Sunday, November 17, 2019

Georgia on my Mind

I'm not particularly creative. (Bonus - I have a podcast episode of the same name.)

Here's the real question - what's the point of this post? Detailing what I've done in Georgia, I suppose. Perhaps more categories? I've been here for about three months, so I owe you an update of any sort.



GENERAL

Museums immediately come to mind, though not for any specific reason. The National Museum of Georgia has some interesting exhibits - a whole ton of ancient coins, ancient artifacts, and traditional dress spring to mind. The art museum(s) hit me as standard art museum(s) - perhaps a bit too much to take in on any one day, as I was mentally tired after one floor. It was good to see local art though. I have yet to see the book museum, as it's part of the National Library and therefore guarded by very surly people.



A lot of my time was spent wandering streets and parks and that sort of thing. I'm sure a lot of folks in Tbilisi will laugh at me for not taking a 4 GEL (~$1.33) taxi out / home, but I enjoy getting lost and wandering down strange streets. The little alleyways in Tbilisi usually include some courtyard access and grapevines.

The fortress and the botanical gardens are both worth visiting, though neither are particularly astounding. A walk around the botanical gardens and a few other parks would make for great date night spots though.

I went to three libraries, all of which sucked. Not due to the place, but due to the people. In all of them I was greeted with suspicion, as if I were some spy or interloper who dare use a public space. I wrote my poems nonetheless... and never went back.

It didn't take long before I found myself in a routine and had a regular rotation of bars and cafes. To throw a few names out:


  • Dive Bar: a nice little spot, if located in a weird twist of the street. The weekly couchsurfing meetups happen here, which were warm and welcoming. The staff is also great and the prices are right. Don't expect a huge variety of options. One of the few places with normal size bar stools.
  • SOSA Cafe: I did a ton of writing here. The upstairs area was wonderful for finding my own little world and putting pen to paper. Slightly overpriced, but the staff was wonderful. It's one of the few places that serve breakfast as I know it.
  • Crafted Bar: another strange spot to get to, but worth it. There is a biweekly international meetup here, but it's better to go when there's not a crowd. The food is a pleasant surprise and there's a bunch of interesting beer on tap. Staff, again, are wonderful. Bar stools are a bit high.
  • Tiflis Pub: sure, it has "pub" in its name, but the real draw here is the cheap food. They have a huge menu and reasonable prices. As a bonus, they're open twenty four hours. DO NOT DRINK THEIR CHACHA.
  • ChaCha Room: one of the few places I found that has drinkable chacha. Rock bottom prices, but the atmosphere wasn't for me. The bar stools are, like, chest-height.
  • Skola Cafe: I was delighted by their vegetarian options. As mentioned in the previous post, it's a bit tough to get veggies in a restaurant.
  • Warsaw: most folks go here for the "lemonchaha", but it's my spot for some fantastic soup.
  • Mapshalia: I've never paid more than 10 GEL here and I've always had to leave food on the table.
  • Random Basement Bakeries: the unsung heros and/or villians of Tbilisi. Two thousand calories of cheese and bread for sixty cents? Terrible, delicious choice.
I'm sure there are more places I could mention, but I'm drawing a blank.


WITH AARON

Aaron arrived a few days before the end of August in order to usher in a happy birthday for yours truly. Most of the time was spent attending a usual range of events and wandering around - up to Mother Georgia and the Fortress, massage in the Sulfur Baths, National Museum, trivia night, International Meetup, Couchsurfing Meetup, and that sort of thing. Of note are three extra excursions.

First up, we did a bad job of managing our time and were unable to see the mountains. Instead, Aaron and I caught a minibus (I have no idea how to spell it - Marshutka??) to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. It was a little adventure to a little town - we saw the museum, wandered up to the fortress, had some terrible food, and made our way back to Tbilisi. Gori has a really cool city hall, for the record.

Second, I'd kept passing a basement spot near where I'd been staying. I figured having backup would make things a bit easier, so we wandered on in. Apparently the place was a strange fresh fish restaurant. We tried ordering what was on the other tables, but we came to understand - true or not - that the other people had brought bread, cheese, and other normal things from home and had only ordered fish and drink in the restaurant. We ended up getting drinks and awkwardly pantomiming our surprise with another patron. It was an experience.

Finally, for my birthday I try to float down some body of water. After having avoided the masses of people trying to get me to go on a tour of any sort, it was time to take the leap: we signed up for a boat "tour" of Tbilisi (a.k.a. have some wine on a boat). I must back up one minute and mention that Aaron had desired to take part in a "Supra" from the start. This is a traditional Georgian feast with a toast master (tamada) that involves a lot of eating and drinking (often dozens of rounds of toasts, after which you are expected to finish your drink). As we boarded our boat, we saw a second boat with some meat and stuff on it that we had initially thought was our tour boat. We went up the river, we went down the river; it was only when we returned to the dock that we discovered our folly - the second boat was a supra! There was bread and cheese and bowls of meat - and naturally horns of wine raised in toast. I feel Aaron was a bit sore that we didn't decide to embrace a pirate lifestyle and "invite" ourselves onto the second boat.

I'm not sure what else to describe - hopefully Aaron would like to add his own narrative.

WITH DAN

With a visit from Aaron under my belt, a couple weeks later Dan visited. Yes, Dan from the Wacky Rally and the trip to Alaska. Again, we did a lot of normal sightseeing.

Where with Aaron the goal was to hang out and have a happy birthday, with Dan it was to have a travel experience - as such he explored a bit more on his own. I did finally go up the cable car to Mother Georgia during his visit and I made my second expedition out of the city.

Having met some friendly folks at trivia night, Dan and I joined a crew of people who wanted to go pick grapes in Kakheti. The whole thing was a bit of a farce, but welcome to travel. About ten of us met up early, had to negotiate the route again after it'd been set, and found ourselves dropped in the middle of a vineyard with no clue of what to do. After much confusion, a picnic broke out. There were toasts in Russian. After the organizer figured we'd had enough standing, smiling, and nodding, we were to head home.

As it dawned on us that we'd be heading home after prancing around a vineyard without trying wine, a small revolt occured. The hired taxis were diverted and we ended up at a strange outdoor restaurant on a highway where we had another couple courses of the same food we'd had at the picnic. This time, however, there was more than one bottle of wine.

Not yet sated, as we made our way back to Tbilisi we tried to stop at several advertised wineries. The third time was the charm and we were finally able to pull over, do a wine tour, and buy some wine. We were also plied with chacha, which, as stated in the earlier post, is a terrible idea.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some things from the week, but I hope that Dan once again adds in what he remembers when he gets a chance.

FURTHER AFIELD

I've obviously spent most of my time bouncing around Tbilisi and have mentioned two of my three expeditions around Georgia in this post. I figured I could spend a paragraph or two on my third departure from Tbilisi, when I went to Kazbegi (Stepantsminda). Myself and a few of the friends I'd made in the grape-picking adventure decided we should go check out the mountains. Holy shit what a great decision!

We hopped in a minibus and wound our way north over about four hours, watching gorgeous scenery the whole way. Getting into town I have no way of describing what beautiful scenery we encountered except to say look at my photos. We spent the first evening relaxing and playing card games (we were still in Georgia, after all). The next morning we woke up early and hiked our way to the monastery at the top of one of the smaller mountain peaks. It was astoundingly beautiful (and a much needed return to hiking / nature for me).

We got back before check-out, had a meal, and made our way back to Tbilisi. There was some debate of spending another day somewhere in the mountains, but a flood / mishap left me with only the clothes on my back being dry (I dropped a change of clothes in an inch of water), so that was out as far as I was concerned.

I would highly, highly recommend going to Kazbegi if ever you find yourself in Georgia... almost as much as I'd recommend Dilijan (Armenian post forthcoming)!

1 comment:

  1. It sounds amazing, I can't believe how cheap that is.

    ReplyDelete