Georgian Supra

Weekly Photo Challenge : Ambience: The Georgian Supra

This week’s challenge is Ambience.
The Georgian Supra has a particular ambience, where family and friends gather around a table laden with food, make toasts and eat well.


The ‘supra’ is a traditional and extravagant Georgian meal, held on all big occasions and the backbone of Georgian culture.

Though the specifics vary depending on the host and the company present, many elements of a supra are always the same. The traditional leader of the supra is the Tamada, or toastmaster, who leads the toasts. This person is as vital to the supra as the supra is to Georgian culture, because supras revolve entirely around toasts, which can stretch out to several minutes in length. The Tamada always opens with a toast to Sakartvelo (Georgia, in Georgian) and then one to God, and then generally one to the most honoured people in the room, the guests.

Another element of the supra is the food and wine, which keeps on flowing. The wine is usually homemade and the jugs will be frequently topped up. Georgians claim to have invented wine , an element of their culture they are extremely proud of. In Soviet days Georgia (along with Moldova) supplied the wine for the whole Soviet Union.

If it’s a proper supra, the attendees will leave tipsy and full, in both body and spirit. They will feel camaraderie with the other people around the table, a connection after all the toasts, wine, songs, food, and conversation. New relationships will have been forged, new memories created.

Sunday in the Village

“Sopelshi” (in the village) is a word I hear a lot. Many of the residents of Tbilisi have a village in the country, where they rest and have their roots. My wife’s mother came from a small village near Gori and some of her relatives are still there. In early autumn there is an abundance of fruit: tomatoes, apples, plums, pumpkins, grapes etc… ready for picking. We are driven out of Tbilisi by Khato’s brother for a day in the  village.

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Aunt Gulo’s yard, a hen wandering about

In the village even lunch is a feast.

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lunch

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Married to Khato, I am now part of a big Georgian family

Georgian tomato fields; the tomatoes might not look as attractive as the intensively farmed Turkish tomatoes in the supermarkets, but the taste is far superior.

In the evening we have a supra with barbecue. Eating a lot of local produce, washed down with homemade wine from local grapes and the inevitable Georgian toasts to everyone and everything.

After the supra we head back to Tbilisi, just over an hour away.

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sunset in the village

 

A trip to Racha: Day 2

This post follows on from A trip to Racha: Day 1

Because some of our group were enjoying the previous night’s supra (Georgian feast) until 3am, Sunday didn’t get off to an early start. After we’d breakfasted and got everything ready,  we finally left the guest house at 1pm. The weather on the Saturday had been hot and dry, on the Sunday it was cooler and  more overcast with some rain.

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Khvanchkara, a rich red wine said to be Stalin’s favourite

Stalin’s first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, was born in Racha, tragically she died of typhus at the age of just 22. Stalin reputedly said ‘This creature softened my heart of stone. She’s died and with her have died my last warm feelings for humanity.’  Stalin allowed her funeral to take place in an Orthodox church despite his atheism.

Our first visit would be to another church, the chapel of the Virgin at Barakoni in the village of Tsesi built in 1753.

The grass around the church is still cut with a scythe.

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gardener

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Barakoni Chapel (Interior)

The church was closed and desecrated under the Bolshevik rule. It suffered further damage, though not serious, in the 1991 Racha earthquake, but was quickly repaired.

After Barakoni we took a long unpaved muddy track up into the Khikhata range to the church of St George in the mountain village of Mravaldzali. The views over to the peaks of Svaneti were awesome. We passed another vehicle, whose driver suggested we had just another 2km to travel, half an hour later we finally reached Mravaldzali church. Nika’s driving was exemplary.

The interior of the church felt holy. A sanctuary from the outside world.

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Khato prays at an icon in Mravaldzali Church.

We didn’t stay long at the church and returned along the muddy track admiring the view until we came out by the River Rioni.

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River Rioni

Then, as is the Georgian custom another supra, I sat out most of this feast, my stomach is not Georgian.

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Supra by the roadside sheltered from the rain.

We finally got on the road home at 9pm, arriving in Tbilisi around 1 am.

 

An Excursion to Uplistsikhe and Ateni Sioni with not one but two Georgian Supras (feasts)

Our group

Our group at Uplitsikhe

Uplistsikhe is a cave city complex like Vardzia, the destination of my first trip with this group of Khato’s colleagues. As is usual with these trips, we got up early, we had been told to meet the minibus at 8.30am at Didube in Tbilisi. With true Georgian timing the minibus didn’t actually leave until 9.15am, when the last of the stragglers arrived.

Our first stop was Gori, a town famed as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, Georgia’s most famous son. Our stop was not for sightseeing but to pick up some fruit for our supra (Georgian Feast) later.

Gori Castle

Gori Fortress

There used to be a statue of Stalin in the main square but it was taken down in 2010. Here is a statue of a different “hero”.

“Lomkatsa” or ” lionman”, a fictional Georgian adonis, sculpted by Elguja Amashukeli in 1986 .

 

Uplistsikhe is 10 km from Gori, and sits scenically on the banks of the Mtkvari. It has been a settlement since the early Iron Age and is possibly the oldest urban settlement in Georgia, the main development was from 6th Century BC to 1st Century AD. It has a strategic position on the Silk Road, linking east with west, archaeological digs in the area have revealed artefacts from east and west. The city was an important religious centre in pagan, pre Christian Georgia and magic ceremonies were still practised here until the 18th century. Archaeological studies show that from 4th Century AD to 6th Century AD there was a struggle between the Christians and Pagans. The Kings of Kartli took residence at Uplistsikhe when the Arabs took Tbilisi in the 7th Century. The city declined after David the Builder retook Tbilisi in 1122, and large parts were destroyed by the Mongol hordes in 1240 and later by Tamurlane (or Timur) in the 14th Century. Settlement of the caves was finally abandoned in the early 19th century.

Our first stop was the museum, showing artefacts and a slide-show about the history of the caves. The slide-show was in Georgian but with English subtitles.

Museum at Uplistsikhe

Museum at Uplistsikhe

After our brief visit to the museum, we started to explore the cave complex.

Uplistsikhe

Uplistsikhe

The heat of July meant there were a lot of lizards about.

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lizard

The 10th century church at the top of the complex is Prince’s Church (Uplistsulis Eklesia). It was built over a pagan temple.

Prince's Church

Prince’s Church framed by Tamaris Dabazi

As with many Georgian sites, health and safety precautions are minimal compared to sites in the West.

Beso, Tamuna and Khato on an old wall.

Beso, Tamuna and Khato on an old wall.

Some first aid needed to be applied when Tamuna took a tumble.

P1290977After touring the cave city we headed to Ateni a village where our friends Spartak and Nona live. Spartak has his own wine cellar with his own “champagne”.

Spartak distributing champagne in his wine cellar

Spartak distributing “champagne” in his wine cellar

I’m no wine connoisseur, before coming to Georgia, I didn’t really drink alcohol and now I will only drink wine at Supras (Georgian feasts), but the Georgians were full of praise for he “champagne”. We had our first Supra, before heading out to a warm mineral pool in the beautiful Tana Valley.

Georigan Supra al fresco, where food is abundant and the wine flows freely.

Georigan Supra al fresco, under a mulberry tree, where food is abundant and the wine flows freely.

Our second destination was Ateni Sioni (ატენის სიონი) a seventh century church currently being restored, but still used for services.

Ateni Sioni

Ateni Sioni

Ateni Sioni interior showing extensive scaffolding

Ateni Sioni interior showing extensive scaffolding

Architecturally Ateni Sioni is modelled on the Jvari Church at Mtskheta.

The eleventh century frescoes are among the finest medieval art in the country.

The eleventh century frescoes are among the finest medieval art in the country.

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stags, hunting scene in the brickwork of the church

stags, hunting scene in the brickwork of the church

Then we return to Spartak’s for a second and lengthy supra under a mulberry tree.

Other trips made with this group or “აბოდიალებულები” (which roughly translates as “the wanderers”) :

Vardzia March 2015

Davit Gareja May 2015

Prometheus Cave June 2015

Kutaisi June 2015

Khevsureti trip August 2015