Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Georgians have a saying about those who first visit, report on, or invade their country. "A guest," they say, "is a gift from God." The old survival technique to make your enemy your friend still works, and this small, much coveted and plundered culture has held up remarkably well over 2000 years of visitation.
The country can hold a powerful sway over its guests. In my case that began 13 years ago, when Georgia glowed as the richest, most welcoming, champagne-laden holiday resort of the Soviet Union. I'd been swept in on a tide of Russian literary enthusiasm for the ancient Caucasian nation. Not surprisingly Georgian hospitality hooked me. Standing under that majestic white horn of rock, Mt. Kazbek, I quickly understood why Tolstoy, Pushkin, Lermontov, Mandelstam had found themselves transfixed. The landscape was breathtaking, the culture no less dramatic. Proud, independent, highly artistic, Georgians proffered a natural friendliness and generosity, even within the suspicious Soviet clasp.