Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lovely cheese!

Georgian food sometimes reminds me of The Loch Ness Monster -- everyone has heard of it, but practically no one outside Georgia has ever actually seen or tasted it. In the case of Georgian cheese, that doesn't change even once you get to Georgia, where the most popular type of cheese by far is this: PA230782.JPG

This cheese dominates every supermarket, hole-in-the-wall food shop, and farmers market that I've visited. I'm not exactly sure what it's called, but it's a very salty cheese with the texture of hard rubber, and to be honest, I'm not really a fan. I bought a hunk of this stuff after about a week in Georgia, and it's so salty that I still haven't managed to finish it off (I'm getting really, really close). Luckily, it seems to keep well. Being saltier than the Dead Sea probably helps.

Anyway, I've been on the lookout for other Georgian cheeses, since, like Nessie, they're supposedly out there...somewhere. I haven't really had much luck, however, until now. This weekend was Tbilisoba, which is a festival held by Tbilisi to celebrate itself, as far as I can tell. It's standard festival stuff: face-painting, concerts, magic shows, balloons, carnival games, and so on. But Tbilisoba has a Georgian twist, because there was also plenty of wine, and even a cheese expo! I made a beeline for the cheese booth first thing in the morning, and it was great--every cheese I sampled had a unique flavor and texture, none of which were really anything like I've ever had--one tasted almost like wine. I'm not a cheese connoisseur, but I'm a pretty big cheese fan, and this was some seriously good cheese. Maybe not quite as cool as seeing the Loch Ness Monster would be, but then, you can't eat Nessie.

Here are some photos; if you're particularly interested by any type of cheese, leave a comment and I'll do my best to transliterate the label so you can Google it (although some of them are in English already).


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Camels and needles

Georgian traffic is not exactly lawless, but Georgian drivers give far more expression to their desire to dominate the road than the average American, who settles for buying a pickup truck or SUV with spiked wheels. This is not limited to cars; most bus drivers are loathe to admit that their bus is any different from the BMW 3-series driving next to them.

Case in point: many bus stops are located on sidings--short sections of street that run parallel to the main thoroughfares that allow buses to stop and pick up passengers without interfering with busy traffic. Today, the siding was blocked by a bus that had broke down, and since the sidings are one-way, there wasn't enough room for my bus to pass the broken one.

Well, not enough room on the street, anyway. The sidewalk, though--that's another matter entirely. The bus stop is next to a big casino, so the sidewalk is fairly broad--for a sidewalk. Spying a potential escape route, and supremely confident in his maneuvering abilities in the way that only Georgian men are, my bus driver slowly began driving his 35-foot-long bus up onto the sidewalk and around the other bus. Things got a little hairy when it turned out that there was a light pole on the sidewalk near the front of the other bus, but by that time all the guys drinking in the nearby bar had poured out onto the street--ahem, sidewalk--to watch the fun. There was no turning back.

With the help of the driver of the stalled bus, and after ten minutes spent creeping forward an inch or two at a time, we squeezed through the gap with no more than a finger's width to spare on either side. Sure, it might have taken three times longer than just backing up and getting back onto the main road, but obstacles are made to be overcome!