It may sound unbelievable now, but I have been expecting some crazy events to come in 2020. Not necessary worldwide shutdown, but a crisis of some sort was about to come on us.
On the new years eve I have made a decision not to work in the year 2020 and would try to make money otherwise. maybe starting a small business of at least travel around and search for new ideas. And so I did quit my seasonal job in St. Anton am Arlberg - until this winter the biggest Austrian ski-resort.
It turned out to be a well timed decision, because the region was to become epicenter for spread of the virus in Europe, or at least that is what media said. At that time I was luckily long gone.
Having founded very cheap flight from the Czech Rep. to Georgia my destiny was shaped. At the end of January I happened to be in Tbilisi. Now things will get more twisted...
Cheap flights from EU are flying to Kutaisi, to which we have landed in the middle of the night and horde of taxi drivers was fighting over my attention to give me a ride. What ended up being four hours drive, costed about 10 euros so I said yes and of we went to Tbilisi. If you haven't yet heard about this country and its drivers, I bet there have been articles written about this topic only. No shortage of Adrenaline and emotions. Unexpected stops in the middle of nowhere to have a short smoke or pick up next passenger must be expected.
Having arrived early in the morning, my chances of getting straight into any hostel are close to zero. but I already have sim card with internet access so from the Liberty Square Cafe, I am searching my options. Hostels are very cheap and it is off season anyway. Perfect, maybe 3 dollars a night. Don't expect any luxury for that, actually don't expect anything. For such price any standard is good enough, but staying in such places in summer would be definitely more enjoyable. The place was so cold, I had to sleep in my jacket, what looked like a receptionist was sneezing and coughing in what appeared to be beginning of the epidemic.
I guess the fact that the hostel was so bad made me found my flat rather early. What was maybe two or three full days looking around for real estate agencies, I have scored online and got into my place the next day. Landlord installed a gas heater on that day with some local professionals and I was ready to live for a first time in my life in another capital city than my country of origin. What I didn't know than, was the fact everything will close and what is otherwise amazing city would become an overnight prison.
The lockdown proved my planning to be right. I have chosen the best possible part of the city for this event. Being close to the nearby hill, it gave me escape plan out into nature and center of old town had it's little shops always empty because they are somewhat more pricey, but for average expat not an issue at all, so I didn't had to wait in cues ever.
The local lockdown have been somewhat weird. First of all, locals are known for not obeying the law way too much, which is awesome and one has still a feeling of freedom in here. But after the government decision to close all the possible means of transportation, at one point even private vehicles being banned of the street. I thought wow, they are trying to show of in a good light before somebody. Nonetheless it started to be annoying only when first people starting going out and suddenly the streets were full of people in masks. Oh boy, how I was loving the world without sheeple.
One day, I was trying to buy a camera from a guy on the internet and he came to meet me on the street with a mask and gloves telling me it's his first day out since the lockdown began, 6 weeks later... But luckily it wasn't illegal to go and spend time outside and so I was walking quite a bit everyday, exploring what was left to see in this crazy situation.
Tbilisi has lot of historical monuments around and is overall a big city to get by just walking. So, the options were limited but well taken. Out in the hills on one side of the city is a Tbilisi lake next to which stands something to be called like the chronicles of Georgia a monument with most of the important dates and historical events.
On my walks I was sometimes joined by others I have met before the lockdown. Although with the whole escalation they too had their thoughts elsewhere and more often than not I was walking around alone on almost completely empty streets.
Of course this is how the majority of the world looked like, but I thought why not sharing few thoughts on how it went on here, so somebody interested in visiting or even moving here can create a better picture in their mind.
Overall I think it wasn't that bad considering I had financial freedom to get by, but for the next lockdown I hope to be somewhere else, at least to not make it too stereotypical and not to start hating on Georgia. This otherwise very interesting country with lot of history and nature has treated me well and I will be happy to come back, if I can ever leave first.
The local situation still don't allow any normal way out, only repatriation. I am hoping to get to some other eastern European countries for the rest of the summer. At least so far I have made a change in my surroundings by moving to Batumi a city at the Black Sea and live now in somewhat nicer climate that dry and hot Tbilisi. But that is the topic for a next article.
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