dcr the direction of the well-known arehaeologist,rnDavid Khakhutaishvili. Hernstopped what he was doing and took usrnon a tour. What one ean see are levels ofrnRoman, Bvzantine, and Ottoman. 1 herngreat walls, I believe, were built duringrnthe Ottoman period. All of this was builtrnon I lellcnistic ruins of the fourth or fifthrneentur. Once again our mcrehant explorersrnfrom Ionian Miletus had maderntheir appearance. Clearly in evidencernwere three different water sstems fromrndifferent occupations, clay pipe svstemsrnbringing the water from the mountains.rnThe baths and steam rooms, I think,rnwere from the Ottoman period. Backrnunder a shelter where technicians werernclassif ing the artifacts, I was shown Neolithicrnand Earlv Bronze Age tools thatrnhad turned up. As an aural backgroundrnto my isit, I heard repeated artillery firernncadjv and at mv nervous cjuestion wasrntold the Russian Army was practicing.rnlvo interesting things happened asrnwe were leaving. The chief archaeologistrnsaid that the money for this excavationrnhad come from Asian Abashize and if Irnwrote about Georgia, I should be sure tornmention this. The godfather was takingrncare of his own. Early that summer hernhad paid for a production of Aidci withrnreal elephants. A minute or two later asrnwe neared our car, two men walked up torn”Icngiz and in Georgian asked to speakrnto him privately. I of course eould notrnfollow the conversation, but suddenlyrnIcngiz said to me, “I need to go withrnthem for a few minutes. Wait here.” Allrnthis seemed odd. In 20 minutes or so hernreturned and merely said, “Let’s go.”rnI Ic told me in the ear that at first hernthought the were securit} men whornmight be asking questions about mrnphotographing incident the day before.rnInstead, these men had taken Tengiz forrnone of the archaeologists. One of thernmen had been a miner deep in Siberia.rnAt some point he had come on giant dinosaurrnbones and had smuggled themrnback to Georgia. He wanted a way to sellrnthem for a lot of monew When Tengizrnthen told him lie vas not an archaeologist,rnthe man became a little excited andrnbegan threatening Tengiz to keep this informationrnto himself. Tengiz told themrnhe had not asked for his secret in the firstrnplace. So, the mvsterious Trans-Caucasus.rnThe next day we visited the BotanicalrnPark. T’here is no money to keep it uprnnow, but the flora reminded me of southrnFlorida or parts of Louisiana. Lots ofrnmagnolia trees. Batumi in general is likernsouth Florida, palm trees and all, plusrnthe same air of decadence. A defunctrnoverhead cablecar system led to the toprnof a small mountain where there was arnhotel. Tengiz told me his father hadrnbuilt this hotel when he was still active.rnThis was after his father had beenrnwounded fighting the Germans. Nowrnthe hotel is full of refugees from Abkhaziya.rnThis would be true of hotels inrnTbilisi, too. There are nearly 300,000rnrefugees who have fled that part of Georgia.rnThe Muslims were a minority inrnAbkhaziya, but they had been “secretly”rnaided by the Russian military and the seeurit-rnservices. Now, after a devastatingrncivil war, the minority Muslims are inrncharge. For a while at least. Shevardnadzernsaid recently that if the internationalrncommunity will do nothing tornsolve this, it will have to be solved byrnforce of arms.rnAlmost no one has much moneyrnnowadays in Georgia, yet when one seesrnall the fresh fruit and vegetables duringrnlate summer and early fall, it is hard tornimagine the difficulties. Even when peoplernin Russia were not eating very well asrnthings fell apart, the people in Georgiarnate much better. Almost half the peoplernstill live in rural areas. Before I left 1 hadrndinner with Tcngiz’s aunt, having beenrntold beforehand that she was an outstandingrncook. She must have served 20rndishes, all of which required lots ofrnpreparation: eggplant dishes, tomatorndishes, stews, cheeses, wonderful fruit,rnhomemade wine. I don’t know whyrnsome peoples are more generous, morernhospitable than others. It has nothing torndo with having money. No people toprnthe Georgians.rnI left for Tbilisi before Tengiz, passingrnthrough Kutaisi and then Gori, wherernStalin (Joseph Dzhugashvili) was born inrn1879. I rented a room in a home a blockrnand a half from the main street in Tbilisi,rnRustaveli, named after a poet, and justrntwo or three blocks from where the parliamentrnmet. And just in time for thernbombing of Shevardnadze’s car at thernparliament building with him in it. Peoplernwere visibly anxious about whatrnmight then happen, even though therernwere soon pictures of Shexardnadzerntalking on television with only a fewrn’isible wounds.rnFor natives, the last time the tanks andrnpersonnel carriers started rumblingrnthrough the streets, it was the overthrowrnof the newlv elected first president.rnGamsakhurdia. Accused of becoming arndictator by his former schoolmate TengizrnSigua, who had been sacked as primernminister in August, and Tengiz Kitovani,rnhead of the National Guard, they, alongrnwith Dzhaba loseliani, led the attackrnw’hich ousted Gamsakhurdia in Decemberrn1991, and in the process killed morernthan 200 people and destroyed many ofrnthe buildings along Rustaveli. Obviouslyrneveryone is very edgy. I was making myrnway past the Opera House on Rustaveli,rnheaded toward the LJnited States Embassyrnon some business, when a youngrnsoldier came toward me screaming inrnGeorgian, waving his automatic weapon.rnThere were two personnel carriers on thernside of the street of the Opera where herncame from. I finally figured out he wasrnordering me to get on the other side ofrnthe street.rnWho had bombed Shevardnadze?rnThere are many possibilities. Could havernbeen old Gamsakhurdian followers.rnGould have been instigated by the Russians.rnWhere else would so much dynamiterncome from, where the RussianrnArmy controls most of the weapons? Or,rnit eould have been the interesting figurernof Dzhaba loseliani. At one time, thernstory goes, loseliani was a professor ofrntheater or a playwright, but now he controlsrnthe largest paramilitary organizationrnin Georgia, the Mkhedrioni (or Florsemen).rnSome called him the capo di caposrnfor all criminal gangs in the country.rnHe travels with many armed bodyguardsrneven in Tbilisi, all with radios. Before Irnleft Tbilisi, Shevardnadze had strippedrnall the bodyguards of their weapons onrntheir way out of town, telling loseliani hernwas free to go. In the 70’s, he had beenrnsentenced to over 25 years for a series ofrnrobberies and manslaughter. In the 90’s,rnloseliani had been jailed by Gamsakhurdia,rnbut had managed to escape in timernto overthrow him. Ironically, he, Sigua,rnand Kitovani had ultimately invitedrnShevardnadze to head the government,rnalthough they retained control over thernmilitary. The friendship between Shevardnadzernand loseliani reportedly wentrnback decades.rnA few buildings on Rusta’eli still showrnthe marks of shell fire, especially a famousrnold hotel. But otherwise, this mainrnstreet is back to normal, with just thernodd personnel carrier scurrying by to livenrnthings up. Tbilisi is a very old andrncharming city, founded in the fourthrncentury. This was also when Christianityrncame to Georgia. It pleases the Geor-rnMARCH 1996/39rnrnrn