Is it possible to see Mount Kazbek from Tbilisi?
Today we had to wake up early, at 6h30. Last night when we were still tasting the wine at our guesthouse, we met a local person who now lives in Moscow, and he told us an interesting thing. He said that he lived on a hill in Tbilisi, and with perfect weather conditions he could see Mount Kazbek from his place. It was kinda hard to believe, but we wanted it to be true. We made a deal with him to wake up early and go together to Mtatsminda park to see if it was visible. Sadly, the weather got bad again, therefore there was no point of doing that. Instead, we said our goodbyes, he had to catch a flight and went to pack our stuff. Today we go to the seaside by train, or so we thought.
Change of plans
Here in Georgia, nothing goes as planned. After we packed our stuff, two of us went out to pick some local street food. Almost on every corner of the city, you can find small bakeries filled with various fresh khachapuri. Just when we got outside, our taxi driver from yesterday came to talk to us. Apparently, yesterday, when we said our goodbyes, we made a deal that he will take us to the train station and that he already was waiting for about a half hour. Surprised by it we kindly asked him to give us some time to eat our meal.
When all of us came out of our apartment and met him again, we asked where was his car. It was nowhere around. He looked at us and started with his Georgian magic of hospitality:
Listen, friends, I want to invite you to my home. You don’t know when is your train, but I know it is in the evening. What is the point of waiting at the train station, when you can wait at my place? Yesterday I worked and I couldn’t drink, but today I rest, let’s drink together and after that, I’ll call my youngest brother to bring to the station.
The persuasive invitation
He got us. We didn’t know when was the train. After yesterday’s journey, the last thing we wanted to search for it online. We couldn’t find an excuse, it was hard to reason against his point without preparation. All hopes were lost when his wife came to us out of nowhere with the same invitation to join them in their home. Georgian people are so persuasive that it is hard to refuse their offer. We agreed for one coffee, the time was pressing us. It is a 5-hour ride from Tbilisi to Batumi. Somehow it felt like that this is not how It’s going to end, It’s never one coffee, right?
The hospitable Georgian people
The taxi driver and his wife were Tamaz and Irma. Apparently, they were in love for a long time but married to other people. When Irma’s husband died, Tamaz took her with all of her four children. Despite their age, they have a small baby of their own. Honestly, I hardly ever seen so much love in peoples’ eyes as I saw here.
After a good cup of coffee (it is hard to get drinkable coffee at guesthouses here in Georgia based on our Lithuanian taste), Tamaz brought a bottle of wine and asked if anyone could come with him to the train station to check it's timing. We told that we already have checked it online and there is only one train left in the evening, which is too late for us to get to Batumi in time as we planned. Our only option is taking a minibus.
Tamaz wouldn’t listen to us and went out after telling that he needs to go to a store for a beer because he doesn’t drink wine. Feeling uncomfortable we decided to wait it out and taste some wine in a meanwhile. This was where we got stuck, not only Tamaz came back with a beer, but he brought a liter of chacha he got from a woman in a kiosk yesterday. Things got settled once Irma filled the whole table with their traditional foods and snacks he just brought from the market.
It Is hard to get out of a situation like this kindly, Georgian people always seem to open their hearts and treat their guests with care. One just can’t say no to that. With more alcohol, we started talking. Though only two of us talk Russian fluently, the other two, including me, can listen and understand quite a bit. As we talked, our chacha glasses got filled, again and again. I even started to drink only half of it because I didn’t want to get drunk in a morning at all, and I had hope that we will be moving out soon. I was probably the only one who didn’t want to spend time here at all. Easy to understand, my Russian knowledge is the poorest out of four of us, therefore I got pretty bored.
The medical system in Georgia
Apparently, Irma is a music class teacher and she can play with a lot of musical instruments. With all the good mood it didn’t take long until most of us started singing Georgian and Lithuanian songs. Even though their house looked very poor, they had a piano and Irma played us quite a few pieces. It didn’t take long before we understood that she paints as well, all of the room walls was full of her work. More talkative friends of mine even got a few of them when we finally said our goodbyes. Overall, this place which seemed nasty at the start appeared to be full of love and art. It was hard to believe that such a skillful person lives like this in Tbilisi, but with time we were explained that Irma had a serious illness which needed surgery. For better or worse, medical treatment is not covered by the Georgian government, so they had to sell almost everything they had to pay for all the treatment to cure the illness.
A local Georgian apartment
One thing which remained a mystery to me was where does everyone fit. I was told it was a 3 room apartment with three families living in it. Maybe there were more rooms and they personally have three. I remained uncertain, my understanding is very limited. I never went to the bathroom, but I was told it was quite bizarre, a toilet standing next to some furniture in somewhat what looked like a room.
Another interesting part of their apartment was the balcony. It seemed like it could collapse at any given minute. We were told that we shouldn’t worry because this building was built by Germans back in the days, so it can withstand more than it looks. First thing I noticed in the balcony was a Georgian flag with an old laptop on a small table beside it. It lacked some of the buttons. To my surprise there was enough space to sit for three of us; me, Tamaz and one of my friends. Apparently, the same people who drank chacha were the only smokers. If someone still doesn’t know, chacha is a local strong liqueur made out of grapes.
Being drunk in the middle of the day
By the time we finished the wine and chacha, some of us got really drunk, including Tamaz. The goodbyes were really long and emotional. In just more than two hours, we spent there, from 11h15 to ~1h30, some of us got really close to the hosts. By that time we already knew that we cannot go to Batumi, so we decided to spent our night in Kutaisi.
As promised Tamaz called his youngest brother to get us to the bus station, or a place where minibusses leave for Kutaisi. He guaranteed us that with him, we’ll get the best offer and service. It is his town after all, and he was very pleased to meet and welcome us here. So we rolled.
When we got to the place, some of us went to a shop, and Tamaz with his chacha fellow, holding each other, went to minibus drivers to bargain for the best price. It didn’t take long as we heard shouting as if someone was arguing, I saw Tamaz’s brother going to check it out, so I decided to follow. It was hard to see what was happening because a road advertisement was covering the source of noise But when I saw my fellow friend in a group of people I increased the tempo.
Once we got there the fighting had already stopped, but there was still a lot of shouting in the Georgian language. I couldn’t understand what happened, all I saw was Tamaz in the middle of a lot of males similar to his age. I saw his nose bleeding and my friend was holding his broken glasses.
It was obvious that Tamaz was zerged by a group of people, but I’m not that kind of person who would jump on people with my fists trying to prove nothing and supposedly protecting my friends. I won’t raise a fist for my friend until I knew that it was not his fault and if it that was I necessary.
From what I’ve been told Tamaz wanted to get us into a first minibus leaving for Kutaisi. There was not enough space for all of us so he asked to kick someone in order to get as all in. When he was told a price, Tamaz showed that the driver is stupid and soon he got attacked by a bunch of people. I’m not sure if it’s true, but either way, I can’t stand by actions of either group.
The fact that he tried so hard that even got into a brawl is kinda sweet, heroic, but utterly stupid. I guess with a big heart comes a small brain. Emotional people tend to solve problems not rationally, but impulsively. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that he tried so hard for us, and I really respect him for that, but I won’t tolerate violence, and even more, I don’t need anyone fighting for me. Most of the situations can be solved verbally and there is no point in using physical force. From my own past experience violence create more violence.
After all shouting in a language, I don’t understand, someone actually decided to pick us up. In the end, we are tourists and we’ll spend some money to get to the point one way or another. The driver still seemed to be angry, because Tamaz didn’t tell about our huge backpacks. We had to pay extra for them as they didn’t fit anywhere, therefore we had to put them on a passenger seat. We said our goodbyes to still-arguing Tamaz and his brother and sat into a minibus to continue our journey.
From Tbilisi to Kutaisi
After two-thirds of the road to Kutaisi, we stopped for a drink and a toilet. It left me with the impression that everything costs 3 Gel here. We were low on money, because nobody exchanged any for quite some time now, and we had only 10 minutes. We were hungry, all we could buy was a portion of cooked potatoes with three beers and guess what? For 3 GEL we got served four double plates with glasses, a bowl of ajika source and a lot of bread. That definitely made us laugh as for 1 € price we got served better than in some restaurants in Lithuania.
With 50 km left to Kutaisi, I noticed that the landscape shifted totally, It was hard to find a tree outside a city in the east, but these beautiful hills are fully covered by trees. Though they are not very tall as the ground probably has too many stones in it, and a huge tree would just simply fall.
When we got to Kutaisi we had a nice excursion around the city, our driver got everyone to their home. I won’t lie, the poorness of Tbilisi got me depressed, but Kutaisi is absolutely on another level. Maybe it is because I haven’t seen outskirts of the capital city, but everything I saw around the center of the city is way worse than the worst I’ve seen in any of post-soviet countries.
Apparently, this city is shrinking, it was a big industrial center during the Soviet era, but when the markets opened to a wide world, everything collapsed. Today this city stands without a reasonable purpose for Its existence, maybe that explains the poor looks of Kutaisi. We were told that the current population is something between 70 – 90 thousand people, though on internet based on 2014 statistics it was 148 thousand inhabitants.
The center of Kutaisi actually appeared in really big contrast to the rest of the city. It is an ancient capital of different kingdoms and currently houses the Parliament of Georgia, which was brought here to recognize the importance of the ancient city and to decentralize the government. Currently, the main income in the city is tourism.
When we got to the last stop, as usual, everyone around started to solve our problems. This only adds to the sad image of the country because everyone tries to recommend a place of their friends or relatives. People probably lack money and work, they seem to fight for every opportunity. Finally, a random person from a street found a place for us to stay and the driver was kind enough to take us there for free. Without knowing whereabouts of the place, we agreed, everyone just wants to put their stuff and go grab some food.
Once we got to the spot, after waiting 8 minutes at the place, the driver got another call and asked us to get back to the car. God knows where are we going, everything is just based on our trust to local Georgian people hospitality. And once again it worked out quite well, we were met by a really fat person in his Lincoln and he seems to have a big nice house. Part of it is being renovated, but after all the fears it should suit us pretty well. We also got offered a dinner and some wines, so, hopefully, I can call this a day after this point.
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