April 2013: Visit to Kutaisi
By LYDIA CLARKE, KEITH DODDS & JOYCE STEVEN
Joyce, Lydia & Keith were met by Madona Tkeshelashvilli when they flew into Tbilisi airport on Tuesday, 23rd April and from that moment it was non-
The day following their arrival, Mr Niko Kachkachishvili, Kutaisi’s Vice Mayor received them in his Office. They toured the new Parliament building and met members of the women's club of the Kutaisi Picture Gallery. Here they were treated to a wonderful concert performed by a group of young musicians.
Visits to many places of interest were made such as to a private school, where the Principal took them to her home, high in the mountains, for afternoon tea before going on to the Amirani restaurant and nightclub! On another day a visit to Gabashvili Park with its wonderful views overlooking Kutaisi with Nino Nijaradze and Guram Tsinkidze.
There followed memorable visits to Bagrati cathedral; Gelati monastery and Motsameta church; Beau Monde clinic and the Sataplia country park.
Lydia, Joyce & Keith visited Newport Street named in honour of the city of Newport in 2001. They were wined and dined wherever they went, experiencing a true sense of friendship and hospitality that can only be described as second to none.
A meeting took place with members at the Kutaisi Newport International Association office and on Saturday evening they were invited to have a meal at the home of David Megrelishvili’s parents. David and Keith’s son, Leighton were very good friends during the time David was working in Caerleon, near Newport.
On Sunday 38 people attended a farewell dinner in honour of the visitors where gifts were exchanged and thanks given to everyone for a most memorable week.
The day before departing on Monday morning a meeting took place at the English Philology Department of the Kutaisi State University just prior to the start of the homeward journey back to Tbilisi.
On the way to the Georgian capital city more places of interest were pointed out to them such as the town of Gori, the birthplace of Stalin and where there is a museum dedicated to the once USSR leader.
The Newport visitors and Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association would like to express their heartfelt thanks to everyone, especially:
KNIA chair -
From Keith Dodds & Lydia Clark: A memorable trip that will remain with us for life; we think how warm and lovely are the people of Georgia, hard working and a joy to be with!
From Joyce Steven: I am really grateful to the Newport-
There is a real difference between visiting a country as a tourist and being welcomed as an honoured guest. We were no one of note but that didn’t matter to them. Anyone from Newport is obviously given VIP treatment. We were interviewed on camera twice and so many people were happy to talk to us.
It helps that their interest in the English language meant that communication was not an issue. What was also clear was the positive effect the relationship with Newport has had over many years by those who have been involved especially in visits to Newport. As we were with the “real” inhabitants we were able to get a true impression of life in Georgia. The older people could tell us of the differences between their current lives and the period under communism.
Communism, it appears, was not all bad. The younger people would emphasise their pleasure with their current freedoms but that they did want to keep the best of past values especially wider family ties. The architecture tells the same story with some good old buildings, many communism period ugly dwellings and derelict factories and then some very interesting repaired and new buildings. In particular the new fountain in the main square in Kutaisi, both during the day and at night, is worth seeing.
The details on where we went and who we saw are in Lydia and Keith’s report but perhaps I would want to emphasise the beauty and variety of the countryside throughout Georgia (and we only saw a part of it). What that report also doesn’t mention is our ongoing trip to Kutaisi was delayed by a few hours due to overnight snow on the mountain pass on the main road from Istanbul to Bagdad.
They were also having a delayed spring. That road alone gives some idea of Georgia’s location (between the Caspian and Black seas) and history. The Georgians are a very welcoming and hospitable people with a complicated and long history and culture.
I would recommend all those able to visit, to see the countryside, the architecture and historical sites but above all to enjoy the company of these great people.