Saturday, November 30, 2019

Farewell, Georgia!

Well, it’s been about four months in Georgia and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. This is the longest I’ve been in one spot (runners up: Malaysia with three months and Australia with two). Before I scoot, however, I have a couple more cities to mention, as I finally made it over to the Black Sea.

As you may have noticed from previous entries, I don’t like to spend a long time en route. With this in mind, I split my Tbilisi to Batumi trip in half with a stop in Kutaisi. We’ll tackle that first.

First and foremost, the minibuses stop at bus stop number two, next to a McDonald’s. I had not anticipated this and booked a place near the bus stop near the old town. It was a bit annoying (especially since no one was around to let me in when I arrived!), but the proximity to the old town made up for it the next day - in fact, the place was practically connected to the town by a cable car!

My plan was simple: I’d spend half a day wandering around the old town (visiting City Hall and Library, as you may have guessed) and half a day going to one of the caves. My plan was derailed when the hostel owner decided we needed to make toasts to friendship, families, Pink Floyd, and more over breakfast. I called a mulligan and went back to sleep. I did explore the old town (though I couldn’t find the library - typical Georgia), the cathedral, and the botanical gardens, but the cave seemed like too much of a chore. A fellow traveler gave it a 5/10, so perhaps it’s good I skipped. In any case, the next day rolled around soon enough and I was on my way to Batumi.

Batumi is a seaside resort town that most everyone encouraged me to skip. In my own way, I did skip it - I took a few personal days holed up in an AirBnB doing nothing but reading and watching videos in my underwear. By my estimation it’d been a month since I last had a private room, so I took advantage of it.

Eventually I emerged from my cocoon and wandered up the… boardwalk? and took photos of all the things one might take photos of. I even got into the library (the nicest library in Georgia, for the record) and, while it was closed, City Hall seemed nice too. At the end of the day I ran into some friends from Tbilisi who were out for a good time. I tagged along with them for a drink or two before a day of walking caught up to me and I made my way home.

One of the people talked me into staying an extra day to go up in the National Park for a picnic with a local acquaintance. Sure! It turned into a day of driving around aimlessly. The scenery was beautiful though - we even stumbled upon a “Twin Waterfall” that wasn’t marked on any non-Georgian map. We roasted veggies and stuff over a campfire and eventually made our way back to town. My friend and I were fatigued by the winding roads and glad to move back toward our beds.

The next day I did two things I’d neglected earlier: I took some photos of a few things in natural light and I went up the Batumi Cable Car. That was okay - unlike in Tbilisi or Kutaisi, there’s nothing to do at the top except visit the gift shop. It was pretty, though. After the cable car, I left Batumi and stopped for a night in Kutaisi (grabbed dinner, checked in, slept, checked out, got on another minibus). Those two minibus rides were pretty wild though.

I’m currently back in Tbilisi, but it’s my last week here. I’m staying in the hostel I booked when I first arrived in Georgia, which makes for a nice book end. In the coming weeks I’m headed to Athens, Greece (because there’s no direct flight to...); Amman, Jordan (to meet a friend who has another flight to…); Paphos, Cyprus (because flying to Cyprus was half the cost of a direct flight to…); Beirut, Lebanon.  Hopefully the political situation in Lebanon improves or at least stays stable. After Lebanon I have no plans, but Egypt looks mighty tempting - Christmas at the Pyramids?

All-in-all I’ve had a wonderful time in Georgia and I’d encourage everyone to come and visit!

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