Wanderer’s Notes. In love with the East – why go to Georgia?

Five Reasons Never to Go to Georgia

The first reason – you go to Georgia, come back home, and you want to go back right away, but there is no way – you have to work, you have to plow, to hammer, and what Georgia is like for you. You will suffer.

The second reason – you go to Georgia, eat delicious hinkali, chakapuli, and maybe even lobio, and come back home, and there you will have business lunch with pale soup and pasta for dinner. You’re going to suffer.

The third reason is that you go to Georgia, but there is no Kazbek, and you come back home, but there is no Kazbek there, I can guarantee that. You’ll suffer – that’s good if you have something else, but if you don’t have anything else, you’ll suffer like hell.

Reason number four – you go to Georgia, you’ll party there for 5 rubles, ride the cable car for 2 lari, come back home and gasoline costs 1.5 euro a liter, khinkali are not only 2 euro a piece, but they have small butts, you can’t eat khinkali properly, you have to eat with a butt and no broth inside. You will suffer.

Reason number five – you go to Georgia, sunny Tbilisi, snowy Kobi, then come back to your Gadukino, it rains all year round and you won’t get snow in winter. You will suffer.

A bonus reason is that no one will sing Suliko, or Tbiliso either. Only Youtube, but that’s soulless.

So you think, what the hell do you need Georgia for.

I bought the ticket to Kutaisi in an inexplicable frenzy, because it was cheap (60 euros) and it seemed to me that it was the top of romance to go there on the 27th, and return on December 31st. Like Lukashin. My mother was still fired up – “In winter you go to some Kutaisi, it must be a shithole, if it is possible to fly there by air, but in Georgia it is quiet? I said, “Mom, the Internet said Tartu and Tbilisi were the safest cities in the former Soviet Union.”

A couple weeks before my trip, I googled “What to do in Kutaisi in December” and got the answer that December is the worst time to do anything in Kutaisi.

The plane was packed, Georgians were flying home. People would hang out in the aisle and go to the stewardesses in the store, because it was absolutely impossible to push the cart down the aisle.

At the airport at passport control everyone was given a bottle of Saperavi, I knew about it, but had already forgotten, so it was twice as joyful.

We took a car, 150 euros for 3 days, which according to the car rental service, was almost for nothing. I wanted to tell them that almost for nothing is 15 euros for 3 days in Italy or 40 euros for 5 days in Cyprus, but decided not to get involved, with a pig snout. According to their rules the car had to be washed before handing over, otherwise scratches would not be visible, they would not immediately unblock the deposit and still reclaim 20 lari for a car wash. In general, some kind of shady company, but there is no other.

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At the airport we wanted to change money and buy SIM cards, in Yerevan for example both were cheap and profitable. In Kutaisi the difference between buying and selling rates was 3.8 and 2.4, which was way worse than even in Tartu and total crap. The cheapest SIM card cost 25 GEL (1 GB), that’s 4-5 times more expensive than in the city. So the free bottle of wine they get right off the bat. But not from us.

Weather was – this is the first time it happens that I arrive abroad (and it’s not Valka), and there the weather is exactly the same as in Estonia – +6 and rain. In the morning it was the same, so we decided to go to Tbilisi, where the weather was good.

I remember Kutaisi because the entire road from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the highway to Tbilisi is littered with plastic stalls and sheds, and there are thousands of skeletons of cars all around. Timur was worried from the backseat where we had brought him, what a shambles it was. “Don’t worry, Timur, I read on the Internet that Georgia is a very beautiful country!” And sure enough – just a minute later we passed a vast vacant lot with a giant glass flying saucer parked on it. A couple of minutes later, there was a huge fountain to the right of the road, as tall as a five-story building, like in Las Vegas. Only for some reason it was also in the middle of some abandonment and gushing sloppily, though powerfully. It turned out to be not a fountain, but a burst pipe.

On that controversial note, Kutaisi was over, and, in the rain and without internet, we drove to Tbilisi.

I immediately started to like Georgia – it’s only 9 am, and there are already barbecues near the road – it’s very introspective! Shashlik is the head!

There was no traffic in our direction, but we really need the four-lane road – we have yet to find out how much it is needed on the way back.

After Gori, the sun came out and we decided to stop in Mtskheta.

In Mtskheta we found the Magti office and bought a SIM card for 8 GEL with unlimited Internet, how about that, Kutaisi airport? Internet in Georgia is wahhhh how good! 4G and the connection was never lost. Timur downloaded all the Internet for himself during the trip.

First, we went to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

It turns out that the “photo with a peacock / parrot / monkey” service is still thriving in Georgia. I think their parrots are freezing.

At Jvari Monastery we could hardly resist quoting Lermontov.

In the beginning Timur said: “Well, let’s not worry about hotels, we have nothing to lose before the New Year. When we bought a SIM card, I opened Bucking and began to look at hotels – cheap. I ticked all the boxes – that with breakfast, with parking, in the center – all the same cheap. Timur says – put a filter for 5 stars, and we’ll see what they give. I put – expensive, if only the three of us in a single room. I was 4 star and I booked a nice hotel in the center for 22 euros per night, a couple hundred meters to the Samba Tsminda, a hundred meters to the river and the building of justice.

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At first we thought it was our hotel, the words stuck in my throat.

But no, ours was across the street.

The owner of the hotel gave us bus and metro cards so we didn’t have to spend an extra 4 GEL, we even had some money on them.

We walked through the city, and passed a monument to a man who looked like Pushkin. “Is that Pushkin?” – Timur asked. “Come on, where would Pushkin come from, if only Lermontov,” I said, although the character looked even less like Lermontov. “What are you talking about, what Pushkin, that’s our Baratashvili!” – A woman passing by broke away from her cell phone conversation. So if you see this man – keep in mind, it’s not Pushkin, it’s their Baratashvili.

The cable car took us to Mtatsminda, and there we found the Ferris wheel. I don’t like them, I’m afraid of them, and I even didn’t ride in London, probably more out of greed than fear. And here for 5 GEL dared me “your cabin fourteenth, it’s for balance!” and made a circle, held it together, but approaching the top, I really wanted to lie on the floor and throw a fit of hysteria, I restrained myself from the impulse. Timur said, “And if this wheel goes sideways, it’ll ruin my whole timelapse.”

On Mount Mtatsminda there is a lush park with different attractions peeking out of the bushes here and there. I really liked the planetarium, although I did not go inside, but judging by the music inside, there was definitely a Georgian feast with alcohol, I do not know what about the planets.

It got dark and the beautiful Tbilisi changed – it’s the brightest time in the darkest days of the year, the whole city is wrapped in Christmas lights, that’s where they spared no expense.

We went to Liberty Square for the city’s main Christmas tree

and on Shota Rustaveli Avenue we went to the other main Christmas tree. There was even an el-scandal about the second tree – people didn’t like the fact that for almost a million GEL they brought some shabby tree from Italy, which is not a tree at all – I personally saw that it had no trunk, but some iron pins. It looked nice in the dark, there was a Christmas market nearby, music and people dancing.

We went to the House of Khinkali to eat khinkali, drank a bucket of Kinsmarauli and went to the square to dance, we celebrated the New Year on the 28th of December. The next day had big plans, the first of which was not to oversleep on the Georgian military road.

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While walking to the hotel, we were elegantly tricked for money by a local. He hopped up to us near the dancing sculptures, untidy, cloak over shirt, but in tie, no teeth, but in human form, which is typical. And where do you come from, oh Estonia, and where in Estonia, oh Tartu and Tallinn, and I know Narva in Estonia, and I think he mentioned Kohtla-Järve, but I may be imagining things, it’s impossible that he knows Kohtla-Järve. And I was so happy at once – I’m from Narva! He followed us across the bridge. I, he said, am educated, I read a lot, there are all kinds of ignoramuses in Tbilisi and they want to show you the city, I’m not like that. I can tell you the capital of New Zealand, and if you don’t guess, I’ll earn a fee. I, without thinking – Brisbane, Paul, without thinking – Auckland, Timur abstained, as calosha, where you could sit, there were only two and both have already become busy. Man – no guess, Wellington. Well, I’m a lapdog, and Paul was very worried. Man – well, then can you give me 5 lari? I said, why so much, oats are expensive nowadays? Timurka, give him some change. Timur had 1 lari and 1 euro, he said, what are you going to do with that euro, they can’t change iron? No problem at all, give me your lari and euros. And having received the cash, the man turns around 180 degrees and disappears, like a fleeting vision, like a genius of pure badassery. The importance of education cannot be overstated, yes.

They’re Georgian Christmas trees, made of rustling either paper or straw

The Georgian Military Road is like a textbook movie – a boring beginning, an unhurried plot twist, a dramatic climax, and a jarring denouement.

At first we had a long drive out of rainy Tbilisi, then for a while the road resembled Kutaisi – rows of stalls and barns, then some views began to appear – Zhinval Reservoir, the fortress of Ananuri, well, I had seen something more interesting.

And then you find yourself among the mountains in the snow, uncertain and timid, but enough to get out of the car and take selfies against it.

Then we drove into a cloud, bumped into a row of trucks, and it seems to be already high, and the snow is more confident, but nothing is still unclear, what’s ahead?

In Gudauri and at the arch of friendship it was terribly foggy, at night it snowed generously, and if at first we were able to take photos from the car, then when we went to it and returned, the arch disappeared altogether. In Gudauri I thought that there is no Gudauri at all, it is just a fiction, and the only snowboarder, who we met (I wonder if he went skiing or already rode?), is kept here for entourage. Not too lucky, but we were hoping for the weather forecast, which promised sunshine by lunch, forecasts are like rollton – “can be trusted!” And fist on table.

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After the Pass of the Cross the fog, gloom and shadows vanished, and the blue-white winter began, the cable-car rumbled from Kobi to Gudauri. And I was so afraid that this beauty would end in 10 minutes and everything would be blocked up again, there would be no movie…

In Stepantsminda we drove straight to the church, some jigits stood behind us and started honking. “He said: “It’s icy there, you can’t pass by with your car, 50 GEL, we’ll take you there, we’ll wait and bring you back! As we are the smartest and also the greediest, we decided to drive ourselves, we have winter tires. In general, such impudent suggestions immediately put me on the idea: “We’re going to be cheated”. Well, in general, to get there by car is real, we passed all but the last zigzag (where we were going to leave the car and walk on foot, there on the trail nearby), but greatly lost, after our car began to skid in the side of the chasm. We went back down and drove for 50 GEL, feeling like sorrowful idiots. By the way, it is not clear why the guy so insistently offered this service – there’s a parking lot below, where about 30 Mitsubishi-delicas are waiting for customers, if this guy hadn’t scared us off, we would have probably parked and driven ourselves for 50 lari, especially since almost all tourists went that way.

It was freezing up there, I forgot my gloves in Tartu as if by chance, and there were many Hindu tourists, who not only had forgotten their gloves in India, but also their jackets and hats. Near the church was a flock of 4 giant tsobak, a mix of Alabai and Caucasian, well, as it turned out, it was not a pack, and two packs, and at some point, two male dogs clashed to death, izvalali-zodili each other, I went to the bathroom, and when I went out, the fight ceased, and the church led to the bloody path, there licked his wounds losing a couple. It was not nice, in general.

Kazbek caught a cloud on his visor and did not want to let go, and we did not want to wait in the freezing cold, so we went down, and the jigit said that in the morning Kazbek was seen in all its glory. We paid the jigit with a chiseled coin and drove to the town in our own car.

It was already past 3 o’clock, and we had eaten around 8 am, so we started to look for somewhere to grab a piece of bread and some caviar. We went to the first restaurant that we saw, I think it was Stancia Kazbegi, and there was a panoramic window and a free table with a view of Kazbek. I checked the webcams in Gudauri, everything was foggy. We sat down, ordered food, which was brought to us for a long time, forgetting one thing and another, but incredibly delicious, and then Kazbek opened. And so I wanted to pause this moment and hang in it for a long time…

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But I had to go, I hopelessly started the web-camera from Gudauri once again, and there the sunset was streaming down the mountains, the cable cars were going up, skiers were rustling down, not even a trace of daytime bad weather and the smell of shashlik was shining through the screen.

First, of course, we went to the arch again, this time it was in a completely different light and color.

We had arrived in Gudauri by sunset, but we were not deceived! Leaving the village at sunset, chest in a wheel, is not the same as wandering slouching through the fog.

It got dark quickly and on without stopping to Tbilisi. I had no strength to go to a restaurant that evening, but I had strength to go to the store and buy some shitty shit, which was a shame to eat in Georgia, knowing that right at that moment somewhere near you there was a shish kebab, hinkali and lonely satsivi crying. Tomorrow! We will avenge you, but tomorrow!

In the morning I ask the owner of the hotel – are there any brides in town, where do you have mostly tourists from? He says – “Well, from everywhere, although, of course, from Russia and Ukraine the most. But there are a lot of Hindus, if you look at the passport – Hindus, but they do not seem to be from India, they probably work in the Emirates. They have nothing there, it’s desert, they come here and take photos near that bush (points to some bald bush like red currants), I tell them, wah, can I show you another bush, a better one? I said to them: “Maybe I should show you another, better shrub…” There are a lot of Indians and some Asians, but not Chinese-Japanese, they don’t need Kazbek, they take photos with a fake dog, a stone, a dressed-up Stalin, a lamppost.

We went first to see the church of Tsminda Sameba, we lived very close to it. I think so – the churchmen have an agreement between them, a convention – if we build a church, let anyone come to it – a religious fanatic, an atheist, just a curious person, the Pope or Barack Obama – he must be awestruck, that’s the first thing he must feel. The Tsminda Sameba is the best thing, even though churches in Georgia are not very big. Cyclopean structure, and when we went inside, it turned out that there are 4 more floors down. They ask for money here too – I was relieved by 10 GEL, beggars always calculate me, I must have a shabby look and the inner core is not translucent.

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