Tropical summers, mild winters, exotic fruit, spicy dishes and unforgettable hosts – Samegrelo is one of those places it can be hard to leave. Also known as Mingrelia or Mengrelia, this western region, warmed and watered by the Black Sea, is home to the Megrelians, a distinctive sub group of Georgians who have their own language, and traditions. The region is divided into a low-lying wetland around the major seaport of Poti and a hilly northern section, guarding the approaches to Svaneti. The area is a natural cornucopia, overflowing with mandarin groves, tea plantations, chilies, kiwi fruits and wine that tastes like garden flowers. The humid streets of Zugdidi, Samegrelo’s capital, house some of the country’s best cooks. Megrelian food, much more spicy than in the rest of Georgia, includes dishes that almost taste like curry such as bazhe and Satsivi, as well as maize and cheese sticky goodness called elargi, and a local variant of Khatchapuri that many consider the best. Alomg with sampling the local specialties, no visit to Zugdidi is complete without a trip to the Dadiani Palace Museum. Housed in an extraordinary neo-gothic pile that looks like an English boarding school with a Georgian villa attatched, this museum displays the collection of the Dadiani family, the former Dukes of Samegrelo. Along with swords, guns, antiquarian books and a shawl believed to have been worn by the Virgin Mary, the museum also contains one of only three copies of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death mask. The mask found its way to Georgia after Napoleon’s nephew married into the Daiani family.