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Georgia on my mind

August 19th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

08/19/09, 10 am in the morning, Luka’s place, Tbilisi

I was going to write about the border experience at the Georgia/Turkey crossing, and the value of videotaping in order to convince guards with M16s to leave you alone, but PP did such a good job describing that experience that I’ll instead focus on my current environ, and my initial, cursory impressions of Georgia.

I’m writing this from an apartment we found on CouchSurfing, on the eastern side of Tbilisi (there is a river that runs through the city). The apartment is large, with several huge, high-ceilinged rooms. Walls are a white, peeling plaster, covered with paintings, Georgian maps, and inscriptions in marker or colored pencil that are etched onto the walls themselves. The place is not the cleanest – floor is dusty, the old comfortable chair that I’m writing this from has soaked up god-knows-what, the toilet flush is broken (requiring us to fill a large basin with water to physically force our excreta down the plumbing), and the shower is temperemental – while giving up hot water, it occasionally shuts off mid-stream. The apartment is located on the 3rd floor of a decaying building, and the first floor is redolent with the smell of urine, either cat or human. But despite the grottiness, the apartment feels comfortable, and exudes an air of mystery to it. It is also free. We haven’t actually met our host, Luka, having communicated with him only via the internet. It seems from the many notes on the wall that lots of other people have stayed here, and have also not met the host – apparently Luka is quite comfortable loaning his apartment to those in need, while he is off on travels of his own (he is now in Turkey). When we first arrived here two nights ago, there were two Poles and an Austrian who had also discovered the place and were crashing while exploring Tbilisi – they also had not met our mysterious host! From the few photographs of him on the wall, I gather that he has a large, curly black beard, and serious eyes. I also wonder if he has spent time blacksmithing – there are some interesting photographs of him with some older gents, in a forge-like setting with large cast bells and red-hot metal. In any case, his generosity has allowed us to explore Tbilisi without worrying about payment for lodgings, so I thank him heartily for that.

We spent yesterday exploring Tbilisi, the first half of the day by car (having paid an old Armenian to drive us around the city, and narrate to PP in Russian the meanings and descriptions of various places), and the second half by foot. Tbilisi – and Georgia – remind me more of Eastern Europe than Turkey. Many of the buildings are old and decaying, and the city seems edgier and gritty in a way that Eastern Europe was. I am also faintly reminded of Buenos Aires, and South America. People are physically more European than Turkish – lots of dark hair, but skin is white, and features are western. There is also more obesity here than in Turkey – have encountered several examples of large, Jabba-the-hutt-like specimens, both male and female. I suspect the fat is due to the richness of the food – cheese pies (khatchapuri) are very tasty but calorie-ridden, and the massive quantity and size of khinkhali (meat dumplings) that show up when placing an order probably also are a contributing factor. While very filling and interesting, there seems to be a lack of green things in the food – I am enjoying it, but would probably get sick of it soon, vegetarian options being somewhat limited.

I’ll relate a fun experience from two days ago, when we first arrived in Tbilisi. As PP mentioned, the street signs here are all in Georgian – so his knowledge of cyrillic is not useful (atlhough his Russian is – most Georgians are familiar with that language, and are happy to help giving us directions), and navigation is harder than in Turkey or Europe. When we arrived in Tbilisi, it was also dark, and we had only Luka’s street name and his apartment building number. To further complicate matters, when we asked an elderly Georgian in Tbilisi where the street was, he told us that many streets had recently been renamed, and that he didn’t know where this particular location was. However, he did have a good suggestion. Apparently the cops are now very helpful and useful to the locals, and he suggested that we call them in order to have them escort us to Luka’s place! After first making sure that T$ had drunk no beer (the legal BAC level is 0 in these countries), he placed a call to the cops on his cell phone, asking them to help us. About 3 minutes later, two cop cars showed up, and we ended up getting a police escort to the apartment! How’s that for service? I managed to videotape part of this, so perhaps if we get a chance we’ll post it.

For now, it’s time to rouse T$ and PP, who are still passed out on the floor. Time to be up and moving towards Azerbaijan…


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  • http://www.saintfacetious.com Shawn

    I’m the random Peace Corps guy on the road. I wish I was thinking on my feet so I could have invited you guys in to have some wine, but I was just too surprised to see random guys from California in Giorgits-effing-minda. Think of the chances of YOU all waving down an American in the village. Crazy shit. Hope the rest goes well.

  • http://www.offsilkroadin.com peretz

    Hey Shawn, we thought about turning back and imposing ourselves, but the rest of the day worked out well for us and we got into Lagodekhi in just the nick of daylight, so it was the right choice. Here’s your photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifl/3846223579/


  • geo

    there is lots of vegetarian dishes in georgia