A name to remember: Samegrelo

Sisa, Sisa, Sisa Tura, or Samegrelo Encapsulated in One Ethnic Village

Text by Nino Kvirikashvili

Photos by Davit Bantsadze, Nino Kvirikashvili

It’s impossible to resist remembering this famous Megrelian folk song when visiting the Sisa Tura Ethnic Village in Chkhoria. Before we reach our destination, I keep humming this tune. Its lyrics, word for word, translate as follows:
“Okotmes mu gokodu, / In the chicken coop,
Si eshmaki chiche tura! / You rascal, crafty little jackal!
Ghorontk vagachkorasu do, / Have fear of God,
Kotomepi vakomchkuma. / And don’t you dare eat the chicken!
Sisa, sisa, sisa tura.” / Get out, get out you jackal!”

Prices: The services are priced differently. For example, a beverage tour costs 40 GEL. Accommodation fee is25 GEL each.

Thus, as I keep humming, we approach the village. What I find here exceeds all my expectations.

I see a woman and a man standing by the gate. The woman is holding thinly sliced cheese, and the man has shot glasses full of chacha – grape liquor – an ultimatum of sorts: unless you raise a toast and drink, you cannot enter!

We have no choice other than to down chacha burning like fire. We follow it with cheese, bless our arrival and the hosts’ hospitality, and only then obtain permission to enter the ethnic village.

“This is the ancestral mill of clan Chitanava. I call it ‘the Cradle’. At first, there was only the mill around here, and that inspired me to establish an ethnic village,” says Marika Todua, the mastermind and driving force behind the establishment.

Sisa Tura consists of 3 different spaces stretching 3 hectares in the village of Chkhoria. The first, dedicated to ethnography, features several authentic Megrelian dwellings, such as the Megrelian oda and pitapitsari, the latter, also known as godori, is a Megrelian-style home, an upgraded version of the jargvali dwelling. Moving from a jargvali into a godori meant significant success in a farmer’s life.

The ethnographic space at Sisa Tura boasts a myriad of enticing artifacts, from old, yellowed newspapers to traditional Megrelian chokha attire. These items, Marika says, have been collected and preserved by her father-in-law, Guriel Chitanava, a member of the famous Chela folk ensemble. The dwellings themselves were reconstructed by Marika and her husband after the houses in some of the villages of Tsalenjikha.

“It’s a living museum. Our guests can touch every item, cook a meal on their own, try a chokha on, sleep in one of the beds here, and have lots of fun listening to live Megrelian music,” Sisa Tura’s hostess emphasized.

The second space is all about recreation, with an artificial lake which you can access via the Chitanava ancestral mill. Visitors can stroll by the lake, fish, and enjoy a cup of coffee. The lake is simply beautiful. Marika says that her husband has arranged this “island” for her.

The third is an agricultural space showcasing typical Megrelian annual and perennial cultivars and domestic animals. For example during my visit, I saw a horse meekly grazing in the agricultural section. According to Marika, visitors can come into contact with the animals.

Thus, the place presents full-blown Megrelian village life.

As for the staff here, they’re all Megrelian, including Marika’s teenage niece, brother, aunt, and others.

“We get a lot of guests, but even 5 at a time is good enough. I want to introduce our visitors to the heart and soul of Georgia. I want to show them our hospitality. I may not have much money, but I have made a lot of friends, Swiss, Italians, Poles, and others. We put on a show to welcome them. We sing Megrelian songs for them, and they just love it,” Madame Medea says.

The local menu is something else! Besides a gastronomic tour, the museum also offers food tasting events featuring scrumptious Megrelian dishes, and cooking classes involving elarji grits with melted cheese, yummy dairy gebzhalia, and Megrelian-style khachapuri cheese bread.

P.S. By the way, jackals do howl around here, so learning the Megrelian song mentioned above makes perfect sense. Sisa-sisa-sisa-tura is one phrase that you just can’t get out of your head, just like this wonderful region, Samegrelo, for that matter.

Fb: SisaturaethnoVillage

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