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From Jurij with Love

10:56 11.09.2015
[Tamar Kapanadze]

Jurij Kete is young man from Slovenia, who just adores Georgia. He was very glad when I wrote him and asked some questions about his adventures here.

He discovered Georgia for not so long, but when I was reading his story, I really believed, that he loves our country truly and knows even more about us than most of georgian young generation.

His story is amazing, every word is full of love and delight.

I'm happy that Presa.ge had a chance to talk to him (even by mail) and now we are able to show you his amazing photos of jaw-dropping beauty of Georgia and tell all his story. 


Jurij tell us about yourself, who you are and from, are you professional photographer?

First of all I would like to say that I know many Georgians who deserve to be in magazine's article more than me. I will disapoint you, but I am just a cook, serving in Slovenian army (Slovenia, ex Yugoslavia, not Slovakia, ex Czechoslovakia) in the Language training center, which belongs to NATO and Partnership for peace. And photography is just my favourite hobby, as to many others.
 So, here I can answer you how I discovered Georgia: Your Ministry of defence and General staff members are among the most loyal students of our center. And I simply can not be just an »official« cook… People leave their families and come here in Slovenia- a completely different environment- for three months and they are humans like us. And they make me richer bringing me the mixture of cultures here in spiritually very empty Europe. And they are bringing me the heart-stirring stories from their lives and countries, which should wake up us to start thinking positive what we have and not to regret what we haven't… But Europe stays empty and selfish. Maybe people are touched for a while, but next day they continue with their selfish life and handicaped emotions, learned nothing from the heart-stirring stories…

Why Georgians and Georgia? I will not name them (in the name of the privacy this is the text with no names and the photos with no people), but two of them, two golden georgian angels who are like my sisters… I was probably really nice to them ( but I believe that I am nice to all of our students, or better, our guests ) and both- they were not here at the same time, but one in 2009 and another in 2011- invited me to visit Georgia someday… And I've also got the heart-stirring story about 2008 war there, which is, saddly, completely unknown here and in the West overall, because it happened in the shadow of Beijing olympic games which all the world was focused to at that time…

…But I was never really interested of travelling. I've always got a mixture of cultures served in our center and that was enough to me. I've spend my summer vacations here in Slovenia and that was enough to me. A week somewhere in the mountains serving as a cook-volunteer in the mountainers camp and one weekend alone somewhere in a non crowded place, that was it. And my batteries were recharged…

Over the night came the financial crisis and everything has changed. In the worse times the bad people become even worse and the good people even better- and the bad people all the time try to stop them. However, the masks falled from the faces and once the ugliness is revealed, it becomes agressive. And once the real faces are revealed, you can't cover them with masks anymore… And that circumstances are the best playground for increased corruption and nepotism. In every corner and everywhere in the »hierarchy«. And people become the beasts to each other… It doesn't matter how high is your salary; the only what counts is how you can survive from one month to another. And survive a month with a 60% of the average salary nowhere's easy. And the fact that I earn 30% less than four or five years ago is also not very helpful. In the country where the food costs three times more than in Georgia, where the taxes are around ten times higher, public transport five times higher, car registration 1400 lari per year, medical insurance 900 lari per year, one-room flat at least 8500 lari per year… All the doctors and teachers under the age of 35 unemployed… Oh, yes, also the European union countries have their dark sides…

…I've realized that I don't enjoy vacation in Slovenia anymore. Particulary because it's a little country where is easy to follow you and disturb your privacy with dirty games… And, so, entered in my fourties ( don't judge me by photo; I look much younger as I am ), I decided for Georgia.  A trip which costs me two salaries each time, but I don't regret neither a penny. Someday I'll simply become unable to have a trip to there, but until that day I'll simply enjoy.

As a totally green beginner I came to Georgia in the summer of 2012. To a completelly different land than any European land. Tbilisi,  Jvari monastery, Mtskheta, Ananuri, Shiomgvime, Vardzia,  Sapara,  Green monastery … And returned home with a new episode in my life. Remembered from time to time how hot is there. Heat and particulary the sun are my worst enemies.

When I was eight I barely survived the meningitis and since then I must avoid the sun and heat, particullary heat with high humidity. And I live in the valley which is the hotest part of Slovenia. The hotest with constantly high humidity.

So, I decided that I was in Georgia once and this suposed to be it. Next summer I stayed in Slovenia, spending my vacation as I did it before: a week as a cook-volunteer in the mountainers camp and a weekend alone in a non crowded place. But my batteries were not recharged. Because… When the times are bad and dirtier than before and the athmospere full of blackmailing, raw slaps, paranoia, arrogance and even fascism, then it usually becomes even worse and the dirty games step up even to a higher level…

…And I remembered that I complained all the time during my first visit and remembered- more than the trip was behind me, stronger feelings, impressions and emotions I felt in dirty Europe- how beautiful country is actually Georgia. And how safe; probably one of the safest in the world…

…I started missing Georgia. The land of the warmest hospitality. The land where I am still a human with dignity. The land where humor- the best therapy for the soul- is still allowed and welcome and not suspicious and hunted like in most of Europe. The land of the fantastic cuisine where even me as a professional cook can only say: »Hat down!«  And where each ingredient is natural and tasty and not chemical and plastic like European bullshit. The land which I love and where I am loved.

And when I am in Sakartvelo I always also feel something bitter in my throat: the fact that Georgians are so warm, giving me the hospitality which I don't deserve, while in most of Europe and particulary in the countries like Slovenia we have double norms about approach to foreigners: those who come from richer countries we lick their asses, those who come from poorer countries we ignore and many times even humiliate. What a shame! I wrote we, but I believe that me personally don't practice this primitive methods. We are all humans and people all around the world love life. And people who experienced the war or even more wars and refugees, love life even much more than spoiled and empty Europeans where, fortunatelly, there was mostly no war in last seventy years…


After that you came back to us yes?

…And in 2014 I returned to Georgia. This time with some plans which should be fulfilled…

…An average Western persons don't know much about Georgia. Very few know something about wine and tea. Almost everybody believe that Georgian main language is russian and don't know that they have own language ( Until my first visit I believed that I am talented for languages, now I don't believe anymore, because georgian language is sooo difficult. And georgian letters also.) Only about 40% percent know that the capital city of Georgia is Kiev (hey, cinism), most of the others think that's Moscow, many have no idea and less than 5% would answer Tbilisi, which is, of course, wrong, because the capital city of Georgia is… Bucarest? Ha, ha, ha…

My a priori plan was to once see Kazbegi. So, together with my both georgian »sisters«, heavy metal »nephew« and his heavy metal girlfriend we went on first Sunday to Stepantsminda. Stopped first on the point of view between Gudauri and Jvari pass,  in Stepantsminda hired a car to Gergeti Sameba, which is a fantastic place and, believe me or not, I even knew before.  From wikipedia, of course. Stopped in Stepantsminda for lunch and coffee and returned to Tbilisi.

That's evidently a fantastic area, but we had all day cloudy and rainy and I haven't seen Mount Kazbegi at all. So, somewhere in the future I plan to return there and for more than one day, because there's still a lot to be seen.

…And I still had ten days in Georgia; so, what can I still do? Because of the meningitis consequences I prefer the mountains. Actually I prefer variegate landscapes, but in July and August in Georgia there's very hot and, hey, I already survived hot Samtskhe Javakheti  and this year a part of hot Kakheti,  so the truth must be somewhere between… I crystalized my plan which is to see all the main places in Georgian Caucasus…

…And my »sister« contacted her former colleague who has the touristic agency; today I can say that's not a typical agency, but more a wide family where I've finally found friends also from the civilian life. Particulary georgian women who I adore, because they are beautiful, but particulary still femine women, not like here in Europe where many women behave like men. And many men behave like women. Chinchari! Ha, ha, ha…


What was the best adventure for you in Georgia?

...After two days in hot Tbilisi  I joined my new »family« at the five-days trip to Svaneti. The words can not describe… First time in the West Georgia, Imereti,  Samegrelo and then the road to heaven.

First day, before the night, after stopped in Zugdidi,  Enguri reservoir  and beautiful romantic mountain village Mazeri,  we arrived to Mestia and visited a part of that little town…  Did I mention that my favourite dish is kubdari?

Next morning we started to the legendary Ushguli, the highest all year inhabited community in Europe.

Went thru the valley of Mulkhura, with Ushba all the time behind and above us stopped first in Ipari  and then in Kala. By the way, the orthodox people are much more religious than catholics which I am. But I believe that we are tolerant to each other.

After the stop in the romantic village church we had a short climb to the next church above Kala. The view from that church was amazing. And, yes, Ushba, no matter that its summit sleeped in the clouds for a while, was the dominant peak again.

Continued on the macadam road, which was somewhere really very narrow and dangerous we arrived to Ushguli, the most romantic village I have seen so far. And the view to the highest Georgian peak Shkhara is priceless and marvelous. And the sunset was magic!

After breakfast we took a walk to Lamaria church which is at the highest point in the highest village. You could whisper to Shkhara from that point…

…Visited the other corners of Ushguli  and slowly went back, but stopped at- how lovely name- the Tower of love, and returned to Mestia, visited the regional museum and from its roof got the most beautiful view to the town and its surroundings.

Fortunately the Svans didn't forget their tradition and for dinner, among many other tasty dishes, we had kubdari again. Heaven!

Day four. The glacial of Mestiachaala. A short walk by the wild and fast river, under the peaks hanging high above us, first waterfall, second waterfall, waterfalls all around us and, bam, the mighty glacial which you can touch and the water of melting snow creating new and new paths in the ice. …And reminder that the nature is also woundable…

…From Mestiachaala to…

…Something so beautiful like the view from Koruldi lakes I haven't seen ever in my life. Being under the mighty Ushba on one side,surrounded with the lakes of the unrealistic red colored water, being surrounded with a chain of beautiful mountains and glacials all around, finished with Gistola, Janga and the legendary Tetnuldi on the other side… The words can not and will never describe! Being there… The proof that God really exist… And since that day I only search for the second most beautiful place in my life…

…And so I am probably a bit unfair to Hatsvali and Zuruldi cottage next day. /pic046/ I had a company of a golden and very positive girl who I still respect because of her unbelieveably positive energy and Zuruldi cottage offers a view from a high altitude, which is always spectacular. And if there was no Koruldi lakes on previous day, I would easily say that Zuruldi was the best place in my life… Ah, I know, I am unfair and there was simply too much happines in previous days for somebody from dirty Europe…

…Stopped in Latali and long months after that I've found out, here in Slovenia, that we actually stopped there, where the movie Svani was recorded…

…Slightly leaving unbelieveable and unforgettable Svaneti, in Barjashi tried my last kubdari so far. You know, real kubdari, prepared with svanish salt. Which I have and use all year here in Slovenia…

…Partskhanakanevi… When I later checked clips at home, I have seen few seconds of a traffic sign with some very long word… Now you know that georgian language is extremely difficult and I've spent three days to pronounce Partskhanakanevi. Next difficult word is Tsavkisistskhali. To simplify I use a word buchqi for all positive and chinchari for all negative, except… I like georgian lemonades (otherwise I am an abstinent and don't drink alcohol at all) and because of its color the lemonades with tarragon flavor I call lemonade chinchari. Women are, so, very buchqi to me. But a woman who has too much buchqi on wrong parts is chinchari… Okay, okay, I went completely away from the theme, ha, ha, ha… Georgians would say »vaimeee!« I would say »partskhanakanevi!«. Oh, gosh, ha, ha, ha…

…However, about 30 km from famous Partskhanakanevi lays less known Kutaisi. Gelati cathedral was under renovation, but the place which fills the soul with spirituality and we caught Bagrati rigth at the sunset… …Because, wherever in Georgia I am, I can't influent to weather and light, because my dates are fixed, but try my best to capture the best, what that moment brings me. And I am already at next location with different weather and light. But, hey, I am blessed and priviledged that I can (still) travel and never forget those who can't, but would definately deserve…

…And we slowly returned to Tbilisi and less than two days later I've finished my Georgia 2014.

But, was this really my best adventure in Georgia? From the point of view of the landscape beauty no doubt. Svaneti can be easily compared to different »Top 10 World destinations« and it's all up to Georgia and Georgians if someday that landscape will really be mentioned together with Machu Pichu, Giza pyramides, Zermatt&Matterhorn, Yellowstone, Paris, Tadj Mahal… I cheer for that and Sakartvelo deserves it… But there are also another points of view what the best adventure could be…

…This year, only three hours after the airplane has landed, we went to a four days trip to Racha. The same agency, or better wide family, with mostly new faces. Okay, I sound unfair, but it means a lot to me if in the group is somebody who speaks english. In this group I had enough english speaking friends and could participate in the athmosphere. And it's all about the athmosphere, isn't it?

And the athmosphere and jokes started from the first moment; like we know each other for years. Well, they actually really do, but accepted me as a foreigner in the moment, that was priceless. And it lasted during all the trip. And I wasn't the only fan of Queen and Pink Floyd in the car, which was also cool…

After the best capuccino in Zestaponi which was like a blessing after a sleepless day on the airplanes and airports, we went by the lake Akhalsopeli and thru the town Tkibuli /pic054/ to our first destination: the Nine crosses peak. /pic055/ There was a nice view to the town, lake and somewhere at the end of horizon we could feel the Black Sea. But particulary it was a sacred place with exactly nine same crosses (and many more added later) and the relief of St. George. I always remember any image of him, because I've got my name by him…

And there I've heard for the first time a word buchqi.

Entered in Racha we first passed Shaori lake  and stopped in Nikortsminda with its beautiful and charismatic church /pic058/ and, after the cool break in front of the cold cave, /pic059/ continued to Ambrolauri, Barakoni, Oni, the mineral water spring /pic062/ to our final destination for the first day, Utsera.  There I've heard a new word: sopeli. Well, also I live in sopeli. And a new phrase: Me dzalian mshia! And the dinner was really tasty and full of everything. Like always in Georgia. And we measured how much time spends somebody for shower. Some »stunning« records were achieved.

Next morning started with »me dzalian minda qava!«, comments about the shower records and we were ready to become serious mountainers for two days. The car ride to Shovi, /pic064/ sleeping bags and tents in our bags and let's go to our main Racha trip destination: the Bottomless lake under Katitsvera peak, some 1.600 meters higher on almost 3.000 m above the sea level.

I was doubtful a bit how is my 44 years body prepared for a serious hike, but surprisingly the three smokers were actually the fastest. Here would be, in nowaday text, attached the tongue. After a long and somewhere quite steep and slippery forest we came there, where I've heard for the first time a word chinchari. And we really walked between chinchari after chinchari. And had all the time a nice panorama view to the range of the highest Racha peaks and glacials. And a bit higher also, bringing back memories from a year ago, to mighty Ushba and Tetnuldi far away on the horizon.

For about two hours also the weather became chinchari and so we had to shorten our plans, just built the tents and stayed over the night, and postponed the Bottomless lake for next day; by the first plan we would sleep by the lake.

Next morning began with marvelous colors /pic068/ and it was actually a luck that we didn't achieve the lake, which lays a bit down from such a panorama view, on previous day. The Pink Floyd T-shirt and the other wet clothes of previous day we've left at the sun and continued up to the mountain saddle, the highest point of the hike on 2908 metres. /pic069/ And the Bottomless lake was finally in front of our eyes.

Okay, I am unfair again, but in Slovenia we have a 150 km long river of the same color (But the beauty of some country doesn't mean anything if the human nature is evil. I must write this, with all possible consequences.), so I stayed on the pass because of some other reason: the geological art of nature on Katitsvera and its neighbours. That was the real magic to me… /pic071/ But it's true: the Bottomless lake like a nest under the geologically playful peaks is just stunning and the cameras love it! And it was worth walking two days.

…Stepped down, ruined the tents and picked our drier clothes, later one more dose of chinchari weather and we were back to Shovi where the local men wanted, as on previous morning when we started the hike, to immediately marry our beautiful girls…

…Returned to Utsera I tried all my best to be the first in the shower. Just to avoid different records from the first day.

Left the very warm family in a cozy house in Utsera /pic073/ drove down to the synagogue in Oni, /pic074/  took a break for the ice cream and continued all the way, partly the road full of adrenaline, to Mravaldzali. A lonely place for the soul with a church dedicated to the saint who's name I've got- St. George.

Did you count? Yes, this was our fourth, so the last, day of the trip to Racha. Still a stop for swimming near Ambrolauri,  sunset by Tkibuli (Akhalsopeli) lake  and return to Tbilisi.

But I must expose still something from the trip to Racha. A girl, she will easily recognize herself, who was all the time like my guide and translator. A real golden angel who frequently stopped chating in georgian language with her long-years georgian friends and focused all her attention in english language to me. And also because of her the athmosphere in Racha was amazing. I send her my kisses from here!

Do you have Georgian friends?

Next two days I've spent in a very hot Tbilisi for… It's actually a sweet problem how to sail there in the future with the fact that I want to discover more and more new places in Georgia and the fact that every next year I get just more and more new friends, mostly from Tbilisi, who I wish to spend with as much time as possible… So, I've spent two days, before the trip to Tusheti, available for friends (Or, as one of them said,- and I actually liked it, no matter that comparation was strange, but funny- that I am some kind of prostitute of friendship: available to everybody and offer the best quality of humor and attention to everybody. Well,… Ha, ha, ha…).

Tbilisi is a beautiful city, beautiful more than any European city I have seen so far. Because it's a long milleniums history concentrated onto the small place. And the city with a charismatic soul and childly innocence. And very safe, compared to the other cities. The safest so far.

Just that heat, you know, and my meningitis consequences... The photos can be taken only in the early morning when the city is mostly still sleeping.

…Still few words about Tusheti. Not enough for a three days long trip…

A colorful sunrise in Kakheti /pic084/ and then a 72 km long macadam road (which was seriously dammaged in the storm just about one week after our visit), listed as one of ten most dangerous roads in the World,  over the Abano pass on almost 3.000 m /pic086/ all the way to Omalo. And the macadam roads all inside Tusheti.

Tusheti is like an own world and the landscape reminds to the most beautiful parts of Swiss or Austrian Alps: little villages and many waterfalls  and the high, somewhere all year snow capped, peaks on the background. An own world which lives only few months a year; most of the autumn, all the winter and early spring time the Tushs spend in the low Kakheti villages where are, again, like an own world inside the region…

Omalo, Keselo,  Dochu,  Dartlo,  next morning a horse ride from Dartlo over Dano  to Kvavlomoved to the end of the world in Parsma and returned to Mirgvela resort.

On the last morning first moved beside Shenako  to Diklo  with, by my opinion, the most beautiful background of high peaks, whom a part belong already to russian Dagestan and went back to Shenako which has even a »real« church.

Back to Omalo and, again, those 72 km over Abano pass to the region of Kakheti.

Stopped in Alaverdi where's the third largest (after Sameba in Tbilisi and Svetishkoveli in Mtskheta) and second highest (after Sameba) Georgian cathedral. A very beautiful sacred place which is also the main church of the Tushs when they are down in the valley.

Returned to Tbilisi where I've finally found time for my both »sisters« and slightly finished my 2015 georgian adventure and returned in f…ing cold and depraved Europe.

What do you like here the most?

I am just a cook, which means somebody from the bottom of the social hierarchy and so I feel, as first, very priviledged while I am in Georgia. And I know that my time spent in Georgia is very unreal and seen only from the brightest side- vacation time- which our life usually isn't…

I like every moment spent with my georgian »sisters«, over and over again, every year. And different landscapes. Mountains, but also each of the other regions has its own unique beauties… And the fact that every next year I have new friends. And the fact that Georgia is a country which I love and where I'm loved. I adore georgian women; they are golden, have many skills, mostly very hard working, but still keeping smile and positive energy…

 And the trips, of course.

My plan for next year is Khevsureti and Uplistsikhe & Gori which I postpone every year, no matter that my trips go several times thru Shida Kartli. /pic103/

For the rest of next vacation I still don't know. If I'll get a companion, then I'll maybe go even to subtropical Black sea coast (And the photos with female faces are more beautiful, aren't they?) And I wish to see in the future the rest of Kakheti: Gremi, Signagi… Davit Gareji…, then Martvili canyon, when we were in Akhaltsikhe the castle was under renovation, so Rabati castle is also missed on my list, then Adjara, Guria,… And there are still many corners inside Tbilisi to discover…

Oh, yes, still a lot to be seen there!

And…


ASnd what about georgian cousine ..

…Georgian cuisine, I've already mentioned, is fantastic and the skills of using and combining the spices and herbs probably the best in the world! And in every home without an official gastronomy education.

As a part of my profession I would like to say just few words of georgian tourism: every next year I see it on the higher level, which is good. I would just like to see that tourism would be more in georgian hands, particulary in the main resorts. Because proclaiming a new working places for the locals is not the point. They get a job which is still low paid, while the most of the profit goes to the foreign countries where the owners and companies come from and this doesn't help to the national economy growth. I was very sad when I've heard that a foreign company builds the ski center on Tetnuldi. Tetnuldi is one of the symbols of Georgia, a holly peak which should stay untouched forever. /pic108/

Okay, I could say also few critical words about Georgia, but that's actually not my business. Particulary because that's the country which I love too much. But… I must mention at least this: If something is writen only with georgian letters, that's like an enigma for somebody from abroad. And… There's a lot of waste, particulary by the rivers and lakes. If you have a trip or barbecue somewhere in the nature, is it so hard to take a plastic bag, pick your waste and throw it in the first waste container?

And…

…A new generation is groving up in Georgia. An internationally oriented generation which can sail between traditional values and prosperity… Please, give them a chance!

Believe me, I am not addicted to attention and privacy means a lot to me; so, thanks a lot to give me a chance to show my point of view to Georgia and Georgians. And Partskhanakanevi.
Stay buchqi, avoid chinchari and God bless Saqartvelo!


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8. “მე ერთი შვილი არ მომკვდომია”: წერილი ციხიდან – რას ნანობს „მეტრონომთან“ მაგდა პაპიძე
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