Synopsis: Can you do the chacha? Bourdain throws back some traditional Georgian moonshine at every turn in this country where every toast is a bottoms up and out sort of affair. This episode is not without its surreal moments — The famous Zamir Gotta, a recurring character in Bourdain’s escapades, pole dances topless, for instance. When the room stops spinning in Georgia, you might just find that the border with Russia has changed. Bourdain witnesses a people torn between East and West, fearful of incursions from Moscow similar to those faced in other former Soviet Republics. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the friend of a Georgian stateswoman remarks to Bourdain that he bears a striking resemblance to director David Lynch (a full decade older than Bourdain). Bourdain admits Lynch has “better hair.”

Postcards from the world’s crossroads

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  • “For nearly 70 years, it was a Soviet Republic, and since independence in 1991, Georgia has been on a wild and often deeply troubled ride as it struggles to obtain and maintain democracy. There has been a civil war, regional strife, and numerous provocations and invasions by Russia.”
  • “Geopolitically, it’s located in a hot spot, a strategic crossroads surrounded by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, oil-producing Azerbaijan, and just a short distance away Syria and Iran.“
  • “Polyphonic songs are pure Georgia. Eerily reminiscent, though, of mariachi music. They’re about pre-Christian things—things that have always been here since the beginning, like wind and forests and forest spirits and lost love. Hauntingly beautiful and otherworldly—kind of like Georgia.”
  • “Not much going on in Batumi off-season as it turns out. The casinos are still going for the benefit mostly of Turkish dudes, hopping across the border from their country, where such vices are frowned upon.”
  • “Batumi in daytime is a strange looking place. Not exactly forlorn off-season—just odd. A mix of what are obviously big dreams and current realities. What is going on here? They’re building everywhere — commercial and residential properties rising up out of the ground every few yards. It goes on and on.”

Tbilisi, in the eastern part of the country, is Georgia’s capital city and it’s very different in every respect from Batumi’s off-season amusement park vibe. It’s an old city founded in the 5th Century, but also a very new city. 1.2 million people building their own world freshly emerged from some very, very dark times.

  • [At Rezo Gabriadze Café]I’m quickly finding that the cuisine here is really good—really complex with sweet, sour notes that are reminiscent of, I don’t know. I just know that it feels hauntingly familiar yet, utterly new and delicious.”
  • “Wherever you find a traditional, religious, conservative society, you’ll find a countervailing force. Georgians, as a rule, are compassionate about tradition, about the way things are supposed to be done. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rebels—people pushing hard against the status quo.”
  • “Tbilisi is one thing—an increasingly modern city. Smart cafes, boutique hotels, shops, galleries, the inevitable spoor of hipsters. But outside the city, it’s not so different than it always was—agrarian, traditional, things done the way they’ve always been done.”
  • “Only 90 kilometers northwest from Tbilisi is villages like one, Khurvaleti, where tiny Georgia’s predicament comes clearly and brutally into focus.”

A brief dalliance with cultural diplomacy

  • “Now you should know this about me and the people I work with: We don’t like working with officials. We avoid tourist boards, official advisers, government employees. We certainly don’t hang out with ministers of the countries we are shooting in, who always, always have an agenda and always want to skew our perspective on our subject. But Keti Bochorishvili is an exception. She is the deputy minister of economy. A remarkable woman, more remarkable for the fact that she is a unique holdover from the previous administration. She goes on and on, never stopping in her efforts to convince the world that Georgia—Georgia!—is the place to be.”
  • “I am convinced. I am co-opted, I am recruited. Count me as a useful idiot, a witting agent of the Georgian Ministry of Tourism, for I may as well be.”

Ha chacha: gems of drunken stupor

  • [Playing blackjack] “What is it that great philosopher Wesley Snipes once said? ‘Always bet on black.’ Going all in.”
  • “Nothing like a loser in a nightclub—and I emanate loser, so let’s go.”
  • “Unsurprisingly, Zamir and I suck at gambling with a force equivalent to a thousand suns. I should have just pulled my pants down and handed over my money the second we walked into the door. But actually, that came later.”
  • “I’m mesmerized by this bowl of electronic snakes. Oh, they’re changing colors—either that or I’m having a brain hemorrhage.”

Hair of the dog.

  • “Ah, you look good up on that pole. … It was a brief but magnificent pole-dancing career, I can tell you. You went out in a flame of glory.”
  • [On Gotta] “I ain’t no fool—the man clearly wants my job.”
  • “So I don’t know what it says about a place that since I’ve arrived in this country … I’m either drinking or hung over.”
  • “How do I get out of drinking? How do I avoid chugging chacha?” [Journalist Paul Rimple says to fake a heart condition.]