For one Georgian lari you can send a first class letter from Ipkhi to Tbilisi. Since it declared its independence shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia has been issuing its own unique postage stamps. After an unlikely series of coincidences, my newly minted philatelist friend David Schoffman found himself working for the Gori post office.
There's a drinking game, extremely popular around the port cities and fishing villages on the Black Sea. Called Bhkhnic - after the fennel soup traditionally served at Luzhkanic baptisms and weddings - the game can get pretty rowdy and even violent. It starts by people tossing old utility bills into an over-sized milking bucket. Players then reach in, grab an envelope and try to identify the figure depicted on the stamp. For example, the 4 lari express stamp has an engraving of the writer Shio Aragvispireli, the 10 lari air mail stamp depicts the opera singer Golikova Osetrina and the 50 GEL next-day-express stamp has a glowing, embossed dreamy rendering of Vakhtang Gorgasali, the sixth century king of Iberia and founder of Tbilisi.
As part of a movement directed at the reformation of the Georgian character, the Ministry of Culture has decided to discontinue all commemorative stamps, hoping to curb public drunkenness. Boris Azasatryan, under-secretary of rural agriculture and a collector of contemporary art is related by marriage to my lucky friend David.
|David and Boris Azasatryan in Sukhumi, 2009|
They call it a "Black Sea Back Room Bargain."