Once upon a time, near the Georgian town of Tsageri, two weary cycle tourists sat down beside a roadside spring to prepare a feast (well a salad). They were tired but elated after cycling for many miles and months across countries and most recently over majestic mountains. As they ate, a carriage pulled up and out jumped three friendly souls -Poplar, Anna and her husband Zuri. They had come to collect water from the spring and they watched a little while as the travellers ate. Poplar was most concerned to see that they had no wine to accompany their meal and invited them to accompany him immediately to his house. Now the cyclists were a little reluctant to accept this kind offer but Poplar was insistent. They knew the strength of his feelings when he took his hoe from the back of his carriage and pretended to gather them up, bikes and all. Refusing this good-natured hospitality was not an option and so with happy hearts the cyclists followed Poplar’s slow moving carriage for 2km.
They arrived first at the house of Zuri,where behind iron gates a secret garden of grapes and wonderful inventions lay. There were home made swings and rocking horses. A workshed with every conceivable tool and rooms where wine was made. As the travellers marvelled at this sanctuary they were led into a secret chamber and a feast of fresh hazelnuts, preserved black walnuts, cheese, salad and bread was laid before them by Anna. Mariam, the clever maiden from across the road was ushered in to translate the strange tongue of the visitors. The children of the house played and everyone was merry. The great horns that hung from the walls were taken down filled with wine and elaborate toasts ensued. Each hornful had to be gulped down in one go and soon the travellers were feeling very tipsy.
After many hours in the enchanted garden the travellers stabled their steeds and accompanied Poplar to his house in the foothills of the mountains. The old Ford Transit carriage heaved its way through the dusk light along precarious roads.When they reached Poplars’ castle his cow was waiting patiently at the gate and the cockerel was roosting in a tree.
After milking the cow he taught Liz how to make cheese, it was a magical experience. Later the weary, merry travellers were given a comfortable bed for the night and fell sound a sleep.
The next morning Poplar prepared a delicious breakfast of homemade cheese and salad, there was delicious jam and bread. The travellers feasted well and felt it rude to decline Poplar’s offer of a glass of wine. Little did they know that one glass would turn into 3 litres of wine by 11am! Merry times indeed!
That afternoon the three new friends went to visit Poplar’s relatives in the neighbouring village. All had a splendid time, although the travellers found it hard to keep up with the revelry and had to sneak off for secret naps.
After two magical days the travellers reclaimed their steeds and set off again having experienced the legendary hospitality of the Georgian kingdom. Thank you Poplar, Zuri, Anna, Anna, Helen, Eka and Mariam and everyone we met in Tsageri for such a memorable time.