Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Ann Hellerstein, with her husband, Samuel Belkin, and their daughter, Melanie Belkin, all of Rockville; and their son Daniel Belkin, of Los Angeles
Where, when, why: In May 2012, my son Mitchell announced that he’d taken a job in Georgia. I had visions of peach trees and Southern drawls in mind until he clarified his destination: the Republic of Georgia. We took a 10-day trip to visit him in June.
Highlights and high points: Georgia is a diverse country bordering the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. The highlights for us were the amazing, dreamy mountains in Kazbegi (now officially known as Stepantsminda), the Mtirala rain forest plus waterfall and the warmth of the Georgian people.
Cultural connection or disconnect: The interesting thing about Georgia is the contrast between fancy modern skyscrapers in the cities and locations where dirt roads prevail and toilets consist of a hole in the ground. (And bring your own toilet paper, or you’ll be in trouble!)
Biggest laugh or cry: We missed our overnight train from Tbilisi to Batumi and ended up taking a marshrutka, a city bus that’s actually just a large van. In our case, 25 people were crammed into a space for 20. The driver smoked nonstop and swerved around traffic at speeds well above the posted limits. During the six-hour drive, I gazed through the cracked windshield (I hoped the crack was from a rock and not a bullet) and knew that this would be the most unforgettable experience of the trip!
How unexpected: Ajarian kachapuri is a local specialty. It’s cheese bread served hot and topped with a raw egg (which cooks in the bread as it’s served) and butter — an amazingly delicious treat that you must taste in Batumi (but ignore all thoughts about calories and cholesterol).
Fondest memento or memory: The roads are poorly kept, the drivers are dangerous (speeding up for red lights and using lane markings as general guidelines only), but the Georgian people are truly friendly and warm to strangers. They love wine and toasts and spending time with friends and family.