Saturday, 31 December 2011

Zugdidi - more death masks!

Compared to Gali, across the border in Abkhazia, Zugdidi is upmarket and bustling with commerce. In reality it is another scruffy Georgian town, plagued by road works and building sites. James had arranged to go on patrol with the EU Monitoring Mission, who watch the Russians over the border - Cold War-style. Understanding what the Monitoring Mission did would help inform his research on conflict prevention and stability. I was left to enjoy a sunny day to myself.

Walking around roadworks, trying not to get run over, I reached the end of the High Street where it ended abruptly and opened out into a park. Leaving the noise of the town behind, the park, with a country house and church at its far end, was reminiscent of English country estates. I sat on one of the benches and finish my book and people watched in the Autumn sun. The house was the previous home of the Dadiani family, but is now a museum. It contained the usual clutter, a consequence of centuries of collecting, but the stand-out highlight was a bronze death mask of Napoleon (one of three made), and acquired through a marriage to a descendant of Napoleon's sister. Just a few weeks earlier I had seen Stalin's death mask in Gori, which was the first death mask I had come across, now it seemed like every Georgian town had a big-hitting celebrity death mask for the death mask tourists of the world.

Our short stay in Zugdidi was concluded by a fantastic dinner in a local restaurant where we had a Georgian feast with some excellent Georgian wine. Afterwards we hurried back to the hotel to pick up our bags. The man behind reception produced our Lonely Planet which we had left in the room - we had been wondering where it had gone and I had made James return ask to all the Internet cafes we had used the previous day to ask about it. We had to catch the night train back to Tbilisi that evening, so continued onto the train station and boarded the waiting train.

James out and about with the EU Monitoring Mission

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