Krush on Georgia: touring Batumi

11/7/2012 – The Georgian city of Batumi, on the Black Sea coast, an important port and a commercial center. It is also a hotbed of chess events – type "Batumi" in the search mask on the top right to see reports of them. After playing the women's rapid and blitz world championship in Georgia IM Irina Krush toured the country. In part two of her report she tells us about the Georgian passion for good food.

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Batumi

A pictorial report by IM Irina Krush

Chronologically speaking (as I mentioned in the first part of my report) my trip around Georgia began with a few days in the capital, Tbilisi, upon my arrival. Then I took a train west to Batumi, where the tournament was held, then traveled north to Svaneti for three days, back south to Kutaisi for a day and a night, and went back to Tbilisi for the final three days, from where I made an excursion to Mtskheta on my last day.


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In this part we begin with Batumi. And food, which is an important aspect in Georgian life. They are used to eating well, not just in restaurants, but at home. When I cook at home, I am trying to make something healthy and nutritious, and of course, decent tasting. For me, the taste is not the number one criteria, but Georgians have much higher standards: they expect something delicious – at every meal.


Food: an advertisement for a political satire show, with Georgia's President, Mikhail
Saakashvili, at the head of the table. This photo was taken off a TV screen.


Dinner: on the left is kubdari, bread stuffed with meat, the national dish of Svaneti

I recently made some food, which I shared with a girlfriend. She praised my cooking, said how delicious everything was. Then I gave the same food to a Georgian friend. He said, about one dish, “don’t make this again”; as for the rest, it was barely passable. So you understand, they have this attitude because they have been spoiled with delicious food all their life.

One of the reasons the level of cooking is so high is that the quality of products is infinitely higher in Georgia than what we have access to here in the West. The food actually has taste! This was especially obvious in Svaneti, where so much of what was on the table came from our cow. In the US, I’ve already almost completely given up drinking milk; I don’t digest it very well. But I didn’t have this problem with the milk in Svaneti. And Georgian tomatoes are so flavorful – incomparable to the bland organic tomatoes I buy at home. There hasn’t been the industrialization of agriculture that we have in the U.S., and as a result, the food tastes completely different.


Georgian butter, naturally made at home...


... as is the bread – simply delicious!


But some of the things you have to buy – at the bazaar in Tbilisi

So let’s say you are at a Georgian table. There’s wine, because Georgia is the birthplace of wine! And you can’t drink it, unless a toast has been made. You should know that you can’t get away with saying ‘Cheers’ like you can in America. No, when it’s your turn, you have to say something. I love the Georgian table and am terrified of it. You can’t sit in your shell – you’re supposed to climb out of it, connect to the people around you, say something from your heart. For me, I always feel like I have nothing on the surface, and if I want to say anything with feeling and sincerity, I have to dig into my soul.

Irina Krush, 28, was born in Odessa, Ukraine. She learned to play chess at age five, emigrating with her parents to Brooklyn that same year (1989). Krush attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, and played in one of the top high school chess teams in the US.

At the age 14 she won the 1998 US Women's Chess Championship to become the youngest U.S. Women's Champion ever. She has won the U.S. Championship on three other occasions, in 2007, 2010, and 2012. Her current rating is 2464 and her title is International Master. At the coming Olympiad in Istanbul she will play on the second board of the US team.

Copyright Krush/ChessBase

Previous report on Georgia

Sakartvelos, Gaumarjos – Long Live Georgia!
22.08.2012 – Chess tournaments are not only about piece pushing and rating points. They also offer participants a unique opportunity to meet other people and visit exciting places. If, that is, you have an intelligent and interested mind, and are willing to travel. After playing the Women's Rapid and Blitz World Championship in Georgia IM Irina Krush toured the country and shares her impressions with us.

Svaneti

Svaneti is a region in northwestern Georgia. To the north of it are mountain ranges and then Russia (Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan.) Even though Georgia is a small country, most Georgian people haven’t been there (but everyone wants to go – according to the limited survey of people I encountered). And the reason is that it’s so high up in the mountains, and there wasn’t even a road there until 1975 (you had to take a helicopter), and that road was described as “rough, and occasionally frightening” by my guidebook. Recently – and I mean really recently, in the last year or two, a kind of highway was built between Zugdidi, a fairly large city somewhere to the south of Svaneti, and Mestia, the administrative center of upper Svaneti, and the place that I was based in while in Svaneti. So now it takes only about 2.5-3 hours of driving north, north, north from Zugdidi to reach Mestia. It’s a pretty smooth drive; the only thing to worry about is rocks falling from the mountains and cows blocking the road. Interestingly, cows are not afraid of cars. They rarely bother to get up from the middle of the road when they see you coming.

I didn’t have any plans to go to Svaneti; my whole trip planned itself out when I was already in Tbilisi. But when I mentioned Svaneti to my hostess, she said that she had a friend there who took in guests in her home. So it was an easy decision.

I am really happy I went to Svaneti – it is such a unique place. Mestia is already beautiful, but Ushguli: I’ve never seen anything like it in the world. How do people survive in this Alpine zone? So many things don’t grow there – no fruits, for example, no rice. I think a great gift for someone in Ushguli would be some apples. They are so isolated, it’s not like it’s easy to import produce. I doubt you can drive a truck into Ushguli – it would be too big for the road. Accordingly, their diet is limited to what’s available: meat, cheese, milk, everything their animals produce. The cows have a lot of room for pasture, and produce an ample quantity of milk. Potatoes do grow there.

In Mestia the environment is not so harsh: some fruits and vegetables are available. Mzevinar, the woman I stayed with, said they have pears and a number of other fresh fruit and vegetables.

You’d think that being so isolated from the rest of Georgia, Svaneti would be somewhat of a cultural backwater. But actually, because it was so difficult to enter and conquer, during times of trouble all sorts of valuable objects, such as icons, were transferred there from the rest of Georgia for safekeeping. I visited an ethnographic museum in Ushguli, which had icons from the 11th century, ancient crosses, and many other art treasures.

In Svaneti, you get to see a way of life that’s largely passed away. You wake up to the mountains and the roosters crowing, you wait for your cow to come home in the evening (did you know that cows know their way home, like cats and dogs). Get there as soon as you can, because with the new road and modern technology, who knows how much longer it will be this way.

Thank you to the ACP and the Georgian Chess Federation for organizing a wonderfully run event in Batumi, to my generous host family, the Kekelidze’s, who went out of their way to take care of me, and to the many people I met who showed me what Georgian hospitality is!

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Georgian: literally, "the Living Pillar Cathedral") is a Georgian Orthodox cathedral located in the historical town of Mtskheta, Georgia, 20 km (12 mi) northwest of the nation's capital of Tbilisi. Svetitskhoveli, known as the burial site of Christ's mantle, has long been the principal Georgian church and remains one of the most venerated places of worship to this day. It presently functions as the seat of the archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, who is at the same time Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

The current cathedral was built in the 11th century by the Georgian architect Arsukisdze, though the site itself is even older dating back to the early 4th century and is surrounded by a number of legends associated primarily with the early Christian traditions.

It is the second largest church building in the country, after the recently consecrated Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral, and is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other historical monuments of Mtskheta. Wiki


Irina Krush, 28, was born in Odessa, Ukraine. She learned to play chess at age five, emigrating with her parents to Brooklyn that same year (1989). Krush attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, and played in one of the top high school chess teams in the US.

At the age 14 she won the 1998 US Women's Chess Championship to become the youngest U.S. Women's Champion ever. She has won the U.S. Championship on three other occasions, in 2007, 2010, and 2012. Her current rating is 2464 and her title is International Master. At the coming Olympiad in Istanbul she will play on the second board of the US team.

Copyright Krush/ChessBase


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