High up on cliff faces and on desolate hills are the caves that for centuries Georgian monks hid themselves away in to be closer to God, undisturbed by the comings and goings of everyday life and the temptations of man. These days their seclusion is rather diminished by the troops of tourists marching past in search of a slice of Georgian history, but at least it keeps the coffers full. Evidently the revenue streams of the good old days were insufficient to fund the monastic demands of the modern age.
Religion here is however, not a thing of the past: you will see people cross themselves on every possible occasion and having watched a large group of teenagers do so when passing in front of a church we can assume that it’s not the entirety of youth who will be led astray by the trappings of Western culture.
One almost obligatory moment requiring making the sign of the cross is embarking on a journey in a marshrutka: minibuses whose driver’s deep abiding faith in God is seemingly equally matched by their love of alcohol, in flagrant contradiction to the zero blood-alcohol level required by law.
Globally, a deep abiding faith regardless of religion, tends to have a polarising effect on driving standards. At one end, love and respect for all God’s creatures leads to a careful and studied approach to the road. At the other end, the utter conviction that God will protect you and that one’s fate has been predetermined leads to the assumption, in Georgia for example that taking the racing line round a blind bend, over a precipice, in a clapped out Ford Transit with bald tyres and a mobile phone clamped to one ear, under the illusion of being behind the wheel of a full rally spec, turbo, Subaru Impreza is somehow, a jolly good idea.
One more factor missing from this equation is that the term “driving” really means “cow slalom“, as these dimwitted animals are a ubiquitous feature, ambling across or slumbering on the tarmac. Drivers even regard these as worthy of slowing down a fraction to avoid hitting them, unfortunately increasing the risk of a head on collision doesn’t seem to enter into the analysis.