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Issue no: 1113

• DEC. 28 - JAN. 7, 2018/2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY


In this week’s issue...

Photo by Tony Hanmer

New Cable Lift to Open from Kobi-Guduari to Kazbegi NEWS PAGE 2

City Council Approves Tbilisi Budget 2019

FOCUS ON THE HOLIDAYS The Georgia Today team wishes our readers the joy of the season!

PAGE 12, 13


Orthodox Church of Ukraine Regains Independence, Kremlin Concerned POLITICS PAGE 5

Winter Season Officially Opens in Mestia

Economy Minister Says Poverty Rate Still High in Georgia



Patriarch Ilia II Marks 41 Years as Head of Georgian Orthodox Church A Gifted Foreign Artist Names Mtskheta Her “Real Home”


eorgia offers numerous destinations for winter holidays. One of them is Mestia, located in the Svaneti region, where the winter tourism season was officially opened last weekend on December 22. The opening ceremony included various entertaining and enjoyable activities including ice sculptures and an exhibition space with a photo zone and Christmas market arranged. Famous Georgian singer Stephane took to the stage with a live band, followed by a DJ set in the evening. The opening ceremony was completed with a wonderful fireworks display. Mestia is a small town located in Upper Svaneti in the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It has been named a site of World Heritage by UNESCO. There are two ski resorts in the area, Hatsvali and Tetlundi.



Image source: explore-share.com




DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

Georgia to Be the Guest of Honor at Paris Book Fair BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


fter the Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) 2018, Georgia is to be the Guest of Honor at the Paris Book Fair which will take place March 15-18 next year. “We received the invitation from the French side to claim the status of the Guest of Honor at the Paris Book Fair in 2019 and accepted it,” Director of the Georgian National Book Center Medea Metreveli told Imedi TV.

Obtaining the status of Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is the world’s largest book fair, was a successful experience for Georgia, as it supported the promotion of Georgian literature, art and culture. It also gave the opportunity to more than 70 authors and publishers to present their works to the huge audiences gathered at the major literary event. The same triumph is expected to be repeated in France. The event will contribute to the strengthening of the position of Georgia in the international arena and make the country more interesting for foreigners.

Photo source: Georgia-tours.eu

New Cable Lift to Open from KobiGuduari to Kazbegi BY AMY JONES

Image source: Agenda.ge


n December 29, a cable lift will be opened connecting Kobi to Gudauri, stated Giorgi Shengelia the Director of the Municipal Devel-

opment Fund. Kobi village is located in theKazbegiregion,15minutesfromGudauri ski resort. The cable route will therefore allow visitors to easily reach the resort directly from Kazbegi. The construction of the route began in 2017 and lasted one year. It was a unique project due to the difficult climatic conditions. At 7.5km in length, the lift is the

longest in the region. In addition to serving ski visitors, the lift will also be used to transport goods to Guduari in the case that the Kobi-Gudauri road is closed. Gudauri will always remain accessible from Kazbegi thanks to the lift. It is especially necessary since heavy snow and landslides can force the cable car route in Jvari Pass to close during winter.




DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

City Council Approves Tbilisi Budget 2019 BY THEA MORRISON


bilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) approved the budget of Tbilisi 2019 after Tbilisi City Mayor Kakha Kaladze presented an annual report at Tuesday’s sitting. 37 MPs voted for the draft budget but the opposition did not attend the session as a sign of protest, saying the budget was not appropriate. The final draft approved by the Sakrebulo reads that the budget of Tbilisi will be GEL 927.6 million ($348.3 million) next year, which is GEL 10.8 ($4.05m) million more than the 2018 city budget. The budget for infrastructural projects next year is GEL 357 million ($134.07m), GEL 18.3 million ($68m) more than the approved indicators of 2018. Social and Health Care will be financed

with GEL 327.9 million ($123.1m), GEL 20.8 million ($7.8m) more than the previous year’s approved budget. GEL 75 million ($29.67m) will be added to the Tbilisi budget, which means that during 2019 the budget will exceed one billion GEL. The Sakrebulo also approved the draft amendment to the budget according to which the budget revenues will increase by GEL 170 million ($63.84m) and comprise 1.869 billion GEL ($701m). The Tbilisi Mayor said at the session that 38% of the budget will be spent on infrastructural projects. "Next year's budget will exceed GEL one billion. This will give us the opportunity to implement more interesting projects for Tbilisi. 38% of this budget will be spent on infrastructure as there are many streets and districts that need to be regulated and renovated,” he said. He highlighted that the healthcare and social field will get GEL 20 million ($7.51m)

more financing next year. “Over 35% will be spent in the healthcare and social direction. Unfortunately, there are still many vulnerable families in Tbilisi who need the support of the government and the Sakrebulo. Accordingly, the budget has been increased by 20 million GEL in this direction," said Kaladze. Next year, City Hall also plans to build 11 new kindergartens in the capital. Opposition United National Movement MP Levan Khabeishvili, who left the session in protest, says the Mayor is biased, adding no matter what notes the opposition has, the “majority makes decisions favorable to the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party.” Tbilisi Sakrebulo Chairman Giorgi Tkemaladze thanked the Mayor and municipality representatives for the work done in 2018. "The report which was presented by the Tbilisi Mayor clearly illustrates how

Image source: Tbilisi.gov.ge

large scale works and reforms have been implemented in the capital this year,” he added.

This was the third time Kaladze has been to Sakrebulo this year to sum up the activities of the Mayor’s Office.

China: Russia’s Source of Hope & Fears BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he current crisis between Russia and the West is the product of many fundamental geopolitical differences in both the former Soviet space and elsewhere. All trends in bilateral relations lead to a likely conclusion that fundamental differences between Russia and the West will remain stalled well into the future. The successful western expansion into what was always considered the “Russian backyard” halted Moscow’s projection of power and diminished its reach into the north of Eurasia – between fastdeveloping China, Japan, and other Asian countries, and the technologically modern European landmass. What is interesting is that as a result of this geopolitical setback on the country’s western border, the Russian political elite started to think over Russia’s position in Eurasia. Politicians and analysts discuss the country’s belonging to either Western or Asian civilization or representing a symbiosis – the Eurasian world. As many trends in Russian history are cyclic so is the process of defining Russia’s position and its attachment to Asia or Europe. This quest usually follows geopolitical shifts to Russia’s disadvantage. In the 19th century, following a disas-

Image source: Wikipedia/ Monsieur Fou

trous defeat in the Crimean War (18531856) from Great Britain and France, the Russian intellectuals began thinking over how solely European Russia was. Almost the same thing happened following the dissolution of the Russian Empire in 1917 and break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Though in each case the Russians were reacting to European military or economic expansion with discussions, the reality was that a turn to the East was impossible as most developed territories were in the European parts of the Russian state. Back then, the Russians, when looking to the East, saw the empty lands in Siberia and the Russian Far East. What is crucial nowadays is that Russia’s pull to the East is now happening

due to the presence of powerful China bordering Siberia. This very difference is fundamental when discussing Russia’s modern quest for their position in Eurasia. Today, Europe is a source of technological progress, as are Japan and China. Never in Russian history has there been such an opportunity to develop Siberia and transform it into a power base of the world’s economy. Russia’s geographical position is unique and will remain so for another several decades, as the ice cap in the Arctic Ocean is set to diminish significantly. The Arctic Ocean will be transformed into an ocean of commercial highways, giving Russia a historic opportunity to become a sea power.

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Chinese and Japanese human and technological resources in the Russian Far East, and European resources in the Russian west, can transform it into a land of opportunity. Russia’s geographical position should be kept in mind when analyzing Moscow’s position vis-à-vis the China-US competition. However, apart from the purely economic and geographical pull that the developed Asia-Pacific has on Russia’s eastern provinces, the Russian political elite sees the nascent US-China confrontation as a chance to enhance its weakening geopolitical position throughout the former Soviet space. Russians are right to think that both Washington and Beijing will dearly need Russian support, and this logic is driving Moscow’s noncommittal approach towards Beijing and Washington. As a matter of cold-blooded international affairs, Russia wishes to position itself such that the US and China are strongly competing with one another to win its favor. In allying itself with China, Russia would expect to increase its influence in Central Asia, where Chinese power has grown exponentially since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although Moscow has never voiced official concerns about this matter, that is not to deny the existence of such concerns within the Russian political elite. However, if Moscow chooses the US side, the American concessions could be more significant than the Chinese.

Ukraine and the South Caucasus would be the biggest prizes, while NATO expansion into the Russian “backyard” would be stalled. The Middle East might be another sticking point where Moscow gets fundamental concessions – for example in Syria, should that conflict continue. Beyond grand strategic thinking, this decision will also be a civilizational choice for the Russians molded in the perennial debate about whether the country is European, Asiatic, or Eurasian (a mixture of the two). Geography inexorably pulls Russia towards the East, but culture pulls it towards the west. While decisions of this nature are usually expected to be based on geopolitical calculations, cultural affinity also plays a role. Tied into the cultural aspect is the Russians’ fear that they (like the rest of the world) do not know how the world would look under Chinese leadership. The US might represent a threat to Russia, but it is still a “known” for the Russian political elite. A China-led Eurasia could be more challenging for the Russians considering the extent to which Russian frontiers and provinces are open to large Chinese segments of the population. The Russian approach to the nascent US-China confrontation is likely to be opportunistic. Its choice between them will be based on which side offers more to help Moscow resolve its problems across the former Soviet space.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge



DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019


Orthodox Church of Ukraine Regains Independence, Kremlin Concerned OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he Orthodox Church of Ukraine has regained its independence after a fivecentury termination, with the Patriarchate of Constantinople having recognized the autocephaly, thus igniting a start to the new Orthodox world order. The Orthodox churches of Macedonia and Montenegro are to follow, or it could be Moldova joining the Romanian Church. Maybe the Belorussian Church will also want autocephaly, but probably not under the rule of President Lukashenko. One country, one autocephalous church – this is the approach of Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church, quite different from that of the Patriarch of Russia, who believes that the Churches in the countries where the Russian troops are should be under his rule. Seems the period we saw prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union is repeating itself. At that time the politbureau was against the independence of the republics for the exact same reason. Other analogies would be how, for the same reason, Moscow is blocking the process of NATO membership for the post-Soviet countries; as Georgia and Ukraine were prom-

ised they would enter NATO, Ukraine was promised it would get autocephaly and historical justice would be restored. Unlike the NATO officials, Bartholomew I of Constantinople displayed principle will and Ukraine did succeed in regaining its autocephaly. The fact that this is a new geopolitical catastrophe for the Kremlin is obvious: President Putin has gathered a security council on the issue and the case of Ukraine’s autocephaly was discussed by the Prime Minister, Chairman of the Federation Council, Secretary of the Security Council, Ministers of Internal and Foreign Affairs, Defense Minister, as well as the Head of Federal Security Service and Director of Foreign Intelligence Services. Whew! This assemblage shows that it is more than a random case, in fact a very important case for the Kremlin, as it threatens the downfall of the idea of a “Russian World.” The geopolitical doctrine of the Kremlin, which collapsed together with the Soviet Union and was resurrected by Vladimir Putin, has clashed into a barrier for the first time. Clearly, the Kremlin has lost its debut and Bartholomew I has gained a tempo and an advantage. Although the whole game is ahead, what matters is for whom and of what value is the checkmate. Now is the time for the choice of the Orthodox Churches on recognizing the decision of the World

Image source: Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP

Patriarch. If we recall the boycott that took place during the Council of Crete, obviously Moscow is in the minority, as only four Orthodox Churches rejected the invitation, with the churches of Russia, Antioch, Bulgaria and Georgia refusing to participate. How Russia will try to increase its number of supporters is hard to tell as they would need the support of a minimum of eight churches. Perhaps this explains the two-week visit of Metropolitan Ilarion, the head of international relations of the Russian Church to Alexandria on November 15, Antioch on

November 17 and Cyprus on November 19. On November 29, the Russian Church transferred a solid amount of money to the Atiochian Patriarchate for the restoration of demolished churches in Syria. Parallel to the Metropolitan’s visit, the Russian Church representatives visited Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. A lengthy tour took place to the Orthodox Church of the US. Metropolitan also visited Georgia. The representatives of the Russian Church all had a single advice-demand: to deny the autocephaly of Ukraine and condemn the decision of the World Patriarch. “The

power of Patriarch Bartholomew is threating the Orthodox world with destruction,” preaches Russia. The Patriarchate of Constantinople consists of eparchies of six archbishops, eight churches and 18 metropolitans, two out of the said eight, that is the Finnish and Estonian, are autonomous. Bartholomew I of Constantinople has the historical status of “The first among equals” within the Orthodox Christian community: whatever the length of the tours planned in Moscow, the consistency and principality of the World Patriarch has only increased his authority.


Tbilisi Giftbox Offers “Gift Aid” this Holiday Season WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE COMPANY?


Tbilisi Giftbox is only three months old, yet we’ve gained lots of experience so far. In 2019, we are changing the collection of the boxes, changing delivery terms and the order policy. In the long term, we would like to develop a complete online service where you can fill the giftbox with any goods without online communication with a manager. And also we hope to develop B2B cooperation with companies to help them express gratitude to their clients and employees.


bilisi Gift Box is a new creative venture providing people in the Georgian capital a new, convenient, fun option for gifts for their loved ones. GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Giftbox founder Ekaterina Leonova about her business, entrepreneurship in Georgia, and how you can get your hands on one of these boxes in time for the New Year!


WHO IS BEHIND TBILISI GIFTBOX? Behind Tbilisi Giftbox there are two people – me, Ekaterina Leonova, the founder, and my husband Giorgi Gegelia, who is so kind to help me. Since I was four years old, I have been deep into design, art and handmaking things and it was always my dream to have a small business of this kind. My husband already had some businesses in Georgia and his experience helps us cope up with the Georgian market and people’s demand.

The best part is the pleasure of making people happy. Once we made a gift for a pregnant woman with small boots for the baby in a box. And when she opened the box she was so excited as those were the first shoes she’d got for her child. This case always makes me smile on a bad day. The worst part I think is the worktime, as any business is like a small child who needs attention and care. It is not a classic 9-5 job.

WHAT IS YOUR STORY – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED? I am from St. Petersburg, Russia, and in my hometown, giftboxes are a very popular item as they save a lot of time and nerves, especially if you do not know what to give. Once, we were shopping for a gift for a friend of ours and it took me five minutes to create several variants of a gift while for my husband it is usually torture. So, I decided to start up Tbilisi Giftbox – a service for people who need ‘gift aid.’

YOU’RE NOT A NATIVE GEORGIAN - WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TBILISI AND WITH GEORGIA? I first came to Tbilisi in 2016 and just a few hours after arrival I met my husband. It is a romantic, ‘love at first sight’ story that we will tell our grandchildren, I hope. Two years later I moved here and now adore my new lifestyle. There are many things I love about Georgia and Tbilisi:

WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTS ARE INCLUDED IN THE GIFT BOXES? Mostly local or imported products like sweets, alcohol, flowers, beauty goods, etc. But we are planning to bring more goods from abroad to include in the boxes.


Image source: Tbilisi Giftbox

Georgian hospitality, the breathtaking landscapes, the cuisine and the whole culture. But the best thing I love about Georgia is the people. I think I will never get enough of them.

people with different tastes. As I saw in Georgia, people love giving gifts, they love the concept of sharing and being generous. So my aim is to give them a more qualified experience.



The idea is a very simple thing, but the creation! That is where all the fun part begins. My vision was in making beautiful yet useful giftboxes suitable for many

I started very fast: in several days I went from searching the market to making my first giftbox. It was a little tricky to get all the necessary decorations at a

good price, but I soon found the suppliers. My biggest challenge is to always be ahead of people’s expectations.

WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT FROM? I’m not sure if there is any ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ as a concept. I always believe that it is only our experience and hard work that help us create and move forward.

The best gifts are not occasional, of course, as surprise always guarantees the greatest emotions. Yet you can make an order for a birthday, wedding, the birth of a baby, company anniversary, Christmas, New Year and so many more occasions. We can help with anything! Customers can choose an already created gift or have a box custom made. Prices start at 55 GEL. Get yours on Facebook or Instagram by searching “Tbilisi Giftbox.”



Economy Minister Says Poverty Rate Still High in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


iorgi Kobulia, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, says that poverty is one of the main challenges the government is facing, adding the poverty rate still remains high, despite a decrease of 10%. “Although the current statistics show that the poverty level decreased by 10% compared to 2013, the fight against poverty remains one of our biggest challenges and main priorities,” he stated during the presentation of the annual report at the sitting of the Parliamentary Committee of Branch Economy and Economic Policy on December 25. Kobulia said that poverty level was 40% in 2010, while in 2018 the parameter was fixed at 20% and poverty was cut by half. “We still have a 20% poverty rate. The rate of poverty reduction was low over the last two years and we need much higher rates to beat it,” he noted. The Minister noted that the unemployment rate is also decreasing in Georgia but also at a slow pace. “Like poverty, the unemployment reduction rate is low. While in 2015 the unemployment rate equaled 15%, in 2016 it was 14% and in 2017 – 13.9%. This shows a decline, but it is not enough”, he said. He noted that every year 30-40 thou-

Image source: Ministry of Economy

sand new jobs are created in the country. “In 2017, 41,000 jobs were created in the business sector. We want to increase this indicator to 60,000 jobs in the future,” he said, adding that although the Georgian population amounts to 3.7 million, there are many people who cannot find jobs. “Of 3.7 million people, only 2 million people are able to work, so they are our labor force. The rest are children under 15, pensioners and people who refuse to work, including housewives. Our aim is to involve some of these people in our economic activities,” the Minister said. He went on to note that Georgia’s economic performance is much better than that of other countries in the region. “The International Monetary Fund forecast that Georgia will be the leading country in the region over the next five years, up to 2023. Our forecast is 5% [growth],” Kobulia said. He also spoke about the deficit of electricity expected in Georgia, adding that to balance this, the construction of new power plants is needed. “Within the framework of getting closer with the EU and in general, we have an ambitious plan in the direction of electricity and energy market reform… Apart from main hydro power plants we plan the construction of medium and small HPPs that will help Georgia to fill the electricity deficit,” he said. The Minister also spoke about the need for more investments in the country.


DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

TBC to Award 200 Children with Scholarships in 2019


BC has presented a report to society and introduced projects implemented within the framework of corporate social responsibility. The company’s CSR projects are united around five directions: Business Support, Heritage, Culture, TBC Team, and Future Generation. The last will be a special niche for TBC in 2019: the company will award 200 special children with scholarships within a new project. Within business support is the annual Business Awards, the largest business event in Georgia. To support SMEs, the educational and informative platform www.tbcbusiness.ge is available with information on useful initiatives and products for business. Two years into the initiative, 410 startups have been funded with more than 83 million GEL. The preservation of heritage is one of TBC Banks’s priority issues, and #წერექართულად (#WriteinGeorgian) is one of its largest projects in this direction, uniting popularization initiatives of the Georgian alphabet, including Kartulad.ge, the first Georgian platform developed with Microsoft, ‘Introduction to the Georgian Language.’ Support for the future generation is especially important for TBC. The charitable online platform Statusdonates.ge

on behalf of TBC status and its users promotes development and success among the new generation. TBC is a partner of such events as the Leonardo Da Vinci and the Millennium Innovation Contest for inventors and researchers. Culture support is another of the main directions of TBC. An example of this is the literary prize Saba, which was held in Frankfurt, the largest Georgian platform of electronic and audio books www. saba.com.ge; Artarea; the Georgian Chan-

nel Culture; many cultural events in TBC Gallery and TBC Art Gallery; Project 12; Kolga Tbilisi photo; Tbilisi Architectural Biennale and others. TBC counts 26 years of existence and has over 8000 employees. The Tbiliselebi Foundation was created in 2009 with over 4 000 000 GEL. In 26 years, TBC has donated 110 million GEL in CSR projects and charity and has financed more than 1,000 talented youngsters.



n recent years, Georgia has made major steps forward in the development of the tourism industry. Due to the diversity of landscapes, there are a wide variety

of destinations for tourists to choose from in the country. The region of Ajara, officially known as the Autonomous Republic of Ajara, represents one of the most outstanding among the wide assortment. The Government of Ajara consistently puts a lot of effort into improving the regional infrastructure and services offered to investors and visitors. A new

investment project initiated by the Ministry of Finance and Economy of Ajara aims at the restoration and development of the territory adjacent to Gonio Fortress, located at the mouth of the River Little Chorokhi. GEORGIA TODAY met with the Minister of Finance and Economy of Ajara, Jaba Phutkaradze, to find out more about the activities that are planned within the scope of the Gonio project.

WHAT HAS THE ECONOMIC CONDITION OF THE REGION BEEN THIS YEAR IN COMPARISON WITH 2017? Ameliorated, without a doubt. First, all the macroeconomic indicators and parameters of the region are incremental. Our team has had a number of meetings and negotiations with both local and foreign investors. All of them have positive views about the future of the development of the region and, most importantly, they trust the free investment environ of Ajara. We’re strongly motivated to maximally maintain the given authority of being a trustworthy and reliable partner.


tourists visiting between January and November 2018. Ajara is a region with very high potential for further development and there is a lot of evidence to justify this statement. There are several major projects being implemented in the region. Just a few days ago, Czech and Slovak investments were launched in Kobuleti, worth approximately 40 million GEL in total. There is also an increasing trend of investments in Batumi and we have recently commenced working on a project developing Gonio. We aren’t only aiming at improving the coastline and major cities of the region: the progress of the highland municipalities of Ajara represent one of the primary priorities for our government. The Goderdzi mountain resort is being intensively revitalized. Even though there was to be only one phase of development, due to the high demands of investors, we launched a second phase of restoration which comprises the development of more than 200 hectares.19 investment projects are in progress right now and the total sum of investments will reach approximately 133 million GEL.


This initiative will become a significant source for attracting investors, increasing the income budget of the region and growing the rate of employment. The investments in the private sector have led to the over-fulfilling of the budget of 2018 by 20 million GEL, which helped the growth of the average salary and the rate of employment [in Ajara]. The number of work places increased by 8% in 2018, in comparison with the previous year.

WHY WAS GONIO SELECTED FOR DEVELOPMENT? We are focused on the significance of launching new locations with the prospective of further growth and development. Gonio has the potential to become a center for mobilizing the majority of investments and at the same time can serve as a wonderful place for tourists. Gonio is located on the coastline and is close to the city of Batumi, making it very comfortable for visitors to stay in. The project comprises creating a modern development plan of 48 hectares of the territory adjacent to Gonio Fortress, which will include recreational zones, hotels with high standards, premium class houses, sport areas, commercial, shopping and entertaining centers and a yacht club. The renovated Gonio will have all the facilities for tourists to have a pleasant, comfortable and amusing stay in Ajara.



DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019



n December 15 and 16, Tbilisi Mall hosted the qualifying game of Red Bull Escape Room. In 2019, the team ‘Tsibakha’s’ will participate in the Red Bull Escape Room World Finals representing Georgia. The players spent 11min. 2sec. in completing the task. 32 teams in total took part in the qualifying game. Each of them had 20 minutes to demonstrate their skills and capabilities. The Red Bull Escape Room is a game based on logic, memory, strategy and visual thinking. Even though the World Championship is being held for the second time this year, it is the first time Georgia has participated. The Finals of the Red Bull Escape Room will take place in April 2019, in London. The players will have to deal with real challenges and solve the ‘Omni Escape’ mission. In order to create the room, the Red Bull Mind Gamers’ team consulted the leaders of the industry, including Vienna Technical University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the major founders of the ‘Omni Escape’ is

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Scott Nicolson, who is the professor and design-developer of BGNlab at the Wilfrid Laurier University. The participants of the Red Bull Escape Room are: Australia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, France, Georgia, Greece, Germany, India, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Slo-

vakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the USA, Great Britain, and Russia. Red Bull Mind Gamers is a global hub for puzzle fans, for those who enjoy challenging themselves and developing various skills.


Dry red wine ‘Teliani’ is made solely from the noted Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, cultivated in Kakheti region within the protected Teliani micro-appellation. The wine has sharply expressed aromas of ripe cherry, plum and blackcurrant and is aged in oak barrels for 12 months, creating an ideally balanced full-bodied wine composed of velvety tannins.


Samtavro ‘Mtsvane Special in Oak’ is made from the high quality, handpicked grape of the ‘Mtsvane’ grape variety cultivated in Ikalto, Kakheti region. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 6 months and is distinguished by the complex aromas of vanilla, candied nuts, nutmeg and cinnamon.

SAMTAVRO SAPERAVI SPECIAL RESERVE The ‘Saperavi Special Reserve’ is made from the high quality Saperavi indigenous grape variety, picked in Kondoli vineyards during the late autumn harvest. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months and is characterized by a dark ruby color. The wine has sharply expressed aromas of black plum, cherry, vanilla and dark chocolate. Intense yet balanced tannins create a long-lasting, exotic aftertaste.




DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

Patriarch Ilia II Marks 41 Years as Head of Georgian Orthodox Church BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


eorgian Patriarch Ilia II has officially been the spiritual head of the Georgian Orthodox Church for 41 years. The Patriarch, born Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili in 1933, was consecrated to the position on December 25, 1977, coincidentally, Christmas Day for the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Ilia II grew up in the Kazbegi region, in the village of Sno, where you can see his childhood home and a monument dedicated to him. The much-loved Patriarch is known for helping the Georgian Orthodox Church regain its influence and status within the Soviet Union, in the face of anti-religious policies meant to suppress the Church and make it irrelevant to the Georgian people. The Orthodox Church, particularly Ilia II, has consistently high approval ratings. In 2013, a poll by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) put his favorability rating among Georgian political figures at 94% - the highest of anyone in the poll. The 2017 Caucasus Barometer survey in Georgia, conducted by CRRC, showed that 71% of respondents belonging to the Orthodox Church said they trust the institution. There is some speculation that support for the Church will sharply decline when Ilia II dies, leaving a spiritual hole in the country, as he has developed a fervent personal following among Georgians. In January, the Patriarch will turn 86. In one of the most illuminating statistics of recent years, a Pew Research Center report titled The Age Gap in Religion Around the World found that of the 106 countries surveyed, there were only two countries where young people are more religious than older generations – Georgia and Ghana. The reported explained the difference in part, saying, “Older adults in Georgia mostly came of age during the Soviet period when religion was repressed – including by Georgian-born leader Joseph Stalin, which is likely the main reason why young people are more religious than old ones.” However, the report

Image source: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

also notes that the other 14 republics of the former Soviet Union do not show this pattern. To mark the 41st anniversary of Ilia II’s consecration as Patriarch, he led an Advent service in Mtskheta at Svetiskhoveli Cathedral, the country’s most important

church, on December 25. Advent is the religious season before Christmas. In the Georgian Orthodox Church, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. The service was attended by Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, President Salome Zurabishvili and several other top officials.

Bakhtadze spoke to reporters saying that Ilia II has led the revival of the Georgian Orthodox Church, leading a period of “unprecedented building…Hundreds of churches have been built and restored under Ilia II. The Patriarch’s appeals for love of the motherland, tolerance, educa-

tion and work are much needed for the State’s development.” The Patriarch himself spoke on the occasion, saying “Our nation is caring. If not for your love, I would not be able to carry the burden [of this role]. Be blessed and happy. Glory and Gratitude to God.”

Ryanair ‘Would Like to Come to Georgia’ BY AMY JONES


he CEO of the Irish budget airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has stated that Ryanair “would like to come to Georgia,” thus increasing the number of budget flights and destinations available in the country. In an interview with Forbes, O’Leary

confirmed that the airline had previously entered negotiations with Georgian airports but those airports did not offer the incentives desired by the airline. Nonetheless, he believes that the introduction of Ryanair flights is “inevitable” and will happen soon. If Ryanair were to offer flights to and from Georgia, they would focus on central and eastern European flights as they “do not want flights to take 5-6 hours.” They would open routes to cities with

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a flight time of up to 3 hours and where they believe there to be enough demand from customers. Flights would likely focus on routes in Poland, Germany, Greece and Italy. The airport for Ryanair flights would depend on the commercial negotiations and which airport would offer the biggest incentive. Ryanair often begins flying from secondary airports. For example, 10 years ago in Germany they began flying to Hahn (near Frankfurt) and Bremen (near Hamburg). Due to the success, bigger airports approached Ryanair and the airline now operates in

Frankfurt, Hamburg and Dusseldorf, as well as the secondary airports. As Georgia continues to become a tourist hotspot, more airlines are opening routes to and from the country. Turkish Airlines will begin direct flights between Ankara and Tbilisi from January 18, 2019, whilst Air France will open a new route to Georgia from March 31 to October 26, 2019. Georgian Airports experienced 23% more passenger traffic from January – November 2018, totaling 4,688,177 passengers. Kutaisi International Airport saw 47% more passengers, likely thanks to the introduction

of more flights from eastern European budget airline, Wizz Air. The introduction of Wizz Air to Kutaisi has demonstrated how budget flights can affect passenger numbers. The number of passengers travelling via Kutaisi airport has more than doubled since the introduction of Wizz Air flights in 2016. However, if another budget airline were to open in Kutaisi, plans would have to be made to develop the infrastructure of the small airport. Nonetheless, the offer of Ryanair flights could increase the number of tourists coming to Georgia and help the tourist industry continue to grow.



DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

Meet the Writer Who Cycled Europe & Fell in Love with Georgia EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


my Jones is a British woman who recently made Georgia her second home. Originally from a tiny town called Ledbury in Herefordshire, she studied French, German and Politics at the University of Bath before moving to Berlin to work in the startup scene. She then spent a year in Singapore before moving home. She arrived in Georgia last year somewhat unconventionallyby bike. We caught up with her to find out more.

WHAT LED YOU TO DECIDE TO CYCLE EUROPE? It was a very sporadic decision. I wasn’t a keen cyclist and used to be scared of cycling on roads, even on very quiet country lanes near where I’m from in the UK. I was living in Singapore and decided it would be amazing to return home over-land. After a lot of research, I came across people who had cycled. The idea of being so close to nature and having such a raw adventure caught me. I moved home, saved money, bought a bike, and left. I spent five months cycling through 15 countries from England to Georgia.

TELL US SOME HIGHLIGHTS AND LOW POINTS OF YOUR TRIP There were countless highlights. Every day was different and inspiring, even if for the wrong reasons! Highlights were being adopted by a village in Bosnia and painting a Tito memorial on 1st May;

spending three days without seeing a car on stunning roads in Montenegro; exploring the ancient caves of Cappadocia in Turkey; and staying with so many interesting and different types of people. I also loved border-crossing days. A few kilometers of roads separate different worlds. Crossing from Croatia to Bosnia, suddenly there were so many mosques and minarets. When I crossed from Montenegro to Albania, I was suddenly sharing the roads with horse and carts, and I saw a horse being ridden the wrong way down a dual carriage way. Cycling from Turkey to Georgia was like returning to Europe after Asia. The low points were being chased by dogs in Greece in an area where a lady had been killed by dogs a few months earlier; losing the friendship of a good friend with whom I started the trip; unwanted attention from men; and the loneliness. Sometimes all you want is a hug from your Mum.

WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE? Physically, absolutely nothing. I went into the trip completely blind with no experience. The first day, when I was cycling in -10 and snow, I thought I couldn’t possibly reach France. I had never cycled further than 30km in my life. I didn’t even know how to fix a flat tire. When I had my first flat in Greece, I had to hitch a lift from a farmer who helped me.

WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE? Overcoming certain fears, riding on busy roads with huge lorries hurtling past

incredibly close, removing a spider from my tent, and wild camping by myself convinced that every noise in the night was a bear. Remaining motivated was also a challenge. Some days the last thing you want to do is cycle up a mountain, or cycle at all, but it was always worth it in the end.

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY? Very little. The trip shaped and pushed me in ways I never expected. I’m more self-assured, proactive and stronger than before. I don’t regret how unprepared I was for the trip as that also taught me unique lessons. I would have stayed in closer contact with my family who worried about me every day. I also would have changed a bike part that makes it easier to go up hills, and I would have written a diary. You think every memory is etched firmly into your brain, but they still fade with time.

WHAT WAS YOUR ORIGINAL PLAN AND WHAT MADE YOU STOP IN GEORGIA? My original plan was to cycle to Singapore from my home in England. I stopped in Georgia because winter was approaching. I’d heard so many good things about Georgia and Tbilisi: the food, the people, the nature, the clubbing. Fast forward a few months and I am looking at staying here long-term. It lived up to my expectations and more.

WHAT ARE YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES OF 2018 AND WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2019? 2018 was the year I went my own way, literally and metaphorically. By going against the advice of most of my friends and family and doing something slightly crazy, I had the best and most experiencefilled year of my life. My trip, settling in Georgia, becoming a full-time writer, and also seeing my brother get married, have made 2018 a very special year. If 2019 is only half so full I will be happy. 2019 will bring some hard decisions: whether to continue to Singapore or stay in Georgia, go home or back to Berlin – but I hope it will be just as adventurous as 2018. I think I will cycle the Pamir Highway in central Asia for a few weeks next summer and then come back to Tbilisi and start a business, but who knows what the year will bring.





DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

Sports & Culture – Georgia’s Forte OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


MG, the end of the year and nothing terribly fascinating is popping up in the mind's eye to dedicate the final stroke of the pen to. On the eve of the next 365 days of upcoming new fits and starts, I chose to look beyond the continual bickering and backbiting in the field of politics, all those notorious drawbacks in economics and extravagant ideological outbursts made in a miserable attempt to copycat the as-if-more-sophisticated part of the world. And the choice fell on where Georgia might really make a resplendent flaunt of its genuine spirit and power: culture, and within that realm, sports! To the delight of every patriot of this country and its true friends, a brief recollection of previous Georgian achievements in culture and sports can’t hurt. Several national phenomena were in previous years identified and officially declared by UNESCO as world-level non-material heritage, among them three types of the Georgian alphabet, Georgian polyphonic singing, Georgian Qvevri wine and Georgian wrestling. This is a lot for a petite and not awfully significant nation like Georgia, but the full-stop is not at all carved there. Culture and sport is Georgia’s forte, which is strongly emphasized in the entire activity of GIORGI – the Georgian Union for Support of World Achievements and Travels, the firmly-established (but chronically suffering from pecuniary limitations) club of volunteers involved in the world record movement. The organization is headed by the amazingly perseverant,

knowledgeable, active and enthusiastic octogenarian Gvanji Mania and his dedicated associate and fellow-fighter Ketevan Mgaloblishvili – the managing organizer of folk sports and marathons, chief of staff of the Georgian Geographic Society. I am more than certain that people like them will build the nation sooner than those who we commonly think do the job. Here is what they have recently done: in close cooperation with the Georgian Geographic Society and the Phasisi National Academy of Science, GIORGI has prepared a new project to propose to UNESCO in three Georgian national styles of swimming to be someday considered as new Olympic sports events: a) Zezela – the standing swimming with hands above the water level, which is a unique military-rescue as well as recreational kind of swimming; b) the Mkhedruli-Kolkhuri type of swimming which is executed with tethered hands and feet and is used for overcoming the perpetual innate human fright syndrome in and ominous expectation of danger; c) Menchurua – underwater wrestling, which is different from every other type of wrestling, like Georgian, Greco-Roman, Free-Style, Sambo and others, takes place in natural crystal clear water or in a transparent swimming pool like an aquarium, and has a realistic chance of becoming an Olympic sports event. The proposal, which is still in the making, was preceded by numerous records, so there is a solid ground to the desire to familiarize the world with Georgian martial arts in swimming. On September 2, 2018 on the Adjaran coast near Batumi, the 58-year sea-walker Beglar Elbakidze established his third record in Zezela swimming, with both hands raised out of water, having covered with only legs and feet 14

Henry Kuprashvili, a Georgian who has revived the Mkhedruli Kolkhuri style of swimming, having conquered the straits of the world. Source: Udrekeli

Olympic distances equal to 21 kilometers. Henry Kuprashvili, a man of a solid age, is another Georgian who has revived the Mkhedruli Kolkhuri style of swimming, having conquered the straits of the world and acquired many followers in his native Georgia as well as throughout the entire world, one of them being his best trainee Anna Lominadze, who amazed witnesses no less than her famous coach. The historical Menchurua, or water wrestling a.k.a. ‘combat dunking,’ not only maintains its popularity in riverside

and littoral villages of Georgia but has its adherents and champions too. To get the proposal to a sold international organization like UNESCO and later to the International Olympic Committee is no easy task. On top of that, nothing happens without financial efforts. I think I have mentioned before that volunteerism has not yet taken deep roots in Georgia, but it might: aren’t we telling the world that we are part of Europe with a western approach to things like fundraising and making good things happen on

this soil? Meanwhile, further research is to be done, brochures and other relevant materials have to be issued, texts have to be prepared and translations done, saying nothing about the wages that need to be doled out. I wish those heroes of our time to be patient and not to let their love for motherland go. I presume one of their New Year’s resolutions is something compatible with their ultimate goal – to get the word out about Georgia’s sports and culture across.

Shortest Day, Longest Night: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


inter Solstice, as it’s called. We had a week of mostly sunny days before today as I write this, doing much to melt the thin layer of snow which had fallen, although some of this still remains, keeping our local albedo (reflectivity) closer to 1’s pure whiteness than to 0’s perfectly absorptive black. But last night’s and today’s cloudiness has acted as a

blanket, and the melting has thus continued a bit, despite some more light snowfall in the last few hours. Currently our sunrise has been at about 9:30 am, and sunset at a little after 4 pm. Now those numbers will swing to earlier starts and later finishes. But statistically the coldest parts of the year are still ahead of us. This is because the temperature of the large body of air of the entire Northern Hemisphere is slow to change. So, while the planet’s tilt in relation to the sun is already moving back towards the vertical noons of midsummer, its northern atmosphere will take a while to catch

up. Thus, colder Januarys and Februarys than one would expect at a glance! However, few of my neighbors can remember such a mild December, or one with so little snow, in their lives. So what the next two months will actually give us is anyone’s guess. Few of us will complain if it stays this warm. At least the mountainous ski resorts, high as they are above us, have got enough snow to open the winter sports season locally today, however; and this, if not much else, will proceed as normal. As one of the few Westerners in Svaneti, I have strange feelings as our date for

Christmas approaches. The Georgian, and Orthodox, date is January 7; mine is December 25. The latter isn’t even a holiday in this country. So, it seems that my Christmas is creeping up on an unsuspecting local world, unannounced, unrecognized. Just as that First Christmas did, some 2000 years ago. They had no idea what was upon them. It had been declared to a few chosen spectators and participants by angelic visitation: the Family itself, the Wise Men, the shepherds. The general population were entirely unaware of the drama unfolding in secret, in the humblest surroundings and way. God divesting

Himself of heaven and taking an infinite step downwards. A larger gulf to cross than one of us people becoming an ant! Creator becoming a small part of creation. Of course, the Svans will celebrate Christmas, just a couple of weeks later than I do; I get to have it twice, if I want to. But their version tends, as much of the rest of their ritual events, to allow the departed rather than the living or newly born to take center stage. The dead must be honored, remembered, feasted, toasted. Jesus can seem lost in such crowds. But… it was like that back then too. Israel, a vassal state of occupying Rome, longed and looked for a King who would deliver them and inaugurate their new golden age. Aside from the privileged chosen few, the populace failed to see the tiny miracle at their feet, in the straw instead of the gilt. King Herod, seeing competition, unleashed a massacre of baby boys, hoping to include the One he had heard about! All that did was fulfil a prophecy of national mourning made centuries earlier. The Family became refugees in Egypt until Herod’s death allowed them to return: a nice reminder in today’s troubled, war-torn, traumatized times. The Boy was in good—God’s— hands. It was all going to happen; unstoppable, if invisible and incomprehensible. Even “Happy Holidays” will do for me, because Modern English “holiday” is short for Middle English “holy day,” coming from Old English “halig daeg”. Being that this is the case, I’ll add: Merry Christmas! 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




DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

The Where.ge Guide to the Georgian New Year Holidays ting board and roll it out before cutting into diamond shapes.


PUMPKIN WITH DRIED FRUITS Pumpkin, while best known as a Halloween decoration in the West, is considered an important part of the New Year feast in Georgia, with the locals seeing it as a symbol of prosperity and longevity. It is often brought to the house as a gift by the “mekvle,” the first guest of the new year.


ew Year and Christmas (celebrated on January 1 and 7 respectively) are the best-loved holidays on the Georgian calendar, seeing rounds of feasting, singing, dancing and church-going. It is also increasingly becoming a favorite time of year for tourists to visit, particularly those fond of skiing. If you’re going to celebrate your winter holidays here, get ready to experience not only a new atmosphere, but a number of new surprises and emotions, too. The celebration of the winter holidays in Georgia lasts for around two weeks, with schools only breaking up at the end of December and the western Christmas passing almost unnoticed (though street decorations are up and lit from midDecember and shop displays tend to start selling Christmas from late November). If you are staying with a Georgian family during the holidays, your hosts will probably not let you leave the table until you have tried all the dishes and drunk all the wine offered (and you can prepare yourself for this in our Where to Eat and Where to Drink sections). Yet feasting is but a small part of what makes a Georgian Christmas.

THE DECOR If you’re celebrating your holidays at a Georgian friend’s house, the first thing that might strike you as strange is the nut wood twig with long fluffy shavings decorating the most dominant spot in the house, perhaps alongside the more familiar fir. The twig is called a chichilaki. And while it does not permeate the entire room with the nice fresh pine aroma that fir does, it certainly serves as an interesting decorative feature and, for the Georgians, serves as a symbol of life and hope. A chichilaki is usually decorated with an assortment of fruits, berries and flowers as offerings to heaven for a bountiful harvest. Chichilakis are not a yearround Christmas symbol, however, as people ceremoniously burn them on the day before the Georgian Orthodox Epiphany on January 19, believing that the smoke takes away all the misfortunes of the year.

NEW YEAR The chain of celebrations usually starts off on New Year’s Eve, with the festive table laden to breaking point with the most delicious homemade food, beautifully and richly presented, an abundance of various fruits, freshly picked vegetables, nuts and homemade sweets. The New Year feast will often include a piglet roasted in the local tone (bread) oven (pork is considered a symbol of prosperity), satsivi (see our Where to Eat section) and a wide choice of desserts to symbolize the hope for a sweet year ahead. And, of course, that wonderful homemade wine, accompanied by a number of eloquent toasts and some famous polyphonic singing. At midnight, Georgians, like most of the rest of the world, welcome the New Year with loud and colourful fireworks, following the ancient belief that fireworks chase away evil spirits. This is also the time when Santa Claus, or his Georgian equivalent Tovlis Babua, travels from house to house leaving gifts under the Christmas tree for kids who have been good. Once the family feast is over, at around 1 AM, the younger generation will head out to celebrate the occasion with their friends. An increasing number of bars, restaurants and hotels (see our Where to Stay section) are heading in the western direction by offering a full evening of entertainment for those not wanting to

INGREDIENTS 1 pumpkin 100 g prunes 50 g black raisins 50 g dried apricots 50 g almonds 100 g walnuts 10 g honey ground cinnamon ground cloves 50 g sugar

Image source: teachandlearnwithgeorgia/matthewpizza

sit at the Georgian feast table.

As the New Year begins, there comes the time of a special Georgian tradition, mekvele. Georgians believe that the first guest “with happy feet” who crosses the threshold of the house will bring joy and prosperity to the family. The mekvele is welcomed with a basket of delicacies in exchange for the candies s/he brings to the family to make the upcoming year sweet. The guest is usually either selected in advance from a circle of close friends or the role is taken on by a family member who leaves the room and reappears again, bringing happiness and joy.

as paradoxical as its name may sound, finally concludes the winter celebrations. This holiday, celebrated on January 14, marks the New Year according to the old Julian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian one which the world officially uses today. It is not a public holiday, so the shops will likely be open, yet it is a tradition observed by the majority of Georgians, many of whom do not even take the Christmas tree down before this date. The Old New Year is celebrated in a similar way to the regular New Year: with a festive table, an abundance of wine, and getting together joyful and friendly people to start the year as they mean it to go on.



After a brief pause in the drinking and feasting, January 2 sees many heading to church before partying again. It is Bedoba, the Day of Luck, which in Georgian tradition is said to determine how good the year will be. As if such an excuse is needed, Georgians tend to have as much fun on Bedoba as possible in order to guarantee a prosperous and joyful year ahead.

Every Christmas/New Year issue of Where.ge, we present to you the dishes Georgians traditionally make for the family table during the festive season. Well, this year we’re upping the ante and showing you how to MAKE them! [Source: Taste of Georgia published in 2018 by Sulakauri Publishing]


CHRISTMAS The Georgian Christmas, coming some 10 days after the western version, also occupies a special place in the hearts and souls of Georgians. It is traditionally celebrated from the evening of January 6, with Orthodox Christian devotees attending a festive public service that lasts all night. After the service is over, Georgians continue the celebration at home, lighting candles and sitting at the holiday table once more, this time with even more delicacies, since for many Georgians the birth of Christ symbolizes the end of the fasting period. The next morning, the 7, is marked by a special Alilo procession, during which clergymen walk along the streets carrying icons, crosses, and flags, followed by Christians of all ages. Children dressed in white usually lead the procession, symbolizing angels on foot. As the ceremony proceeds, the participants collect donations and gifts to be given to orphanages and people in need. At the end, believers unite at Sameba (the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) to accept the congratulations of the Patriarch of All Georgia on Christmas.

OLD NEW YEAR Nope, no time to nurse your hangover, as along comes the Old New Year, which,

Grate or crumble the cheese and slice the hard-boiled eggs. Take a handful of dough, roll it into a round shape and spread the cheese over half of it. Top with the egg slices and fold the empty dough half over the mix and pinch the edges together. Put it on a baking sheet, brush on the glazing mix and bake at 230-250°C for e8 minutes.

SATSIVI Three western Georgian regions claim to have been the creators of this special New Year dish, though they each use a common recipe. Whether you try it in Samegrelo, Guria, Imereti or Tbilisi, you’re guaranteed to love it! INGREDIENTS Turkey or chicken 800 gr walnuts 100 gr onions 2-3 garlic cloves 1 tsp dried coriander 1 tsp blue fenugreek ½ tsp marigold ½ tsp cinnamon ½ tsp cloves Salt and pepper to taste

GURIAN PIE Gurian Pie is available year-round, but it was traditionally baked as the first dish to be eaten after the winter fast and consisted of dough left overnight to mature, lightly salted cheese and hard-boiled eggs which had been pre-smoked on an open fire. Spot this crescent-shaped pie on the shelves of your street-side khachapuri bar. INGREDIENTS (DOUGH) 200 g flour 100 ml water or milk 5 g yeast 5 g salt 2 g sugar 20 ml vegetable oil (FILLING) 200 g Imeruli cheese 2 hard-boiled eggs (GLAZING) 1 egg yolk 50 ml milk HOW TO MAKE IT Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water or milk. Add to flour and salt and knead it into a soft dough with greased hands. Put it into a bowl, cover it with a cloth and wait 30 minutes before kneading again. Then leave it to rise.

HOW TO MAKE IT Boil and dice the meat, sprinkle with salt and fry. Sauté the finely chopped onions. For the sauce, combine finely chopped walnuts, all spices and the sautéed onions and dissolve the mixture in the meat broth (with fat skimmed off) and stir until it is the consistency of thin sour cream. Put the meat into the sauce and boil for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Serve cold.

GOZINAKI Gozinaki is a traditional Georgian dessert made especially for New Year’s Eve using nuts and honey. It is, by tradition, a symbol of prosperity and happiness, and no family table will be without it during the holiday. INGREDIENTS 500g walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds or peanuts 230 g honey 40 g sugar HOW TO MAKE IT Pour the honey in a pan and bring it to the boil, leave to cool, then boil and cool again twice more. Add the nuts on the last turn and stir, letting the mix simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add sugar and simmer again for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the mix onto a damp cut-

HOW TO MAKE IT Cut the pumpkin in half and empty it of flesh and seeds. Dice the fruit and chop the nuts. Combine with the raisins, sugar, honey, ground cloves and cinnamon and spoon the mixture into the middle of the pumpkin halves. Bake both halves in the oven at 180° C for 50 minutes.

CHURCHKHELA Churchkhela, “the Georgian Snickers,” is the most popular Georgian dessert and is eaten year-round but especially in the autumn and during the New Year festivities. Most commonly made with nuts, you can opt to put in raisins and dried fruits instead (or as well as). Slice it and put it on your Christmas table for guests to pick at before or after the feast. INGREDIENTS 1 kg walnuts or hazelnuts 1 liter condensed grape juice (red or white) 150 g wheat flour HOW TO MAKE IT Thread a needle and push the thread through the half walnuts or whole hazelnuts. When you have a string of nuts, tie a knot to make a loop. Heat the grape juice and add a quarter of it to the flour. Gently stir it until it becomes a smooth paste, then slowly add the rest of the grape juice and stir. Pour the mix into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it thickens. You’ll need around 20 minutes of continuous stirring to get it ready. Now dip the threads into the hot grape paste, pushing the nuts deep into it with a wooden spoon, then slowly pulling them out from the top string. Hang each string to dry. The GEORGIA TODAY team wishes all our readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year(s)!



DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019

Christmas Lights – A Festive ‘Did You Know…?’ BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


here are a number of holidays celebrated throughout the year worldwide, and Christmas and New Year seem to be the most popular, celebrated on December 25 or January 7 (depending on the country) and January 1, respectively. Colorful festivals, concerts and various entertaining and religious events represent unalienable parts of the season. Interestingly enough, preparing for the holidays is often just as exciting as the celebration itself. Throughout December, the world soaks up the festive atmosphere, the crowds rush to the shops to buy gifts for their friends and family and the cities' streets and houses are decorated with Christmas trees and a beautiful array of lights. Even though Christmas trees and the lights can be found in every home, one rarely thinks about the history of the lights themselves- their origins and symbolism. Let’s have a look. Christmas lights have evolved enormously since their first appearance. The first illuminated Christmas trees were lit up with small miniature candles in the 17th century in Protestant upper-class German families, the custom then being assimilated in other European countries. Some think the roots of using candles to decorate go back to pagan festivities, where light was of primary importance. After the Christianization of pagan holidays, the candle-lighting tradition was incorporated into Christmas customs. Candles were stuck to the tree branches with melted wax or attached using pins. The first candleholders were introduced around 1890. The first electric tree lights were introduced in 1882 and are connected with the name of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent bulb. He hung strings of electric lights outside his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1880. The first illuminated Christmas tree was shown off by one of Edison's employees to reporters who visited his Manhattan house in 1882. At first, the cost of Christmas lighting was high and only the wealthy could afford it. Its popularity and demand grew in the 1920s. Since then the development of Christmas lights has gone through many different stages. In the 1970s, the market was introduced a mini light which is widely used even today, serving as a revolution in decorative lighting. The mini bulbs offered high-impact, low-cost lighting and used a lower wattage per strand. Aside adding color and a festive air to the holidays, it is widely believed that Christmas tree lights

also symbolize different particularities. Some people claim the Christmas lights signify the Star of Bethlehem, the sign that marked Christ’s birth, while others believe it is a symbol of the light, hope and good in the world. Sometimes it is also associated with the following of the enlightened path, the path of Christ. Some also suggest Christmas lights denote the stars in the sky. Nowadays, Christmas lights may even represent a matter of obsession. In the USA, there is a high level of rivalry among neighbors for the best (and most) decorated house at Christmas. Every year, Georgia joins the tradition of using lights for decoration. The families gather and embellish their houses and Christmas trees with marvelous colorful bulbs. But the lit up capital Tbilisi is definitely a must-see. For a number of years, the local government has put a lot of effort into decorating Tbilisi and making it a worthy sight for both locals and visitors. The buildings and streets are illuminated all over the city and trees are adorned with multiple light strands. The décor of the city changes every year and becomes more and more beautiful every time. The most opulent part of the Christmas decoration is the stunning Liberty Square Christmas tree. In 2015, CNN named Tbilisi’s lights among the best 16 festive lights in the world worth seeing. “Georgia’s capital city goes all ethereal with a Christmas light show that makes rush hours a lot more interesting,” – the website reported.

Window Project Gallery Hosts Artist’s First Personal Show in Georgia & Launches New Exhibition Space


he show currently on display in the Window Project Gallery unites three directions of work of Georgian artist Vakhtang Kokiashvili: mythos, religion and ethnographic pop. The first presents a mirror of the unconscious, the second reveals religious themes in a form of kitsch, and ethnographic pop demonstrates how the artist delved into historical time and returned past models to the present. The exhibition Second Order offers visitors a showcase of different stages of the artist’s development where mythological forms are transformed into effects of production and design. During the last years of his life Kokiashvili focused on the translation of religious narratives and symbols into the consumer language of the 2000s, shaping new creative spaces which can encompass a wider social range and at the same time maintain independence. Horizontal expansion of artistic expression and cultural value is furthered in his work through the usage of many different forms of production (enamel, abstract paintings, assemblages and pop art installations). The conceptual design of the show was developed by Lado Lomitashvili, a

professional architect. Vakhtang Kokiashvili was born in Tbilisi in 1930. He’s father Ioseb was a well-known artist and caricaturist. After graduating the Tbilisi Art Academy, Kokiashvili became interested in postimpressionism and American expressionism. He started working in monumental art (stained glass window, mosaic, design, poster etc.). The emergence of stained-glass art in Georgia is very much influenced by Kokiashvili. He is best known for creating following works: stained glass windows in the interior of the former Hotel Iveria (Tbilisi), at the lower station of the Tbilisi Funicular, at the Tbilisi International Airport, at the Institute of Physiology (Tbilisi); painting and stained glass window at the Hotel Metekhi (Tbilisi). His works have also been presented in the other Georgian cities and locations: Kutaisi, Abasha, Kvareli, Tskhinvali, Sukhumi, Adler, Pitsunda, recreational complexes of the Ritsa Lake (Abkhazia) and Nalchik (Russian Federation), numerous sites in Moscow (Russian Federation), Ukraine and Kazakhstan. His collection of works also unites hundreds of collages, graphic works and assemblages. He died in his house–studio in Tbilisi in 2010.





DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 December 29 WERTHER Jules Massenet Music director of the production Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Joseph Franconi Lee Scenographer- Emmanuelle Favre Costume designer - Ester Martin Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-300 GEL TBILISI STATE PUPPET THEATER 59 M. Kostava Ave. December 29, 30, January 2, 3 A CHRISTMAS TALE Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 7 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. December 28 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL December 29 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL December 30 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL TBILISI CIRCUS 1 The Heroes Sq. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 58 61 December 28, 29, 30 NEW YEAR SHOW Start time: 13:00, 17:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL


GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS Until February 28, 2019 In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 298 22 81 Until January 20 The Georgian National Museum in the framework of the Project “Contemporary Art Gallery” presents THE SOLO EXHIBITION OF LIA BAGRATIONI A MAD TEA-PARTY MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Until March 1 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. The exposition also showcases documentary footage depicting the repressions of the 1920-30s.


THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until January 17, 2019 NIKO PIROSMANI’S RENEWED EXHIBITION Until October 5, 2019 EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art. Until January 20, 2019 Anniversary exhibition of Georgian artist USHANGI KHUMARASHVILI His artistic traditions are classic avant-garde. The severe Soviet legacy and socialism were embraced in his creativity in a space of non-conformism. The main and initial stage of his art begins from 1970-80, when he defined himself as an expressive abstractionist. KHIDI V.Bagrationi Bridge, Right Embankment Every Tuesday, from 15:00-20:00 Until February 20, 2019 Multidisciplinary exhibition project IN-BETWEEN CONDITIONS ‘In-between conditions’ displays 18 work contributions expressing cultural impulses affected by political or social forces. WINDOW PROJECT GALLERY 7 Tatishvili Str. TEL (+995) 577 55 35 53 VAKHTANG KOKIASHVILI’S SOLO EXHIBITION SECOND ORDER MUSIC

SOUNDS OF GEORGIA December 28, 29, 30 Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, which

is a mix of traditional Georgian music, featuring different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, as well as new Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Tickets: 23 GEL Venue: December 28: New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’; Venue: December 29: 16 G. Kikodze Str., Café ‘Ezo’; Venue: December 30: Europe Sq., 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel "Nata", Terrace TBILISI CONCERT HALL 1 Melikishvili St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 00 99 December 29 ALICE AT BBB CARNIVAL Basti and Bubu, DJ Kote, Gogicha and his camera Sonic, Dodi Gio, heroes from the BBB Academy series. Start time: 16:00, 19:00 Ticket: 10-30 GEL TBILISI EVENT HALL 1 Melikishvili Ave.

January 2 MTSVANE OTAKHI Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 40-1500 GEL WINE FACTORY 1 Petriashvili Str. December 31 AULD DISCO SYNE Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 90 GEL SPACEHALL 1 A. Tsereteli Ave. December 31 New Year / Freedom Night #12: Agoria • NTHNG • Tijana T Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 30 GEL January 1 DECODER : ANJA SCHNEIDER / ALEX.DO / RAAR / 747 Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 40 GEL IN THE DENSE FOREST Tskneti, The last stop

December 28 SOFT EJECT NEW YEAR CONCERT Start time: 20:30 Ticket: 35 GEL

December 31 NEW YEAR AT DENSE FOREST Start time: 00:00 Ticket: 150 GEL

CAFE MZIURI Mziuri park


December 30 SAKVIARO FOR CHILDREN Great fun with invited guests Start time: 12:00-14:00 HILLSIDE Okrokana January 2 STEPHANE Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 50-100 GEL REPUBLIC The 1st Republic Sq. December 31 New Year Party @ Republic REPUBLIC & Club Iveria host grandiose New Year Party with American live band PillowTalk and the German DJ Hazy Pockets Start time: 01:00 Ticket: 100-300 GEL

December 28 BRAVO MAESTRO! Dedicated to the 85th anniversary of Nodar Gabunia Participants: Nato Gabunia, violin Mamikon Nakhapetov, piano Trio ‘Storioni’- Bart van de Roer, Wouter Vossen, Marc Vossen Iberi- Quartet Giorgi Khaindrava (violin), Tamar Bulia (violin), Irakli Japaridze (viola), Murad Ibragimov (cello). In program: Works by Nodar Gabunia Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-20 GEL THE BILTMORE HOTEL TBILISI 29 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995) 0322 72 72 72 December 31 NEW YORK VOICES Ticket includes: Live performance from New York Voices, Quintessence band and DJ Machaidze Georgian Supra on 31st December in the Grand Royal Ballroom of the hotel Sparkling, red and white wine Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 450 GEL CASTELLO MARE HOTEL & WELLNESS RESORT Tsikhisdziri, Adjara TEL (+995) 422 21 28 28 December 31 NEW YEAR AT CASTELLO MARE Gigi Adamashvili, Showman Nikoloz Tsulukidze, Georgian Folk Dances, Karaoke Battle, New Year Gifts, Gala Dinner, DJ Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 280-700 GEL SAIRME HOTELS & RESORTS Baghdati, Resort Sairme TEL (+995) 032 240 45 45 December 31 #NEWYEARSAIRME Start time: 10:30 Ticket: 2 nights, 3 days- 1350 GEL HOTEL PORTA CAUCASIA KAZBEGI 2 Tergdaleulebi Str., Stepantsminda TEL (+995) 322 25 77 70 December 31 MUSICAL BAND EL FLUIDS Two nights for 2 persons: $490



DECEMBER 28 - JANUARY 7, 2018/2019


A Gifted Foreign Artist Names Mtskheta Her “Real Home” BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


igh-end artist Sharmaine Thérèsa Pretorius, of South African descent and with a colorful ancestry, has lived in Oman for the past eight years, but loves Georgia with great passion. It is here you will find her once a year connecting with nature, culture and the spiritual heart of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, trying to draw as little attention to herself as possible. It is also here where her youngest son Jaques is based. To Sharmaine, her ‘normal’ has become living life in a supernatural way, just as C.S. Lewis did. The barrier so many of us find between the visible and the invisible is just not there for her. The artist, who has been described as the ‘essence of an extraordinary gifted mind’ because of her prodigally styled, powerful intellect and intricate artistic drawings which include hidden puzzles and musical compositions, seems refreshingly down to earth in person. She essentially copies her dreams onto paper. She gained international recognition as an emerging artist in 2017, particularly for her drawing named ‘Mars Trojan – Elon – The Shroud’ (5517A), describing it as a study of holographic memories from her dreams. A digital copy of the work and another have been circling in low space orbit as part of her involvement with Asgardia Space Nation, on the Asgardia 1 nanosat cube, since November 2017. In a recent article in ‘Love and Politics’ printed by http://freigeist-verlag.net/ en/buecher/love-politics/, Pretorius gave finer insight into her thoughts of how things can go wrong when cultures

do not have proper references for what they are looking at. She plots Elon Musk’s car and her digital work of art hanging in space in the future as something an alien civilization sent to clean up space. Her plea is for humanity to start “throwing beautiful things into space” so that a future generation may not end up thinking her picture is ‘the Shroud’ or the Tesla Roadster a pumpkin coach. Recently, Taketo Oguchi from Japan, the Editor-in-Chief of the largest Japanese online webzine SHIFT, accompanied by celebrity artist Miwa Yokoyama, visited Oman in the Gulf to interview Pretorius.

Oguchi is a celebrity in his own right, with interests extending to the art of design and beautiful spaces. He is notorious for his huge personal impact on helping to establish Sapporo, the capital of the Japanese island of Hokkaido; as one of the Creative Cities listed by UNESCO. He revealed his golden key of measurement during his visit to Oman as to how to find exceptionally gifted artists: “Most importantly, artists should possess the ‘Kaizen’ attitude and should have superior relationship skills, know the difference between ‘significance’ and mere ‘success’, have a sense of humor, char-

acter and integrity, a steely will and determination to succeed, and produce uniquely original work.” Pretorius definitely holds the golden key: something remarkable. In Georgia, it is the cultural and creative resources of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti part of an EU Initiative ‘Creative cities and regions’ that have captured Sharmaine Pretorius. “I love the warmth of the people, the sense of spirituality, the compelling history and the breathtaking beauty. It is the one place in the world that people should visit at least once in a lifetime, it is THAT unique,” she says. It is there she enjoys staying with her

spiritual friend and her Georgian ‘mother,’ as she calls her dear friend Nona. Her Instagram account shows the likes of people such as millionaire ‘Masatoshi Kumagai,’ who visited Tbilisi in September to attend a conference on virtual currency, and billionaire art collector Dakis Joannou of Greece, taking a keen interest in her work. She has invited a young artist from Tbilisi to join her at the opening of her upcoming exhibition in 2019, of ‘Enclosure Fathom Part 2’ in Oman. Sharmaine has great respect for Georgian artists and foresees great things for the country. She has also been invited by the GAA Foundation to exhibit the poster version of ‘Mars Trojan – Elon – The Shroud’ (5517A) in Italy at the Venice Biennale. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of an intercontinental artistic friendship that will last a lifetime. Sharmaine has been drawing for the past thirteen and a half years. She holds more than 600 continuing education credits, spread over safety and security, health, and emergency service fields, though she has no formal art training or credentials, apart from natural talent. She is also a sufferer of the auto-immune condition Secondary Sjögren Syndrome with mixed tissue disorder. Her first solo exhibition ‘Enclosure Fathom – Part 1’ was held in Nizwa, in Oman, in February 2018, at Al Rayyan Gallery. 150 high-end art collectors were invited to enjoy a personal experience in the heart of the desert. She sells work only by invitation. She is represented legally by CMS LAW Oman – Advocate Ben Ewing originally from the UK. More of her works can be seen on her website www.artshowroom.org and instagram https://www.instagram.com/sharm.t.p/

A Visitor’s View BY THE GT TEAM


yna Heng is an economist at an international organization based on Washington DC. She visited Georgia in December as a member of a team that provided training to a group of officials at central banks and ministries of finance from 11 countries in the region. The training took place in Batumi. She wrote the following poem to reflect her time and experiences here, which GEORGIA TODAY decided to publish in this last issue of 2018 as an inspiration to all. Georgia’s Rose Georgia, I came to you and you took over my mind With hospitality, cuisine, and wines. Your vivacious rose as it was in full bloom Embraced the friendship that filled the room.

The sweet smile on her face aroused my curiosity And was etched on my fond memories. Her sparkling eyes were the windows to the soul, As the black-sea breeze told the story of Ali and Nino. The whisper made my heart tremble While Jvari sunset faded with Shorena. The affection did not want to let me go Until next time, Genatsvale to the Georgia’s rose. Heng told us: “Although my time in Georgia was rather short, I enjoyed my stay immensely. I like the hospitality, the smiles, food, wine, and the beautiful landscapes that the country offers. To me, Georgian people are good looking, openminded, frank, and optimistic. The people I met are very good-natured and are eager to help. These characteristics quickly opened my heart and my mind to learn and love Georgian traditions, culture, foods, and stories of the country as well as of the individual Georgians I met.”



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1113  

December 28 - January 7, 2018/2019

Issue #1113  

December 28 - January 7, 2018/2019