Issue no: 1147
• MAY 3 - 6, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
A look at the City of Love, past, present and future
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... GeoStat on the State of the Georgian Population NEWS PAGE 2
United Nations Agencies Present Annual Progress Report for Georgia
POLITICS PAGE 4
President of PACE Pays Ceremonial Visit to Georgia BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
iliane Maury Pasquier, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), conducted an official working visit to Georgia on April 29 and 30. The visit was made to honor the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s accession to the Council of Europe. While in Tbilisi, she met with several Georgian governmental leaders: President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Speaker of the Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Zalkaliani and members of the Georgian delegation to PACE. On Tuesday, Maury Pasquier addressed the Georgian Parliament during a session dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Georgia's Council of Europe accession. During her speech at the Parliamentary session, she congratulated Georgia on 20 years of solid progress, saying “Georgia’s accession to the Council of Europe 20 years ago was a major step in consolidating democratic institutions and a huge boost for reforms in several important areas...[since joining the Council of Europe], it is a more stable Georgia, based on strong democratic institutions, that is preparing to chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from November 2019 to May 2020.” She highlighted the significant progress made in the fight against corruption, judiciary reform, and “the smooth functioning of Parliament,” noting that Georgia’s progress has been due to strong political will and consistent efforts from all of
President Refuses to Veto Controversial Draft on Selection of Judges POLITICS PAGE 5
HUAWEI P30 Lite: 3 Cameras with AI & UltraWide Shooting Capabilities SOCIETY PAGE 7
American Jazz Musician Michael Zerang to Visit Tbilisi Image source: Council of Europe
Georgia’s institutions, “along with input from Council of Europe bodies and experts,” the Council of Europe press agency reports. Addressing the Georgian Parliament, Maury Pasquier also predicted a strong continuing relationship between the parties. “I am sure that this close co-operation will be further strengthened over the next 20 years, that Georgia will continue to take advantage of our expertise and put our recommendations into action, and that the Council of Europe will continue to benefit from Georgia’s experience and achievements,” she said. After a closed-door meeting between Kobakhidze and Maury Pasquier, in a joint statement to the press on Monday afternoon, Kobakhidze emphasized the value of the actions undertaken by the Council of Europe in the development of democracy in Georgia. Maury Pasquier pledged the Council of Europe’s support for Georgia’s conflict resolution processes. “We will continue to search for ways to resolve the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, especially to establish
contact between peoples. There is the opportunity to learn more and take steps forward,” said Maury Pasquier. Later that afternoon, she visited the settlement for IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Tserovani and the village of Odzisi on the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) with the occupied territory of the Tskhinvali district. Maury Pasquier was given detailed information on the situation and the ABL and conditions for IDPs living in temporary settlements – already for more than 10 years now. She made no comments in relation to the visit. Some oppositional political voices raised the question as to why no visits were scheduled between Maury Pasquier and opposition parties. “She has not come here to study the local political situation,” said Vice-Speaker of Parliament Tamar Chugoshvili, adding that the PACE President did not express an interest in meeting with the political opposition or civil society representatives, only senior government officials during the ceremonial visit.
CULTURE PAGE 9
Plan Ahead: Zero Compromise Wine Fest 2019 CULTURE PAGE 9
MAY 3 - 6, 2019
GeoStat on the State of the Georgian Population BY LUCY PAPACHRISTOU & THEA MORRISON
early 100,000 people emigrated from Georgia in 2018, according to new data compiled by the National Statistics Office of Georgia (GeoStat). A 15.8% increase from the previous year, the 98,935 emigrants represent 2.66% of the entire population of Georgia, some 3.72 million people. Additionally, the number of immigrants to Georgia increased by 5.9%, a total of 88,152 persons. The majority of both emigrants (86.6%) and immigrants (84.5%) are of working age (15-64 years old). Recent surveys, however, suggest that most Georgians do not favor permanent emigration. The results of the Caucasus Barometer 2017, an annual household survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center, found that 90% of respondents were not currently interested in leaving Georgia permanently. 55%, however, were interested in leaving temporarily. According to 2014 census data used in the 2017 Migration Profile of Georgia,
compiled by the State Commission on Migration Issues, 66% of emigrants lived in urban areas before they left Georgia. Most of the emigrants left from Tbilisi, Imereti and Kvemo Kartli. The number of applications submitted by Georgians for Schengen Area visas nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, from 59,275 to 106,024, according to the migration profile. In a further report, Geostat has revealed that Georgia’s population has decreased by 0.2% and amounted to 3,723,500 as of January 1, 2019. The agency says that 52% of the population is female and 48% male. Of these, 14.8% of the population is of age 65 and older. The share of persons aged from zero to 14 stands at 20.3% and the share of the working-age population (15-64 years old) equals 64.9%. In addition, life expectancy was an average of 74 years in 2018. For male, the average life expectancy was 69.7 years and for female – 78.2 years. “2018 resulted in a positive natural increase (4,614) and negative net migration (-10,783)”, said Geostat. The agency also reports that 58.7% of the population lives in cities and 41.3% in rural areas. The majority of the Georgian popula-
tion lives in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi: 1.2 million people. This is followed by the Imereti region, 497,400; Kvemo
Kartli, 433,200; Ajara, 349,000; SamegreloZemo Svaneti, 316,200; Kakheti, 312,500; Shida Kartli, 257,300; Samtskhe-Javakheti,
154,100; Guria, 109,000; Mtskheta-Mtianeti, 93,600; Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, 29,700.
Another "Stalin" Grave Found in Batumi BY THEA MORRISON
he fifth mass grave, allegedly of the victims of the 1 9 3 7-1 9 3 8 Soviet repressions, has been discovered in Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city of Batumi, announced the state commission created to study the corpses discovered in Batumi. “On the same territory where we discovered four other graves, we have found another, which we have yet to open as we are waiting for the specialists,” cleric of the Batumi and Lazeti diocese, Pirimze Rurua, said. He added that coins issued in 1935 were found in previously found graves, which leads to the belief that the burial site belongs to the
Photo source: Batumelebi
victims of the Soviet terror. The governmental commission is headed by Ajara Healthcare Minister Zaal Mikeladze. The graves are being studied by both archeologists and scientists. On April 5, on the official website of the Batumi and Lazeti Eparchy, it was declared that the remains of corpses had been found in four mass graves in Batumi. The Batumi and Lazeti Eparchy stated the place where the graves were found had been given to the Patriarchate of Georgia for temporary use, and noted that the graves contained a total of 150 human remains. The statement reads that with the cooperation of the Ministry of Health, a base of DNA of the remains will be created and an examination of the corpses can be done at any time.
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MAY 3 - 6, 2019
Ruslan Abashidze Made New Head of Abkhazia’s Government in Exile BY THEA MORRISON
irst Deputy State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia, Ruslan Abashidze, has become the new Head of the legitimate Government of Abkhazia, which is in exile in Tbilisi. Abashidze became the Head of Abkhazia’s government after the former head, Vakhtang Kolbaia, stepped down after holding the post since 2013. The Tbilisi-based Supreme Council of Abkhazia, which has been in exile since the armed conflict in the early 1990s, decided to elect Abashidze during its sitting on May 1. The decision to appoint a new head follows the appointment of a new chairman of the Supreme Council, Jemal Gamakharia, who replaced Elguja Gvazava, serving since 2009. The new Head of Abshazia’s Government in Exile will be part of the Georgian delegation at the Geneva International Discussions, the only format of an international dialogue between Georgia and Russia since the 2008 August War. Abashidze served as the Deputy State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality from January 2019. He was the Ambassador of Georgia to Estonia in 2009-2013, prior to which he served as the Deputy State Minister for Reintegration in 2006-2009. He was an adviser to the Permanent Representative of Georgia to Switzerland and Deputy Director of the Department of Relations with the European Union
Image source: 1TV
at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Abashidze is, as of going to print, the “Acting Head” of the Abkhazian government until the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, approves his appointment. After his selection by the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, there were rumors that Abashidze’s appointment was requested by President Zurabishvili, as the two have been friends for a long time.
Abashidze confirmed that he and Zurabishvili are friends and have had a good relationship but he denied the President’s involvement in his selection by the Council. “I confirm that I am a close friend of Salome Zurabishvili: we have known each other for a long time, but this factor is not related to my position," he said. Abashidze also responded to the report-
ers’ question as to who nominated him to the post, saying it was “Abkhazian society.” Ruslan Abashidze, along with his wife and organizer of the Tbilisi Fashion Week, former model Tako Chkheidze, were among Salome Zurabishvili's donors during October presidential elections. On September 28, 2018, he and his wife together donated GEL 59,958 to Zurabishvili.
According to Ruslan Abashidze, in the next few days he will present an action plan and will begin to form his own cabinet. Breakaway Abkhazia is Georgia’s territory, currently occupied by the Russian Federation. It is recognized as a state by only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria. While Georgia lacks control over Abkhazia, the Georgian government and nearly all United Nations member states consider the region as legally part of Georgia, whose constitution designates the area as the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. The status of breakaway Abkhazia is a top issue of the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict and Georgia–Russia relations. The region had autonomy within Soviet Georgia at the time when the Soviet Union began to fall apart in the late 1980s. In 1992–1993 there was a civil war in Abkhazia which resulted in Georgia's loss of control of most of the territory, the de facto independence of Abkhazia, and the ethnic cleansing of Georgians there. Despite the 1994 ceasefire agreement and years of negotiations, the dispute remains unresolved. The situation got worse during the 2008 Georgia-Russia August war, where Abkhaz forces fought against Georgia, which led to the formal recognition of Abkhazia by Russia, the annulment of the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and the termination of the UN mission on the territory. On 28 August 2008, the Parliament of Georgia declared Abkhazia a Russianoccupied territory, a stance supported by the vast majority of the international community.
United Nations Agencies Present Annual Progress Report for Georgia
he United Nations Country Team in Georgia organized a presentation of its achievements in 2018 and its priorities for 2019-2020 to mark progress in pursuing the joint strategy agreed with the Government for 20162020. The event was designed to underscore the commitment by the UN agencies to “Deliver as One” in alignment with national priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals. The government was invited to validate the UN results and provide feedback on future plans. Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia, in his speech delivered at the Joint Steering Committee Meeting of the United Nations and Government of Georgia, stressed the effective and efficient cooperation with the UN and 16 of its system agencies while noting that support and engagement of the organi-
zation has played a significant role in it. “Georgia remains committed to the UN and its mission,” the PM said. “The Joint Strategy, Partnership for Sustainable Development, agreed by and between the UN and the Government of Georgia, covers five priority areas: democratic governance; job creation, living standards and social security; education and healthcare; security and protection of citizens. The Joint Strategy fully complies with the commitments and values of the Government of Georgia. In addition, priorities defined for 2019-2020 within the Joint Strategy are attuned with sector-specific policies and the current reform agenda of my government, thus enabling us to achieve greater success in the effective implementation of reforms and due delivery of the undertakings.” UN Resident Coordinator Louisa Vinton explained that the 16 UN agencies
active in Georgia covered a wide range of areas but that all UN efforts were united under a shared commitment “to leave no-one behind,” the overarching motto of the Sustainable Development Goals. Vinton noted that, at $41.6 million for 2018, the UN financial contribution to development efforts in Georgia was significant, and that total UN annual spending was likely to exceed $50 million in 2019 and 2020. She underlined the gratitude of the UN system for the generous support received from the donor community. UN achievements were presented in five main areas: 1) Democratic governance; 2)
Jobs, livelihoods and social protection; 3) Education; 4) Health; and 5) Human security and community resilience. Among the many achievements supported by the UN system in 2018 were: • Assisting the Parliament in undertaking its new role in the political system; • Adoption of a new Labor Safety Law; • Providing free legal aid to 50,000 persons; • Promoting mediation and arbitration as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms; • Adopting a new Tobacco Law to fight the harm to health caused by smoking; • Supporting improvements in pre-
school and primary teaching; • Adapting the VET system to diversify rural occupations and help professionalize farming; • Providing humanitarian assistance to at-risk groups in conflict-affected regions; and • Launching a $70 million program to reduce the risk of floods and other natural disasters. Organized by the United Nations Office in Georgia, the event brought together representatives of the Georgian government, Parliament, civil society, diplomatic missions and international organizations.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 6, 2019
President Refuses to Veto Controversial Draft on Selection of Judges
Image source: freepic.com
BY THEA MORRISON
eorgian President Salome Zurabishvili signed the controversial bill on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges on Thursday, which was adopted by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) parliamentary majority on May 1. Despite the requests from the non-governmental sector and opposition parties to veto the bill, the president decided to sign it. “The amendments will facilitate a more open, transparent selection of the Supreme Court judges, and the President expresses her hope that it will positively affect the confidence in the judiciary,” the President's Administration said. The amendments set procedures and criteria for the selection of candidates for the posts of Supreme Court Judge, the qualification requirements of judges and the procedure for nominating candidates selected by the High Council of Justice, to Parliament. The amendments were supported by 87 MPs while 33 MPs voted against the draft. Before the vote, the parliamentary opposition demanded the return of the legislative package to a second hearing. The majority refused. Parliament adopted the bill with the second hearing on April 19, after the Venice Commission issued recommendations. In the final version adopted on Wednesday, some recommendations of the Venice Commission have been reflected, namely the note that a High Council of Justice member who runs for judge, must be banned from voting and that the qualification examination for Supreme Court judge candidates will be abolished. The adopted draft was initiated by Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and his co-thinkers from the GD, who claim their project “has no analogue in any European Union country and guarantees that ultimately, Parliament will elect honest and highly qualified judges to the Supreme Court.” The issue became controversial after the High
87 MPs for, 33 MPs against
The GD needs to realize they need an independent court
Council of Justice nominated 10 candidate judges for the Supreme Court of Georgia for life tenure. The list was rejected by the non-judge members of the HCOJ, NGOs and some members of the majority, who claimed that the presented judges had been working during the previous government and had the reputation of being “biased and corrupt.” The recent developments surrounding the issue also caused disagreement within the ruling party, seeing some prominent members leave who did not support the Kobakhidze-initiated draft, adding it was not decent and transparent enough. After the final voting on May 1, one more GD MP, Levan Koberidze, left the Georgian Dream. Koberidze said that the bill drafted by the ruling party MPs fails to ensure the fair selection of judges and noted he would stay in the legislative body as an independent MP. GD faction Chair Mamuka Mdinaradze says Koberidze had a different opinion about the bill from the beginning, adding it is very sad that he decided to quit the party. “Lately, Koberidze was a GD member only formally…It is a shame that he linked his departure from the party to the issue of judges. This is part of a political game,” said Mdinaradze. The United National Movement (UNM) claims the adoption of the draft by the parliamentary majority is “shameful.” Party member Tinatin Bokuchava says it was the decision of the “informal ruler” and founder of the GD, Bidzina Ivanishvili, adding he aims at “totally influencing the court system.” The European Georgia party is of the same position. They call on society to think carefully before voting in the 2020 parliamentary elections. The NGOs were expecting that Zurabishvili not to veto the bill. Analyst Vakhushti Menabde said “if the President had vetoed the bill and called on Parliament to take into account her remarks, it would have been good.” “The GD needs to realize that they also need an independent court,” he added.
Image source: tobiachudume.com
OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
he Easter vacation is over but the holiday mood is still on, and I have decided to wax jocose rather than remain serious because soberness does not suit the elevated Easter mood. There goes a joke that Georgia is not capable of giving much to the world, but the nation is proud to be a manufacturer of presidents and prime ministers. Surprised? One might surely be astonished to hear that a country had such a role, but there is a curious thought buried in these words. Indeed, this is a culture that rears leader-type personalities in abundance; those with an ambition to rule, to give instruction and to boss around. I am not saying that we are lazy – languidness is not the main feature of our character and indolence is not venerated here. As a matter of fact, we have nothing against sweat but we also like to be at the helm rather than in front of a furnace with a spade in our weathered hands; labor is OK for us but an executive chair feels more comfortable; running errands for somebody else is not an embarrassment, but having people in attendance is always more attractive; chauffeuring a master's car could earn a piece of bacon but sprawling on the back seat of your own limo is more relaxing; being a security detail for a prime minister is a bearable job but enjoying state-funded security is any man’s dream; writing speeches for a president is OK but making that same speech from a shiny rostrum is undoubtedly more thrilling. These are sensitive differences, sitting miles apart in the imagination of any person of any nationality, but the Georgian fancy is even more susceptible towards those moral and material gaps because the sturdiest part of an average Georgian’s dream is to
Georgia – Producer of Leaders be “up there.” Lower societal levels could be a reason for pessimism in our career-hungry minds. I don't know what makes us so terribly proud of ourselves, but an average Georgian, especially men, crave to rule the roost, feeling like a cock on a dunghill even if the dunghill is not his own. A typical Georgian man would not give up a leader's place in the family even if he is not making money. And the family would allow it. This is the tradition, strongly maintained in our culture. From a regular shrink’s viewpoint, this could be preconditioned by certain psychological fragments from a Georgian male’s childhood, adolescence or youth, the most vivid among them being the famous tamada (toastmaster) institution. All Georgian men want to be the tamada; at least subconsciously, because the tamada is a leader, he is a tone-giver, determiner, decision-maker and finally, the subject of veneration, provided he is good enough at his job. Great tamadas want to be political leaders and vice versa: great political leaders have a propensity to function as a toastmaster. I’m not saying this is good or bad. What I’m trying to drive home is that presidents, prime ministers, kings, emperors and tamadas are deep-seated in the character of the regular Georgian male, and many of them self-train to achieve those heights in real life. The gist of the matter is that a leader, a boss, a chief, a commander, a principal, a superior, are naturally nursed in an average Georgian man, so we can stop building factories, desist from working in farmlands, forget about science and technology, discontinue services and end the production of goods, and start producing national leaders like presidents, prime ministers and chairmen to sell them to other countries – not for cheap, of course! I would experiment with this out-of-the-ordinary commodity. What are we losing, after all?
MAY 3 - 6, 2019
Sharing Is Caring: But Can Ivanishvili Do It? OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
ay 19 is approaching and the battle for one vacant mandate, five mayors of different towns and eight places in the city councils is entering the final stage. Although the elections are happening in different regions, political experts think that Zugdidi will be the center prone to the biggest confrontations, with Sandra Roelofs, the wife of ex-President Saakashvili, running for the mayoral post against the governmental candidate in the capital of the Samegrelo region. Zugdidi has been the Waterloo for many governments throughout history. It was the very city where the first and second presidents of Georgia lost their positions and where rising star of Georgian politics and the Georgian Dream Irakli Alasania was defeated. And there were many others for whom elections in this city proved fatal, which is why the upcoming elections there are especially interesting. The fact that Zugdidi could be decisive for Georgian Dream is also obvious from the fact that Bidizna Ivanishvili himself has been seen there recently. Moreover, the government’s candidate running for Mayor, Giorgi Shengelia, was introduced to the local public by some of the most influential GD members. What is most striking in the pre-election campaign is that instead of ranting about the “bloody nine years” and “cannibal Nazis” of the United National Movement, this time the gov-
Image source: 1tv.ge
ernmental candidate has been talking about sorting the problems in education and social welfare. From time to time, he has even discussed the pros and cons of a coalitional government. So, presumably, it has finally occurred to the Dreamers that the theme of Saakashvili and his downsides has expired, and the electorate is desperately in need of novelty. Nevertheless, it is quite confusing that they started talking about a coalitional government, as forming one would only be possible after the results of the elections of 2020 are known. Talking about
it as early as a year ahead could mean that the governing party is facing a serious dilemma. Just who does the governmental party plan to form the coalition with? Gia Abashidze, a political analyst who is quite close to the governmental circles, says Ivanishvili is serious about it: “It is highly possible that a coalitional government will be formed out of the constructive opposition. We do not know how the political power balance will be divided in 2020, but numerous changes will happen. Plenty of people will join and be resurrected in politics. Who will stand where and how [is the question],”
Abashidze said. Who will that “lucky person” be with whom the governmental party decides to work? Logically, that political power should be the United National Movement, because it will be the second party getting the most votes. Maybe it will work the other way around and it will be the National Movement that needs coupling up with the Dream. Political expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze says that the situation is difficult, as the party behind the idea of the coalition does not quite understand the essence of a coalition itself. “What coalition are
we talking about when there are no two parties of similar size? Talking about a coalition has become like flirting. What would the basis for this coalitional government be? If they can make decisions without each other, then it is unclear why they would want to form a coalition. This is what they haven’t thought about. We have a country governed by a single party, so in this case, how do they imagine a coalitional government working?” Sakvarelidze asked. Constitutionalist Vakhtang Dzabiradze is also pessimistic about the success of such a scheme, noting that a coalitional government should not be the main goal, because forming it would depend on the election results in the event that neither of the political powers has enough mandates to complete the government. “If anyone is really thinking about fixing the situation in the country, they should be thinking about forming a government which will be both very active and very appealing to the majority of its citizens, rather than thinking about forming a coalitional government,” Dzabiradze opined. Whether the Georgian Dream will be able to form a coalition at all will be seen in future. Yet, it is quite difficult to believe that Ivanishvili will be ready to share the governmental powers with somebody else, or even to make a deal with them in order to create an entourage of sharing. Most likely, the coalitional government scenario will in reality be part of the same old-same old, as we witnessed when Salome Zurabishvili was declared an independent candidate and who today is nothing more than a source of bother to the Dreamers.
Revenue Service Director Attends Belt & Road Initiative Forum
TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
n April 25-27, Vakhtang Lashkaradze, Director General of the Revenue Service of Georgia participated in the 2nd Belt and Road Initiative Forum. A number of important issues were covered at the Forum, including the trade policy, development of the relevant infrastructure, economic aspects and other high-tech challenges. The participants of the event had a chance to share their views regarding the innovations and mechanisms for the trade support, imple-
mented in the countries of the Silk Road. The heads of tax and customs administrations of different countries were involved in the working process of the Forum. The given event is a high-level platform, organized within the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation, which represents the best opportunity for sharing experience and expanding communications. In addition, the aim of the Forum is to enhance the partnership between the countries and develop collaboration between the business circles. On April 18, Lashkaradze also participated in the Tax Administration Cooperation Forum of the Belt and Road initiative, held in Wuzhen, China, where he signed the founding document of the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Mechanism.
Streets in Gldani Are Getting a New Look BY LUCY PAPACHRISTOU
ehabilitation of two main streets in the Gldani district of Tbilisi, Vekua and Khizanishvili streets, has begun, Tbilisi City Hall announced in a press release. “It is a very important project on its own, since the existing underground
communications here have never been replaced,” Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said. The entire stretch of the road, some eight kilometers, is in “critical condition,” he added. Drainage and wastewater systems, as well as outdoor lighting and sidewalks will be completely revamped. The work is expected to take roughly six months. Gldani covers some 50.3 square kilometers in the northeast corner of the city. With 17% of the Tbilisi population,
the district is tied with Samgori, in the southeast, as the most populous area of the city, according to government figures. The proposed budget of the project is US$4.43 million (12 million GEL). Georgian Water and Power (GWP) will invest $1.1 million (3 million GEL) in the project. The mayor apologized to local residents for any inconvenience caused by the construction.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 6, 2019
HUAWEI P30 Lite: 3 Cameras with AI & Ultra-Wide Shooting Capabilities BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
ore operating memory, stronger battery, a camera system with artificial intelligence and increased display resolution – these are the features what needs young generations want; those who love traveling and capturing interesting moments spent with friends. The latest HUAWEI P30 Lite, with a sophisticated design and triple camera, is dedicated to photography enthusiasts and those who love sharing their works with friends and family. The high characteristics of artificial intelligence
and wide capabilities of the HUAWEI P30 Lite camera enable youngsters to fully reflect the best moments of their lives. In a competitive environ, HUAWEI always cares about its customers and offers them unique smartphones, which, along with a number of functional and design features, are modern, innovative, attractive and affordable. This time the offer is no less enchanting, and on purchasing a 899 GEL HUAWEI P30 Lite, customers will also get a selection of smart gadgets, including a Bluetooth speaker or Color Band A2. The HUAWEI smartphones are available in the company’s partner chain stores. With the triple camera configuration, the HUAWEI P series smartphones are considered one of the best smartphone family among photography circles.
The HUAWEI P30 Lite offers Georgian customers a camera system with artificial intelligence and ultra-wide shooting capabilities. The chance to get the highest-quality images awakens enthusiasm among youth to take better pictures and share them with friends, as well as family members. The HUAWEI P30 Lite is equipped with 48MP main and 8MP ultra-wide vision cameras, each with unique characteristics and capabilities. For example, the telephoto lens is absolutely incredible for outlining the details, while the wide vision camera enables the integration of more details in one image. Traveling with different lenses is a challenge for photography enthusiasts which is why they often use their smartphones to take pictures. The HUAWEI P30 Lite camera is distinguished with various zoom and shooting possibilities. The double camera module in addition to the ultra-wide lens, enables customers to capture the beauty of the universe, as well as the wonderful moments of everyday life. With the joint work of the 128 GB internal memory, EMUI 9.0.1 internal interface and Kirin 710 proces-
sor, the HUAWEI P30 Lite represents the best choice for users of multifunctional smartphones. The HUAWEI P30 Lite continues the innovative design line and is available in black, blue and pearl globally, but in Georgia in only in two colors: black and electric blue. The HUAWEI P lite is made for the international elites and professionals who love fashion. These users never cease to act boldly and creatively, and they are open to new things, constantly chasing the trends. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of three business units of HUAWEI, mainly focusing on the production of smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. The HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business and serves to the production of innovative technologies to customers around the world.
Gov’t to Restore Krtsanisi Forest Park BY THEA MORRISON
ithin the framework of the state program for biodiversity recovery, launched on May 1, the government will start restoration and development of the Krtsanisi forest park, located near Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi.
The presentation of the biodiversity restoration program was held by Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Levan Davitashvili. According to the Minister, two agencies of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture - the Environmental Information and Education Center and the National Wildlife Agency will be housed in the park in future. Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze also delivered a speech at the presentation, noting that the key idea behind the Krtsanisi Forest Park
development is to preserve biodiversity and enhance public awareness about environmental principles. Bakhtadze stressed that the green space in Krtsanisi Forest Park needs proper attention and restoration. He said an “irresponsible policy implemented for years, ignoring the principles of environmental protection,” had led to a difficult reality. The PM recalled the Green Economy Concept, announced a few months ago, saying its main idea is green policy and green economy. “Environmental protection is a priority in every initiative. Caring for nature is the duty of every Georgian citizen…We are launching a far-reaching project that is poised to make both us and future generations proud. We are about to restore and develop the Krtsanisi Forest Park. We will create a genuine natural museum here to feature not only local flora and fauna but also plants from the Red List,” he said, adding it is very important in terms of preserving and protecting biodiversity in this region. Bakhtadze noted that at the same time the natural function of the Krtsanisi Forest Park will be restored to serve as a recreation area connecting Tbilisi and Rustavi. Restrictions will apply to transport and only pedestrians, bikes, and electric cars will be allowed onto the territory.
Environmental protection is a priority in every initiative
MAY 3 - 6, 2019
Easter Thoughts: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER
his year has been one of the many when, if you miss one Easter, you can try again, due to the different dates for the holiday observed by Eastern Orthodox and Western churches around the world. I found myself in such a situation, away from my wife for the Western one, together for the Eastern. Both dates were badly troubled by the world’s current insane trends of violence and terrorism. The ongoing deadly tit for tat between “Christian” racist nationalists and extremist Muslims, both claiming to have the purest interpretations of their religions, does nothing to improve their standing in people’s eyes in general. Neither do traditions which have encrusted them since the founding of each but are often far from, or even directly contrary to, their received scriptures. Given the state of the world now (where do I begin to describe it?), even as an unswayed believer that God actually will set all things everywhere right
Given the state of the world now, I despair at how bad it might get
forever, I despair at how bad it might get before then. Messy, ugly, terrifyingly confused and deceptive, upside down and backwards, with all bad things called good and vice versa. Our very conscience, our innate moral compass, ruined. Simple greed calling the shots. If this sounds overly pessimistic, it’s what my perusing of the internet has led me to. The number and type of scenarios available for our destruction are ridiculous. “ApocAIlypse”. Global warming and flooding, “climocalypse”. Superhackers. Nuclear renegades, either state-level or smaller scale. Bio-disaster, deliberately human-caused or accidental. Solar-flare EMP. Political unrest, civil and interstate war. Racism, sexism, trafficking, our insatiable appetite for women and ever younger children to enslave in various ways. Mass extinction of whole vital groups like the insects. One good meteor strike. All I can do is remind myself what I do, stubbornly and desperately, believe: that Easter still has meaning, that light will shine in and overcome darkness, that the One who seems impossibly far away and disinterested in our petty affairs on a planet rendered microscopic in comparison with the universe, CARES and will set it all right. Not just us frail, evil-bent humans, but all of creation itself, the whole shebang, which currently groans to be perfected. Such prophecies, as mythologically impossible-sounding as fairy tales in this breathtakingly advancing 21st century, remain my anchor. I still love science, the very scientific method of reasoning, hypothesis, testing, discovery and reiteration; but I refuse to believe that this, what we can sense, is all there is. What gives rise
Easter still has meaning, that light will shine and overcome darkness to mind, to love, to art, if not spirit? If the first Christmas is the start of Light taking human form on Earth, Easter is the culmination of the battle three decades later, although the enemy of God either does not know it yet or is taking all he can get until his fate rushes to meet him. This, and little else, gives meaning to my life in what feels like an incoming storm which will shake everything (everything which can be shaken, that is). It allows me even to contemplate that my own life given in sacrifice to what I believe, never done lightly but done if called for, would also not be a waste or an unused event. If love truly does conquer all, as the Book I believe says it does, what else is there to say? Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/ SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 6, 2019
American Jazz Musician Michael Zerang to Visit Tbilisi
Image source - Wikimedia Commons
BY AMY JONES
t the end of May, renowned American jazz percussionist Michael Zerang will visit Tbilisi for the first time. During his visit, he will conduct improvised music workshops and perform live shows in the capital. Born in Chicago in the US in 1958 to an Iranian father and Iraqi mother, Zerang has been working as a professional musician, composer, and producer since 1976. After graduating from Wilbur Wright College and Roosevelt College, he began to tour around the world, focusing on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, as well as international musical forms. Since the beginning of his musical career, he has recorded more than 120 albums with important American jazz musicians such as Dave Rempis and Hamid Drake as well as international artists such as German musician Axel Dorner and Swiss percussionist Fredy Studer. He has also worked closely with theat-
ers, dance and puppet shows during his career. His success saw him win three Joseph Jefferson Awards for Original Musical Composition in 1996, 1998 and 2000. He went on to become the artistic director of the Link’s Hall Performance series in Chicago from 1985 - 1989 where he produced over 300 performances of jazz, traditional ethnic folk music, electronic music, as well as other progressive musical forms. More recently, he has turned his attention to teaching various aspects of musical performance. He has taught as a guest artist at The School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, at The Dance Center at Columbia College, at Northwestern University, and the MoMing Dance and Arts Center. On 29 - 30 May, Zerang will bring his musical skills to Tbilisi and will host a workshop and live gig at the Ikalto Micro Art Residence, a newly opened space for artists on Zaza Panaskertel-Tsitshvili Street. The two three-hour sessions are designed to help proficient musicians to explore improvisation by studying techniques, textures, timbres, breathing, performance, and strategies of improvisation.
The jazz scene in Tbilisi is small but healthy. Bars such as Jazz Cafe Singer on Sioni Street regularly host talented jazz musicians for live performances. In addition, the annual Tbilisi Jazz Festival took place 28 February - 2 March 2019, celebrating its twelfth year. On 30 April 2019, Tbilisi also celebrated International Jazz Day with a concert by Irakli and the Louis Ambassadors, a French jazz band. The performance, which took place in Tbilisi Conservatoire’s Grand Hall, was organized by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, the French Embassy in Georgia and the Tbilisi State Conservatoire. Aside from successful concerts, the Georgian jazz scene has also produced talented musicians. For example, Beka Gochiashvili, a young Georgian pianist, has gained international acclaim and performed across North America, including at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2008. Zerang’s visit to Georgia should continue to encourage jazz musicians and equip them with useful performance skills. The workshop begins at 7 pm on 29 May and musicians should bring their own instruments.
Plan Ahead: Zero Compromise Wine Fest 2019 BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE
f you’re a wine-lover, we’ve got great news for you. On May 10, with the support of the LEPL National Wine Agency, the Association of Natural Wine will be hosting the annual Natural Wine Fair “ZERO COMPROMISE”. Up to 70 natural wine cellars who are part of the association will participate in the festival. In addition, natural winemakers from other countries plan to take part in the fair. The festival will be held at the former silk factory at 59 Kostava Street, guaranteeing an atmospheric location to host your choice of wine from around the country!
Tickets cost 30 GEL. Tickets will also be available at the door in limited amount.
MAY 3 - 6, 2019
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 May 4 FROM EASTER TO ASCENSION GALA CONCERT The 14th International Festival opening ceremony Participants: Iano Alibegashvili, Giuseppe Gipali, The Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater choir and orchestra Conductor: Attilio Tomasello Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-150 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 37 Rustaveli Ave. May 3 THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA Based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 13 Shavtelis St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 65 93 May 3 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL May 4 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL May 8 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 May 3 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL May 4 DON JUAN Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL May 5 IGGI After Jemal Karchkhadze’s novel
Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL MUSIC & DRAMA STATE THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. May 7 WELCOME TO GEORGIA The Musical A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national costumes and local cuisine. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-80 GEL MUSEUM
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS 150 years after the first exhibition of Natural History Museum EXHIBITION- CAUCASUS BIODIVERSITY GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS The exhibition showcases artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre Bajbeuk-Melikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, let yourself free in the Infinity room, fight the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take pictures of yourself in every possible pose. Enjoy
our collection of holograms, look closer at every optical illusion and observe thoroughly each installation. Tickets: 17.5 GEL, Children (ages 6-18): 11 GEL, children (under 5 years): free, students: 13 GEL, family (2 adults + 2 children): 39 GEL. MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS 10 Betlemi Str. Until June 15 THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS The exhibition first launched in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2006. The concept of the museum is to bring together items connected to previous relationships in one space, including clothes, accessories, and photo and video sources. The unique collection of the museum aims to provoke feelings of understanding among individuals and serve as some kind of therapy for those who have experienced break-ups. EXPERIMENTORIUM KIDS’ SCIENCE MUSEUM 17 P. Ingorokva Str, Tbilisi TEL (+995 32) 2 47 57 37 Enjoy around 80 exhibits showcasing the laws of physics, biology, mathematics and anatomy, all of which kids can touch and examine for themselves. GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until February 26 (2020) GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY The exhibition showcases the works of Georgian painters: Gigo Gabashvili, Mose Toidze, Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi, Alexander Tsimakuridze, Aleksandre BazbeukMelikov, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Sergo Kobuladze, Irina Shtenberg, Mikheil Bilanishvili, Felix Varlamishvili and Tamar Abakelia. Until May 27 Georgian National Museum and Italian embassy in Georgia present the exhibition ESOTERIC DE CHIRICO. A TRAVELER BETWEEN TWO WORLDS The exhibition showcases 15 artworks of Giorgio de Chirico between 1920-1970, clearly showing that even his most “natural” artwork hints at the surrealist world.
KOLGA TBILISI PHOTO 4 May – 29 June Kunsthalle Tbilisi and GoetheInstitute Georgia present TABULA RASA Exhibition of stainless steel sculptures by Gabriela Von Habsburg. Exhibition includes works by: Giorgi Geladze, Salome Chigilashvili, Liza Tsindeliani, Giorgi Vardiashvili Curated by: Irena Popiashvili Venue: GNM Courtyard, 3 Shota Rustaveli Ave. May 5 GRAZIANO ARICI- TALES OF VENICE Curator: Tina Shelhorn VIGEN VARTANOV- IMMERSION INTO THE WORLD OF IMAGES TALES OF ISTALNDS – Kate Mellor, Osamu James Nakagawa, Studio Marc Räder, Sanne De Wilde/ NOOR Curator: Tina Shelhorn Opening: 19:00 Venue: I. Grishashvili Tbilisi History Museum (Karvasla), 8 Sioni Str. May 8 PLANET OR PLASTIC? Organizer: National Geographic Magazine Georgia Venue: S. Janashia Museum of Georgia, 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. Opening: 19:00 MUSIC
SOUNDS OF GEORGIA May 3, 4, 8, 9 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, a mix of traditional Georgian music of different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, and Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 24 GEL Venue: May 3- 10 Erekle II Sq., Tekla Palace Hotel, May 4- New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’, May 8- Corner of 2 Turgenev Str., and 37 Javakhishvili Str., deep yard, May 9- Europe Square, 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel “Nata” TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. May 4 DINI VIRSALADZE Amazing Jazz Night in Tbilisi Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-40 GEL May 6 CONSERVATOIRE STUDENT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Conductor- Revaz Javakhishvili Program: Max Bruch Soloist: Irina Rostomashvili Max Bruch- Romance for Alti and Orchestra Soloist: Rusudan Kvaliashvili Petre Tchaikovsky- Pezzo Capriccioso for cello and orchestra, Op.62. Soloist: Eliso Babuadze Morris Ravel- Introduction and Alagora for Arpes and Orchestra. Soloist: Tamta Usenashvili Louis Schoper- Concert for Clarinet and Orchestra # 4 Soloist: David Jishkariani Franz Schubert- Symphony # 4 Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5 GEL May 7 JAZZ TRIO: JOEL FRAHM, DAN LOOMIS, ERNESTO CERVINI Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-40 GEL
ELECTRO CARRIAGE BUILDING FACTORY 4 K. Cholokashvili III turn. May 8 MONUMENT: STEPHAN BODZIN, NICOLAS MASSEYEFF Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 50 GEL VI PAVILION 10 S. Akhmeteli Str. May 8 OLIVER HUNTEMANN TADE COSMIC LOVE ROTATION Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 30-40 GEL ELEKTROWERK 1 Monk Gabriel Salosi I Turn May 4 STEFAN BINIAK Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 25 GEL SPACEHALL 2 Tsereteli Ave. May 4 DECODER: BLACK COFFEE / TADE / RATI Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 30-50 GEL SILK FACTORY STUDIO 59 Kostava Ave. May 3 ARTBAT/ MARC ROMBOY / 9EYE Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 40 GEL ALIBI ARENA Upper Phonichala May 4 BEER FESTIVAL 12:30 SHENDAME (Tornike Kipiani) 14:00 Bedford Falls 16:00 Dagdagani 18:00 Frani 20:00 REGGAEON 22:00 5’nizza 00:30 Sumo, beRose Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 30 GEL Griboedov Theatrer 2 Rustaveli Ave. SUN CLUB 28 Pekini Ave. May 3 Martivi Gamosavali/ Gamouvali Mdgomareoba Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20 GEL ART HALL 26/2 A. Surguladze Str. May 3 Georgian dance ensemble Daisi’s concert SKY IN MINOR Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL IN THE DENSE FOREST 4 I. Sukhishvili Str. Tskneti May 3 ETHNIC JAZZ BAND IRIAO WITH DAVID MALAZONIA Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 25 GEL U-BAHN 164 D. Agmashenebeli Ave. May 4 SIVRCE in U-BAHN Main stage: JAY SEBUA L8 SPORTSMANSHIP TAZO TSINTSADZE B2B ALEXANDRE GVELESIANI Darkroom: AKSED SHINOBI MIKELADZE W.U.J.I Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 25 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 3 - 6, 2019
Georgia’s Historic Gem: Sighnaghi, The City of Love
BY TATIANA MONTIK
ighnaghi is a charming little town to the east of Tbilisi, located at an altitude of 740 meters above sea level. The town offers scenic views of the Alazani Valley and the Great Caucasian ridge, but not only this: Sighnaghi and its surroundings are being developed rapidly with more and more attractions popping up by the year. When I first went to Sighnaghi in 2010, the town was already in the process of being restored. But even back then, a visit to Sighnaghi was a great experience in itself, taking into account its great historic wall, Sighnaghi National Museum, which houses a number of great masterpieces of Niko Pirosmani, and the town’s location close to the famous pilgrims’ destination, the Bodbe Monastery. In 2010, Sighnaghi, in terms of infrastructure, didn’t have much to offer visitors aside from its great panoramic views and a few newly refurbished central streets. It had a few restaurants, one hotel and a couple of guesthouses. The rest of the town, with its crumbling facades, rusty roofs and pot-holed roads, reminded one heavily of a Potemkin village. Since then, many things have changed. The city’s appearance, its roads, facades, and infrastructure have been restored or renovated; and throughout the town numerous restaurants and guesthouses have been established. Tourists from all over the world, including China, South Korea and Japan, now stream to Sighnaghi, meaning you’ll be hard put to find a household there which is not somehow
involved in the tourism business. “When I registered my guesthouse in the Booking.com system three years ago, I was the 34th on the list of Sighnaghi accomodation,” said Roman Beghashvili, a Sighnaghi guesthouse owner. “Now, there are around 150 on the list.” Competition drives those in tourism to make their places more attractive to tourists. The ideas vary and are sometimes rather eccentric. There are plenty of picturesque cafés and hotels built beside the historic Sighnaghi wall. One of them, for instance, located on high stilts, seems to be hovering over the town, and offers guests the chance to take a paraglider flight or enjoy a drink overlooking the Alazani Valley and the historic wall, which is more than 4 km long. I’ve only had one comparable view of a medieval wall, and that was in the historic city of Avila in Spain. “The first reminiscences of our town wall were found in chronicles of the 13th century,” said Mariam Guliashvili, the town historian. “But the construction of the wall which you can see now was ordered in the 18th century by King Irakli II. Our enemies used to attack our villages in the Alazani Valley: from the north came the Lezgins, from the south the Persians. They stole our women, children and livestock in order to sell them into slavery. To protect the inhabitants of the valley from the intruders, King Irakli II gave the order to construct this wall, which according to different documents was between 5 and 7 km long and had 23 towers and eight gates. Now we have over 4.5 km of it left, which comes close to the Small Wall of China with its 5 km length.” Sighnaghi received its “city” status in 1770. At that time, it was already a vivid town of workmanship and trade with a
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population of up to 10,000 people, the majority being of Armenian origin. The King had ordered the Armenians to settle in Sighnaghi, as the Alazani Valley had previously been devastated by Shah Abbas, who took 100,000 Georgians to Persia. In the following centuries, Sighnaghi became a great cultural and educational center, with its own theater and schools. Girls were educated in private schools established in the houses of rich citizens. In Soviet times, Sighnaghi was a flourishing tourist attraction with a big hotel located close to the town. The town was proud of its own Ethnographic Park, where archeologists from all over the country worked together on excavations. You still can visit this area now, if you take a walk in the beautiful and newly restored town park, which is romantically located on the slopes of Sighnaghi, behind the wall. Also worth a visit is the local cemetery, bearing many exciting stories of past times. With a little imagination, you can see the town history right there. In order to inquire about recent tendencies in tourism, I headed to the Sighnaghi Information Center. The officer, Zurab Siprashvili, told me that just 10% of those who come to Sighnaghi actually visit the Information Center. He put the number of tourists that visited Sighnaghi last year at around 11,000 people, with the trend growing by the year. Most of the tourists come from Russia, Poland, Germany, France and Israel. Sighnaghi’s location on a hill high above the ancient winemaking valley contributes to its increasing popularity. There are four big wineries as well as many wine degustation points in Sighnaghi. From the town’s Deputy Mayor,
Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze
Madonna Batiashvili, I learned about further plans concerning tourism and further development of the Sighnaghi region. “In future, we want our guests to stay longer in our region, so we plan
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to develop the nearby villages of Tsnori and Machkhaani. The latter is a unique village with an old theater from the 19th century and many historic houses, which are quite different from the usual Kakhetian houses. Machkhaani will soon be given the status of a Museum Village,” Batiashvili noted. The town council plans to establish a new tourist route connecting Sighnaghi, Tsnori, Machkhaani and proceeding to Dedoplitskharo, a city with its own Pirosmani museum. Investments should be made in agricultural tourism for those visitors who enjoy nature, hunting and fishing, and who want to learn more about making churchkhela and baking Georgian bread. Several cable car routes should be established in order to connect some villages and allow visitors to enjoy great views of the Alazani Valley. What else makes Sighnaghi so attractive for tourists? One of the town’s most renowned attractions is a quick marriage in the Marriage House, which operates 24/7. “All you need is your passport and two witnesses,” Batiashvili told us. “Just imagine: I recently met a couple who became husband and wife early in the morning, at 4 am!” Indeed, getting married is easy in Sighnaghi, as you don’t need to deal with bureaucracy at all. “Many of our citizens have become witnesses already, and they are now treated as relatives by the families of the newly married couples,” Batiashvili proudly said.
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May 3 - 6, 2019