Showcasing Megrelian culture

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June, 2023

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Situated in the Georgian region of Samegrelo, Sisatura Ethno Village provides an insight into all aspects of the area.

We struggled to find the village, as neither our guide nor driver had been before, the signage wasn’t good, and it was down a long rough track. None of us knew what to expect but Marika Todua, the owner, told us that the land belonged to her family and having hosted tourists who were interested in the cultural aspects of the area, Sisatura was developed into an educational centre.

Marika is also a well-known cook and has appeared on several TV shows promoting local Megrelian cuisine. She told us that the food is generally hot and spicy as the area has a humid subtropical climate and spices are thought to prevent malaria. Cheese also dominates the cuisine, and one of the country’s most famous cheeses, Sulguni, originates in the region. Unlike other Georgians whose favourite carbohydrate is bread, they eat more ghomi or cornmeal polenta, as they feel it allows them to taste the flavours more.

The three-acre site is divided into three zones:

The first zone, in reality a large field, was dedicated to ethnography with several Megrelian dwellings showcasing the traditional and unique architecture.

The smallest was a simple dwelling, a patskha, with a thatched roof and walls woven from hazelnut twigs: we were told that the gaps between the twigs didn’t matter because of the climate.

Another wooden hut, known as a jargvali, was made from split logs, without windows with daylight entering only through an open door. In the centre of the one-roomed building was a fire which would have been lit constantly to provide both heat and cooking facilities with a really heavy pot made from rock.

The final place was a traditional oda house, built from wood and raised off the floor, with four rooms each with a fireplace. A specific feature of this style was a decorated wooden balcony with columns and arches depicting flowers and leaves. Each room was furnished with traditional period costumes and furniture and included old-yellowed photographs and newspapers with stories on various ancestors, a Christmas tree made from hazelnut shavings and several cattle horns for drinking wine.

We then walked through the grounds to the recreational area in zone 2 with its large artificial lake, complete with fish, and crossed a rather rickety wooden bridge which fortunately had a handrail. Here was a small ancestral wooden mill and Marika demonstrated how the water could be diverted to power the mill. There were hammocks, swings, benches and we could just imagine spending a pleasant afternoon in the sun with a good book.

Zone three, which we didn’t visit, was dedicated to agriculture with domestic animals and typical Megrelian annual and perennial cultivars.

Visits usually end with a cooking class and lunch, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time and Marika was expecting a filming crew from Poland.

Helen Jackson

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