Street Dogs and Whitney Houston: A memorable month in Tbilisi, Georgia

My name’s Sophie and I’m the Russian editor for this year’s edition. I’m about to start my final year studying Spanish and Russian and have just finished my year abroad, coming back from Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to study in Tbilisi, Georgia for a month which was practically a dream come true for me since I had heard so many amazing things about the city and watched so many travel documentaries, hoping that one day I’d actually be able to experience it for myself. For a country that is so often confused with the US state, Georgia has so much to offer and is truly one of the most culturally interesting countries that I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

After initially landing in Tbilisi, I was greeted by mountains surrounding me as far as the eye can see and stray dogs just starting to wake up on the pavement as the sun began to rise. One of the most magical things about the city is that there are so many friendly and playful dogs on almost every corner. If you feel brave enough to pet them (which it’s extremely hard not to), they will most likely follow you to wherever you are going for the next few hours and you’ll have your own little companion to explore the city with.

Georgian food is definitely what visitors rave about the most, and for good reason! I was able to try many new and delicious foods such as khinkali (filled dumplings), shkmeruli (garlic chicken) and churchkhela (a string of nuts dipped in grape juice syrup), but one of the tastiest and most iconic dishes is khachapuri, a cheese-filled bread which is served piping hot and, quite frankly, it is life-changing. One of the most vivid memories I have of Georgian hospitality was during our first road trip.

By chance, my friends and I managed to get a Bolt driver named Vazha who offered to take us not only to the location we were heading to anyway, but also to a nearby monastery and gave us a tour of the church and its grounds. We learned a lot about the local area from him and he even gave us his contacts in case we wanted to go anywhere else in the country. Of course, we took him up on his offer and decided to drive to Stepantsminda in the north of the country. What we didn’t know though, was that Vazha was the single biggest Whitney Houston fan in the whole of Georgia and we sat through her whole discography at maximum volume for hours straight. No matter where we stopped on our road trip, whether it was at a breath-taking fortress or just a cow on the side of the road, we would always be met by his famous catchphrase, ‘Ну что, понравилось?’ (Well then, did you like it?) accompanied by the widest grin. Nothing and no-one was exempt from a ‘Ну что, понравилось?’ moment and those three words made the trip all the more memorable.

Going to Georgia was such an eye-opener for me and genuinely one of the best times I’ve had with new friends and new experiences, so it’ll always hold a big place in my heart.

Sophie Mash

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