Yesterday was St Mary’s day, which is a significant holiday in Georgia. The Art Villa Garikula founder Karaman, Gogi Okropiridze (a Georgian artist based in Vienna) and ourselves headed out to Rkoni which is about 20km from Garikula but the drive took about an hour as was all dirt track roads. We then spent another hour changing a punctured tyre.
Hundreds of people arrived, literally by the truckload, from all over the region to celebrate Mariamoba (Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) and there was much feasting, drinking, dancing, singing and sacrificing of lambs and chickens – all supposedly a pre-Christian ritual. The main celebrations used to happen near the 7th century Rkoni monastery and a medieval settlement on the top of the hill but apparently it was forbidden by the church. The celebrations now spread across the beautiful Tedzami gorge on the banks of the Tedza river connected by a 12th century The Queen Tamar stone bridge.
As foreign guests we were stopped and invited to join many of the supras. In fact, at one point one party was hijacked and we were taken off to another party across the river. As usual it was impossible to be anything other than completely astonished at the level of hospitality and friendliness to complete strangers and to accept the food and the toasts.
Just before dusk we drove a different way home – a proper cross-country trip which involved crossing the river in a car about 10 times and speculations about the amount of petrol left… All that to see a rock hewn castle inbuilt on a top of a mountain and some caves that were used by hermits.
More celebrations followed once we were at home.