Friday, 18 March 2011

Georgia 1

How is it so that things always seem to work out for the best. I get ditched by my bus at the border - despite having paid for onward travel. After curb kicking and cursing I give in and ask for a taxi (which I suspect I pay a little over the odds for). The cheery old man drives me into Batumi. I explain that I want to go to Tbilisi. We pull up at a scabby boxey office with a few mini buses outside. The taxi driver bangs relentlessly on the window of one minibus until a blurry eyed fellow pops his head up. Regardless of the fact that his slumber has been disturbed he greets me with a smile and handshake. I like georgia already. We pile my gear into the van. Then, as it is 4am, the driver and I crash out on the lumpy mini bus seats until the sun makes an appearance. Tbilisi it is then!

I'm ejected from the minibus in the North of Tbilisi. From my brief foray into other forms of transport it seems common that once at ones destination, one is swarmed by taxi's drivers who are all hoping the relieve you of your dosh. I build my trusty steed amid a crowd of inquisitive and somewhat confused faces. The heckles of “Mr? Taxi?” eventually die down as the rip-off merchants settle in to watch my contraption unfold. Once complete I get the classic tyre squeeze and look of approval and then I leave to seek out the city centre. I follow the river until called over by two fishermen for a beer and some salted fish. Five beers later I wiggle off down the road much more confidant that I can find the hotel without the aid of maps or directions. Bizarrely I do indeed find it and go about getting checked in.

I spend an evening with the other inmates – one of whom happens to be Cheolo (from such episodes as Iran 2/3). I meet Yashar (from Iran) and Clara (Slovenia). Badri (the manager) Yashar and I have have many a jam session over the next few days. Yashar and I also visit a local sulphur bath – built in the style of an Iranian mosque. It was quite surreal to walk through a blue and yellow mosaic tiled entrance to find that the interior contained naked blokes getting soapy massages in eggy water. I came out feeling fresher and cleaner than I had in a long while!

Cheolo plans a day of wine tasting and factory tours – he's making a documentary for Korean TV about Armenian brandy and Georgian wine. I offer to help out as its sounds like the making of an interesting day. He pays for the whole thing and has me presenting in-front of the camera most of the day – talking about things I know next-to-nothing about.

With slightly fuzzy heads we return to Tbilisi and the hostel. We stop off at the market for some homemade grogg – and who should I see there but Stu the big pisshead. With our forces once more combined (or halved) we settle in for an almighty session that has my liver wincing every time I recall it to mind. A pattern emerges....

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