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Is that Alaverdi?

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century A 1972 photo of a Georgian family picnicking near a medieval monastery, part of a series taken in this retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

We walked into eastern Georgia across a wooden bridge reinforced with rusty iron beams that boomed as huge tree trunks slammed into the pillars. The low crossing spanned a wild white water river that had recently flooded. Most of the flooded channels were now dry but their scars were unmistakable. The main river that was delivering the wooden gongs however, still tumbled out of the Caucasus with purpose. It was late autumn and definitely wasn't warm. The not so far off peaks were already heavy with snow and down in the valley that year's wine had already been pressed and would be soon ready to drink.

As we crossed, the guards spoke with my wife in the international language of Real Madrid footballers, perhaps covering for the fact that they couldn't find Spain in their early 90's computer, perhaps mildly interrogating her, maybe flirting, maybe a combination of all the above.

My passport received barely a grunt.

We were crossing from Azerbaijan, a country in which we had just spent four of the eventual 12 months we would spend astride the Caspian. Crossing a border that technically hadn't existed under the USSR, but one that now marks one of the unofficial lines between East and West, between Christendom and Al-Islam. President Bush had stopped in the Georgian capital on his Freedom tours, his henchmen Cheney and Rumsfeld had only visited the oil terminals in Azerbaijan.

We picnicked near where I think the above photo was taken. Is it Alaverdi?

Fetish cloths hung tied from trees that had lost their leaves and we saw a family enjoy shashlyk freshly cut from a recently slaughtered lamb hanging from a nearby tree. Picnicking in this part of the world is serious business. Neighbouring Iranians have it as a national sport.


My wife joked that we were now in a 'Christian' country and visiting the church with the towering spire wouldn't be a problem. Full of Georgian wine, she confidently walked through the thick defensive walls where she was quickly informed that her trousers were not acceptable and that she would have to wear a dress provided at the gate. The dangerous cleavage and come-fuck-me white boots of Islamic Baku burned in her memory as she wrapped a scarf around her already covered legs.

The picture(s) above brings back memories that not even the most insistent 'tamada' can erase.

Sakarvelos gaumarjos!

Comments

i love the way you tell a story and the pictures matches it perfectly

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