Our fellow travelers the first half of the trip were botanists from the Kunming Botanical Garden, here is Dr. Sun Han, the Director of the Garden and an utterly delightful companion on any trip--full of energy, curiosity and enormous grasp of Science.
|Dactylorhiza romana subsp. georgica (two color forms)|
|A meadow with poppies and mustard at the Botanic Garden in Tbilisi|
|Ancient Georgian Church|
|Gondola to the Botranic Garden|
|View of Tbilisi from the Botanical Institute|
|Female scorpion fly|
|Cyclamen coum variety|
Food at a roadside restaurant. Manana Khutsishvili (our incredible guide and Director of the Tbilisi Botanical Institute's herbarium) fretted more about our food and accommodations than she did the flora (which she knows through and through). Everywhere we stopped for food was a gourmet extravaganza. I should have taken names of all the dishes--Georgian cuisine is as rich, diverse and delicious as any of the world's great cuisines (French, Chinese, Mediterranean for instance). I shall miss the rich flavors and constantly varying menus: the pot in this picture is filled with baked beans reminiscent of Mexican pintos, but with a fabulous seasoning of rich herbs: this became Peter Zale's favorite dish--and I suspect he'll open up a chain of Georgian beanpot restaurants when he gets tired of plants. (I somehow doubt that's apt to happen very soon, however: his devotion to Flora made me feel like an acolyte). I'd like to put it on record that I'll invest in that scheme should it come to pass...
"My favorite author, Vladimir Nabokov would have been 119 years old last Monday. He was the world's authority on the New World Blues, but his life's dream was to explore for butterflies in Central Asia and the Caucasus. 100 years ago he did that in the Crimea, not too far from where I am. This blue (Polyommatus icarus) did not budge and let me photograph it carefully today above Turle Lake near Tbilisi"
If you have not read Nabokov's "The Gift" you are missing out on a crowning masterpiece of world literature.A multilayered masterpiece that compacts twenty years of the Russian intellectual diaspora, the Berlin renaissance smothered by Hitler, and all of the mountains and magic of Eurasia, compacted neatly. And oh yes, a killer love story. This butterfly flew right out of that book.
|Paeonia tenuifolia with Boyce Tankersley|
|Paeonia tenuifolia in full glory|