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A Modern Flâneur under...Old Tbilisi

[VIDEO] A traditional Georgian restaurant in an underground wine museum...

“Love is the only means of making people complete. It makes even fools look beautiful in some strange way. To love!”

~ Quote from a Georgian toastmaster’s book we came across…

When it comes to throwing a fine feast, the Georgians have been at it longer than just about anyone else…

Known to the Greeks and Romans as Iberians (to the east) and Colchians (in the west), the ancient peoples of Caucasia formed their kingdoms in the 7th and 14th centuries BC, respectively. But they’d been making more important decisions long before then… including how to turn grapes into wine, which they have been doing, without interruption, for the past 8,000 years.

These ancient people saw themselves very much as a part of nature, rather than apart from it, a distinction that surely spared them the embarrassment of presuming to know how and where to direct forces beyond their control. Rather, they aimed at being good stewards of what was within their reach… animal husbandry, sustainable farming and, of course, giving thanks in the form of cheerful toasts for the bounty they shared with their natural surroundings.

(The Caucasian peoples used every part of their precious animals, including the hides for transporting wine and the horns as drinking vessels. Photo: Anya)


A traditional Georgian feast, called a supra, lasts many courses, rounds and hours. Usually, the host proposes the first toast, welcoming his guests and choosing from among them a toastmaster, or Tamada, who will lead proceedings from here.

(Statue of a Tamada here in Tbilisi, an enlarged replica of a small bronze statue discovered in Vani, Georgia)

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Something akin to the symposiarch at a Greek symposium or to the thyle at an Anglo-Saxon sumbel, the Tamada’s role is to maintain order among the guests and to lead them in words of gratitude and praise. Not to be taken lightly, the Tamada’s role is, in part, that of a bridge-builder between past and present, raising toasts to the dead and the living, ancestors and those present alike, connecting them through the time-honored tradition of coming together over meals to celebrate, commiserate and commemorate the momentous moments (births, weddings, funerals, etc.) of life.

(Begos' friends by Niko Pirosmani. A tamada holding a kantsi (horn) and introducing a toast at a keipi (festive supra). Note the animal wineskin in the foreground. Source: Creative Commons)

Along with compulsory toasts – to the hosts, fellow guests, the deceased (which is always performed standing), parents, the homeland, etc. – the Tamada may riff on any subject he so chooses, to sing for his supper, as it were… provided the toasts are kept positive and conducted in a generally sanguine fashion. (A touch of wit and wisdom helps.)

Being that our own subterranean party (captured above) numbered only three, we appointed dear daughter (8yrs) as Tamada for the occasion. In addition to the regular toasts, we raised our glasses (mother and father with wine; daughter with ceremonial pomegranate juice) to travel, hospitality, the possibility that unicorns might exist, Charles Darwin, violin music, horned animals and indoor plumbing.

And even now, in the clear light of day, we remain grateful for them all.



P.S. Have you already downloaded our latest novel, Night Drew Her Sable Cloak, available for Fellow Flânuers here? Members also get our debut novel, Morris, Alive. And all upcoming efforts with the quill (we’re working on a third, pre-award winning novel presently)…

Support independent authorship for just a few bucks ($5.83/month, to be precise) and download Night Drew Her Sable Cloak and Morris, Alive here…

The Modern Flâneur
One minute strolls around the world's greatest sites, cities and scenes...
Joel Bowman