Georgia on My Mind

This item appears on page 35 of the November 2019 issue.

The essays submitted on the topic “Georgia on My Mind” left the ITN staff with some clear impressions of what a visitor might see and experience in this republic along the Caucasus Mountains and Black Sea. The essay by SALLY SCHNITGER was judged to be the best, and she wins a 2-year extension to her subscription to ITN (or she can pass her prize along to a friend). The second-place winner, earning a year’s extension, was CAROLE SALOWICH.

For ITN subscribers only, our next essay contest topic is “I Adore Ecuador.” If you have been to Ecuador (can include the Galápagos Islands), write an essay in no more than 300 words. Leave us uplifted by giving examples of how it felt to be there and of the local culture, sharing any insights you gained or meaningful encounters you had and painting verbal pictures of things you saw. Email your essay to or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is December 31, 2019. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in ITN.

Now here are this month’s winning essays.


Our first visit to the Republic of Georgia was in 1971. The country was under Russian control. Everything except the government buildings was crumbling and gray. The people were somber and suspicious of foreigners. My husband and I returned in August 2019. We found a country that was vibrant, hopeful and striving to establish its identity.

Tbilisi has been rebuilt. The center of town is a marvel of modern architecture. In spite of all that, homage was paid to Old Town, which has been reclaimed and turned into the restaurant quarter. It has kept its charm and is a pleasant place to rub elbows with the locals and drink Georgian wine.

Bordering Old Town are the Turkish baths, fed by natural hot springs. A river flows through the town. Sightseeing boats ply the waters, giving a spectacular view of the fort, monasteries and monuments that dot the mountains behind.

The younger generation had no experience with Communism. They are fluent in English and are happy to talk about their aspirations for their country. They hope Georgia becomes a member of the EU and NATO. Everyone we talked with was optimistic about the future.

We drove through the mountainous countryside to Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. In 1971, Gori was a shrine where the man was glorified. Today, it is a factual museum. It is probably the only place on Earth where you can buy a Stalin T-shirt, refrigerator magnets or a brandy-bottle bust of the man.

Georgia is a country with a long and complex history. It was the third region in the world to become Christian. Both the Turks and Russians have had a profound effect shaping the national character. Somehow, Georgia has maintained its identity.

Carole Salowich
West Bloomfield, MI


Gamarjoba, Sakartvelo! Hello to the Republic of Georgia, one of the most beautiful countries I have traveled to. The mountains are high and snow-covered, dappled with churches and monasteries. The food and wine are delicious. Even better, folks are patient with your attempts to pronounce their tongue-twisting language!

Sample this small country from the Gudauri ski area in the snowy mountainous north to central Mtskheta, with its formal Mother cathedral, to the Black Sea coast.

Enjoy wine grown from vines developed over 8,000 years ago in the Kakheti region. When you walk Sighnaghi’s hilltop fortress walls, you have a clear view of the Alazani Valley, a wide valley traversed by traders and invaders over the centuries.

Continue your taste for history by visiting the Stalin Museum in Gori and giggle at the kitschy souvenir Stalin refrigerator magnets that take the sting out of the “Man of Steel.”

Walk all over Tbilisi’s Old City, then luxuriate in a sulfurous steamy bath, the best bath Pushkin ever had. Take the funicular up Mt. Mta tsmin da early in the morning to enjoy the forested slopes and birdsong, or go on a warm weekend and enjoy the carnival rides with the children.

What I enjoy most is relaxed café life. Take a seat and order up a plate of khachapuri (cheese-filled and -topped bread) and some khinkali. Your order may arrive in 20 to 30 minutes, so take time to watch the people walking by.

Savor a glass of Saperavi red wine, with its earthy taste from the clay amphora in which it aged. Hold a steamed khinkali dumpling by its stem, take a bite out of the top, and let the filling slide down your throat.

That is a meal you will never forget.

Nakhvamdis, Sakartvelo. Goodbye, Georgia. I’ll be back!

Sally Schnitger
Glendale, CA