In the summer of 2006, I went to Georgia for a week. I went to Batumi, which is border to Turkey and I also visited, Tbilisi the capital. What was I doing there ? God Knows! Being so close to the border I decided to hop across as we no longer need a visa to enter Georgia, a bit surreal really. I crossed the border without a glitch, mind you the guy was so serious and when he said my name I was a bit scared; Then he said to me: Carol, Welcome to Georgia. Talk about having misconceptions.
I’m at the border and have no idea where to go so I end up taking a taxi to Batumi, but I’m wondering if I have done the right thing. All I can see is decrepit grey buildings probably from the communist times; Everything looks like its falling apart. The taxi driver takes me to a cheap hotel – Well not that cheap at $11 per night. I spend the first night wandering around town which is quite nice. Sort of a resort type of place, Thank Heaven, we’ve left the old buildings behind. Nobody speaks English. I am walking around town in silence. Although everyone is quite nice and try to help, but without knowing the language, its quite hard to communicate.
The following day, a Dutch guy arrives at the hotel and ends up sharing my room. It was a bit cheaper for him, and there was another bed in my room. However, the owner wasn’t to happy or just plainly didn’t understand that we wanted to share a room as we didn’t know each other. For my part, I was just happy for the company. We walked around town, spend some time at the beach and bought some vodka ($0,75) really cheap. We drank it in the room. I recall walking in Batumi and smelling bread but didn’t know where it came from until I realized it was from a basement; People would just bend down and order a freshly bake bread for $0,50, how cool is that? There was also a lady selling some sort of beer on the street or we thought ..We tried it and thought it was beer but then some moms were buying it for their kids (around 8 yrs old) so it couldn’t be alcohol surely even if we are in Georgia. We will never know what it was.
After a few days sightseeing; it was time to go check out the capital. We took an overnight train for $2 which seems ridiculous. Once again people were all interested in knowing where we were from. By then we had learn a few key words of Georgian not easy as they use the Cyrillic alphabet, but we managed. Roger knew of a place to stay; Which was great as I was completely clueless. I still didn’t know how I ended up in Georgia. I mean just a week earlier, I didn’t even know Georgia existed !
The place we stayed was just fantastic. A lady was renting a room in her own house to make ends meet; We got to stay in a real Georgian house. The grandmother was super cool, she reminded me of mine. She just chatted away even thought we couldn’t understand her. All day long was spend walking around the city, we walked for hours. We saw many beautiful churches, but that was it, there was nothing much else to see.
It was time to split as I wanted to head back to Turkey. I manage to buy my return train ticket to Batumi. Actually, it was easier that I thought it would be as the girl spoke English. I was a bit apprehensive to take the overnight as I was told its not the safest. In the end, everything turned out fine. As soon as I entered the train, a policeman came to tell me to call him if I had a problem. That much I gathered as he spoke very few words in English. It’s surprising how much one can understand by simply gestures.
I was sharing my cabinet with a man, his two boys, and a soldier. They looked after me. They made sure nobody would try anything funny. I had brought my Rubik cube and showed the soldier how to play. I could see he was getting angry as he couldn’t figure it out. In the end, he passed it to one of the boys, who played until late at night. I really enjoyed this train ride; even if I didn’t speak their language, we managed a basic conversation. The Rubik cube also broke the ice between us. I later slept like a baby as usual. I couldn’t believe, that for $2, we even had a sleeper.
Crossing the borders again was a piece of cake always easy with a Canadian passport, they barely glance at it. Funny sometimes as man eye up my passport with interest. A Georgian guy was trying to match me up with his friend as soon as he saw my Canadian passport. Couldn’t be more obvious! While I waited for my bus to take me to Erzurum in Turkey; I had the company of Turkish guys. There all so nice and helpful, offering you food and of course tea. I think if I had accepted all the tea offers in a day, I would easily have drank 15 cup of teas! You just had to be randomly walking on the street and people would offer you tea. It’s a very friendly nation, some countries could learn a thing or two from Turkey.
Six hours later, in the heat, in a very long drive inland; Mountainous area, a woman next to me was vomiting which made other people throw up too. It wasn’t very nice, but there was nothing we could do about it. I finally arrived only to find out there was no more buses to town. I just start walking, two boys in tow, who keep annoying me and pestering me not sure exactly what they wanted but my patience ran out. I told them to fuck off, not my proudest moment. They can be really annoying sometimes, no matter how many times you tell them you’re fine you don’t need there help, they keep following you. I found the hotel and got a room that looked like a box. It was at least very clean yet it had no shower! After all the traveling, I was so looking forward to a nice shower. In the end, he let me use the one in the other room. That was a bit random really. I mean, I can deal with not having a shower in my room, but usually they have shared shower. Not in this case. Guess, I can’t complain as I was only paying €6 per night and it was really a nice hotel. This trip was such a different experience.