If a stranger knocks (In Georgia)

with 13 Comments

Nobody knocks on the door after 9 o’clock. The neighbours have just left home after some wine and chat, the witch from down the road never knocks but bangs and would just push the door shouting “Mananaaa” – my grandma’s name. The cat is inside, and there are no mice here. So who knocks on the door on Sunday after 9 o’clock?

Grandpa, staring at the tv, rejects the idea of movement and simply shouts “come in!!!” from his comfortable sofa. But the handle does not move,the door does not open, and the knock repeats in a timid manner. Slightly annoyed by the unexpected interruption of the evening show, grandpa moves his weight towards the door and blinks a few times searching for the switch of a light that does not work. We never admitted that We broke the bulb last friday, playing football in the front yard. He stares in the dark at a figure with a funny hair-do that seems pretty loaded to be one of our neighbours – unless he was Nino and his wife kicked him out of home again. Another shadow appears from behind him, a bit smaller but equally loaded – it is definitely not Nino with a friend.

(the dialogue that follows attempted to be in Russian)

– Gamarjoba (Hello), Travellers we are and Zugdidi go.

– Gamarjoba (Hello) – grandpa replies

– Mmmm…Travelling, hitchhiking, you know, autostop. But dark dark, no cars, no possible. Maybe, tent in garden, possible? Corner, there? Possible? Wind – fuuuuu.

– Ahh – Grandpa murmurs understandingly as he reaches for my fathers door – Irakliii, the guests have arrived!

– Guests? I was not expecting anybody – thinks my father with surprise.

– They have a tent and ask something about camping and yard! – clarifies my grandpa, still confused.

– Tent? Nonsense! Come in! Manananaaaa! Tea for the guests! – he calls, as my grandma appears from the kitchen.

And this is how two strangers made their way to our living room on a Sunday evening, unloaded their bulky bags, took off their dirty shoes, and after staring with open eyes at the TV for about ten minutes, and trying hard to mumble some Russian for some other five, started bringing out a bunch of funny objects from their multiple pockets – mini sized games, maps, cameras, juggling balls and colorful books. And this is how We spent the evening picking stories from their broken words, and playing non-verbal games, while helping them chose well their next travel destinations. It’s a pitty that we had to go to school next morning – they slept longer than us and were not there when we came back. Just a flower left as a passing memory, I wish they had left the game set or that funny balls.

Family evening copy copy


The moment when the traveller discovers what kind of sleeping place have the capricious “wandering deities” prepared for him that night is the best and worst of winter travelling captured in one single second. Walking down the empty and dimly lit road passing through Samtredia, a little town in Western Georgia, equally far from both the sea and the mountain, we silently wonder if staying in the comfortable truck of Murad and getting a bit out of our way to Zugdidi was not a better option than waiting stranded under the thin rain and strong wind that blows tonight. Our Turkish vocabulary, consisting of just above 20 words, has proven numerous times sufficient to keep the flame of conversation burning for hours thanks to the fact that in Turkey the action of talking is sacred and in some cases might hold more importance than the topic of the chat or even the ability to construct meaningful sentences, so spending a night in a TIR would anyway not have been boring.

Murat and Murat copy copy

Murat dropping us on the right spot copy copy

Anyway, a missed opportunity luckily gives birth to another chance. We have unconsciously stopped next to the only house in the area that bears signs of life at 9:30 in the evening. We hesitate for about a second, but just to make sure we agree whose is the lucky hand that will knock on the door, and shyly cross the front gate to the garden. Then, as if moved by the invisible strings of a skillful puppeteer, we act by inertia as the whole scene unfolds naturally in front of our eyes. We knock twice or trice, and wait patiently, uncertain of what the voice from inside prompts us to do, since we understand it as much as we can read the sign with the street name. We knock again, and the voice comes nearer, opens the door, and stares at us with curiosity. We explain in detail our travel purpose and current situation, kindly asking to be hosted in a corner of the garden away from the wind – we mention we have a tent, and that we will not disturb. But the voices simply multiply and, disregarding our explanations, push us inside into a warm room and invite us for tea.

Open door copy copy

The TV is on and hipnotizes the family members gathered around it, not by the merit of its interesting content, but simply by the habit of having its sound as company; it’s as much part of everyday life as the felt dog that sits on the sofa, the school books carefully organized on the coffe table or the unmissable icons on the walls. We are in the common room of a common family, and sit comfortably on the table, sipping water from their well and wondering why or how everything looks so familiar and so different at the same time. We feel really well in their cozy place, we feel at home without having one, we rest and chat, play with the kids and get tips for the way from the elders. And in the morning, as we wave goodbye, thank them in all languages and walk away, we send a telepathic question to our families and friends: if a stranger knocks on your door on Sunday after 9 p.m., what would you do?

Water from the well copy copy

Good morning view copy copy

Getting directions

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Boris, Marta and Burma roam the world at a speed of a snail. Two humans and one cat that found their way to India overland.

13 Responses

  1. Tatiana Handjiiska
    | Reply

    Мисля си, че неминуемо ще ми се случи нещо подобно в бъдеще, тъй както вие срещате толкова добрина от непознати хора по пътя си. Добрата енергия и истинската помощ, която получавате от непознатите хора се предава като положителна енергия и на нас вашите близки. Рано или късно трябва да я предадем на други непознати хора, които отчаяно ще се нуждаят от нашата помощ. Целувам ви.

    • rovingsnails
      | Reply

      :) shtastlivi sme che mislish po takyv nachin. celuvki i ot nas!

  2. Kris Mole
    | Reply


    • rovingsnails
      | Reply

      Glad you like it! We really had a brilliant time at Irakli’s :)

  3. bertus
    | Reply

    Georgian hospitality! I missed it! Keep going guys with your amazing trip.

    • rovingsnails
      | Reply

      It’s upgraded hospitality indeed! But I suppose or hope it’s not just a Georgian thing…what do you think?

  4. Rosana
    | Reply

    Sigue habiendo familias gentiles!!!!!
    Que suerte teneis de encontrarlas….

    • rovingsnails
      | Reply

      Totalmente, más que gentiles, increíbles
      (también tienen suerte ellos de que seamos nosotros quienes tocamos a su puerta, claro, jejejeje!)

  5. Boris
    | Reply

    its for sure that people from balkan or ex soviet countries will help you more than any Western or Northern European.been on similar trips but not outside of Europe so i can say for sure modern europeans are probably one of the worst people.cold and wont help, even hopefuly there are still lots of good normal people all around the Europe.

    • rovingsnails
      | Reply

      Hey Boris! We have to say that in our travels around Europe we have been kindly hosted by people of all backgrounds and nationalities. No matter the temperature of the country they live in, people can be warm in all latitudes. But when we wrote this post, from the cold evenings of Georgian winter, the spontaneity and incredible welcoming of this family surpassed any notion of hospitality we had before. Luckily the world is full of kind humans that have opened their homes, living rooms and families to us and other roaming travellers. May we learn from each and one of them, may we open our doors with a smile to anyone that knocks, even at 9 p.m. Happy travels!

  6. Jaipal singh
    | Reply

    Hi feeling great by hearing you stories & some useful information about the cultures of different countries, & hope you will be having great days in India.

  7. Nicholas Danis Bertrand
    | Reply

    What a beautiful story showing how generous Georgians are!This was brilliant!Loved how you wrote the first part from the perspective of your hosts!It’s such a pleasure to read your stories guys!

    • Roving Snails
      | Reply

      Thank you Nicholas :) This family remained a symbol of kindness to us. When we passed by Georgia on the way back two years later, we again knocked on the door and it felt like we really had made a trail of friends along the way.

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