“Welcome to Georgia”

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I can’t say I remember ever hearing an immigration officer welcoming me to their country, but that was exactly what I heard after a long wait to exit at the Azerbaijan side in the small town of Lagodekhi. It goes to show it really doesn’t take much. I often wonder if immigration officers were a friendlier bunch, how that would change the whole dynamic of border crossings. Wishful thinking!

It’s nice to be in a visa-free zone again. Not only is a visa not required for Australian citizens, I am allowed to stay in Georgia for up to a year – quite a contrast to fixed-dates visas, letters of invitations and yada yada.

The marschrutka (minivan) ride from the small town of Seki in Azerbaijan to the town of Lagodekhi in Georgia was crowded, dusty, stuffy but fast. The driver drove like a maniac and we were sitting in the back row bouncing up and down. No complaints as we were on a mission, and arrived half an hour early. On the way we passed many churches and donation boxes and saw the driver and fellow passengers making the sign of the cross quite a few times. There were also roadside bread merchants waving bits of bread at us hoping for some customers – rather hilarious I find.

The marschrutka ride was then followed by a taxi ride which eventually got us to theTwins Old Cellar, a tiny family-run operation that makes wines in qvevri (large clay pots buried underground). I am definitely no connoisseur but both Rita and I figured it would be nice to stay in a winery for a change. And although I wouldn’t say I loved the wines from this particular winery, I did love the surroundings and the room that overlooks the vineyards.