a view of some of the old, apparently abandoned Soviet buildings:
While certainly not pretty (at all), they could be fixed up to provide cheap housing fairly easily. I wouldn’t particularly wish such a residence on anyone, but the human spirit has made worse circumstances work.
But compare that to the places that Telavi’s citizens prefer to occupy:
Forgive me for resorting to an area of experience, but I see this as a very literary conceit: tightly packed street neighborhoods instead of fixed up Soviet apartments. They choose the symbolism over the convenience.
I believe I am under some confidentiality restrictions, so I will limit all discussion of my host family to this photo of our home:
The memorial is a reminder of the April 9th tragedy from when Georgia declared independence from the USSR in 1989. It’s difficult to get Georgians to talk about the events due to the pain involved, but their stories are so much more significant—even those too young to really remember the events—than skimming a Wikipedia article.
When Georgia declared their independence and freedom, the Soviets responded by attacking residents of Tbilisi and other cities, killing Georgians and burning churches. Now April 9th is a very somber independence day in Georgia, with citizens, military personnel, and politicians alike gathering and monuments and memorials like this for prayer for those lost.
Despite the somber nature of this monument, there is a playground not ten yards away.
A unique city situated in a beautiful area of the country, Telavi is a fascinating snapshot of multiple worlds.