On Saturday morning, June 26, I put my bike in the back of my car and set off for a week-end in Telavi, the center of Georgiaís wine industry, three hours or so NE of Tbilisi. After driving about half way there I found a road that wasnít too busy or too steep so I got on my bike and started looking for the Bochorma fortress and church. I rode for about an hour and didnít see anything, so I started asking people. Several headed me in the right direction, then an old woman said that I would find the trail just down the road where I would see three boys and some cows. I was proud of my ability to understand these directions in Georgian! And sure enough, a few minutes later I found three boys and some cows and there was a well-worn trail on the left.
Cooking the Picnic
Borrowing my Bicycle

I started up the trail and it got steeper and steeper. An hour later I came to the walls of an old fortress. Inside the walls was a very old church and a dozen or so people with a couple sheep. It soon became clear that they were sacrificing the sheep. I assume the sheep walked all the way up, the same as I did. The Georgians were all very friendly and one of the girls was happy to practice her English, or at least her parents were happy for her to practice and she was willing.

After exploring and taking a few pictures I started walking down. When I got to the bottom, one of the families from the church offered me a beer. I was hot and tired so I accepted. They didnít speak any English but by the time I finished the beer other family members had come down from the church and one of them was carrying the sheep they had butchered at the church at the top of the hill. They built a fire and insisted that I stay long enough to have some mtsvadi, barbecued lamb. They built a big fire, let it burn down and then used the coals to barbecue the lamb like a shishkebab without any vegetables. The vegetables were served separately. It was delicious. Meanwhile one young man made Chakapuli, a stew of lamb, onions and tarragon. It was also delicious. I mostly drank Georgian lemonade (actually a pear soda), refusing the vodka and limiting myself to one small glass of wine.

The younger family members (a ten year old boy and a couple of young men about twenty) had fun riding my bike around the meadow where we had the picnic.

After riding my bike back to the car, I headed for Telavi, about an hour away in Georgiaís wine country. I had visited Telavi last year so I knew my way to the fine house where I stayed. My host there had been a civil engineer, working on big construction projects. There havenít been many of those for the past ten years, so now he has turned the upstairs of his house into a hotel. He insisted that I eat some dinner even though I wasnít very hungry after my picnic.

In the morning I walked to the market in Telavi and negotiated the purchase of a new belt and some food for my lunch. Then I got in the car and headed on a round-about route back to Tbilisi. I chose a route that went past Kvetera an old church in a fortress ten before heading back home. The road was pretty good for the first three quarters of an hour or so as I drove through grape country and several moderately prosperous villages. Then the pavement ended and the road showed signs of frequent wash-outs that had been repaired with varying degrees of care. It took me an hour to cover the next twenty kilometers (twelve miles).

Suddenly I found a side road to Kvetera. Like many, it was a combination of a church and a fortress. It was surrounded by a big stone wall and there was a chain across the gate, but it was easy to step over the chain. The church was open and had a few frescoes on the ceiling and there signs that people came here occasionally. Just beyond the church were several picnic tables. I suspect that families come here on religious holidays for a feast.

The road after the church became even worse, with more pot-holes and lots of small stones, but it was no problem for my Niva. It was just very slow going. I thought about turning back. There had been no villages or other traffic on the road. But I decided that I had gone too far to turn back so I might as well find out whether or not the road made it through. Finally I came to a small village and the road improved somewhat. Then there was a bigger village (Tianetti) that even had a market. I was pleased to see pavement on the road. It was a pleasant drive back to Tbilisi, winding through the forested hills. In other parts of Georgia most of the mountains were covered with rocks or grass, but here the forest looked more like Vermont than Idaho.