Georgia will be my first South Caucasus destination and appropriately a Georgian theme develops while I am still far from those parts.
On the eve of my departure for Riga, I dine with friends in a Georgian restaurant in Kensington. We eat Georgian mezze and drink Georgian wine and witness a touching scene of Anglo-Russian friendship.
Two tables placed at a right angle have English speakers along one length and Russian speakers on the other. They have gathered to celebrate the 40th birthday of a Russian woman called Zhenya. A succession of guests rise and give toasts in English or Russian, heaping tributes on Zhenya, who sits centre stage and beams happily. It is by all accounts a good party!
A few days later, in Riga, I have the chance to listen to one of Georgia’s leading singers, Nino Katamadze. She is a big-hearted woman with a voice to match. She and her band play to a full house at the Riga Congress Centre.
In the Latvian capital, just one country seems to stand out in terms of advertising its charms as a tourist destination. No prizes for guessing which country! The marketing slogan on billboards in Riga’s streets is “Summer in Georgia”.