The first 2 hours in Georgia were a real shock for me. I was so happy to leave the cold mountainous country of Turkey and I expected to find Georgia, a country that has at least the same standard as Turkey.
Since I did not enter via the main border crossing on the Black Sea coast, but via the mountains, I had entered Georgia via the hinterland – something I did not know at that time. Grey in grey and run down are the small towns along the worst road I had ever seen. Even with 13.000 km through India and Nepal, I can hardly remember comparable routes. Anyway, this section was enough to break both crash bars this time.
On top of that, the Georgians celebrated the orthodox Easter Monday, all banks and shops were closed all over the country, the cash machines did not accept my card. Because of the horrendous price of gasoline in Turkey the tank was almost empty when crossing the border, to refuel without Georgian Leira (GEL) on land was hard work, Turkish Lira are not accepted even in the border area. Only at the 4th filling station I managed to persuade a gas station attendant to accept Euro. The young man was a bit complicated, only after an intensive ½ h negotiations via sign language we finally had an exchange rate suitable for both. The fuel price has at least settled down to a tolerable level again, costs one third compared to Turkey.
Finally, after 90 more kilometres, we reach the main connection between Tbilisi and the Black Sea coast – the road is getting nicer, but there is war going on there. On one lane in each direction of travel, up to five cars next to each other, anyone driving slower than 120 is a traffic obstacle and lives extremely dangerously. So get into the madness and get through as fast as possible. On the way I notice in the same direction a BMW with Swiss license plates, the driver is greeted briefly and then accelerates again.
Shortly before Tbilisi, after a rest we meet again in a traffic jam – after a conversation at the roadside it turns out that he is also on tour and already had the address of a suitable accommodation for Tbilisi, so I join him and together we go to Dodo’s Homestay.
This is a centrally located, small private pension in a backyard without breakfast, beds are rented. The ambience with its large and very high rooms is very pleasant – unfortunately the furniture is sparse and worn out, it has not been renovated for at least 50 years and certainly half of that time has not been thoroughly cleaned. But the motorbikes are in a safe place and the price is reasonable with 15 € per night.
The first two days I spend with Tom Büchi, the Swiss, walking through the city. He is very nice and funny, to speak German again after 3 weeks is pleasant, we have some beers and quite a lot of fun together during this time. He left at the same time as me and will be on the road for 10 weeks in total. He came with a ferry from the Ukraine via Turkey to Georgia. His destination is first Iran and then Syria before he goes back home via the Balkans.
Dodo’s Homestay is mentioned in the Lonely Planet, that’s why after Tom’s departure, the next travellers dawdle with the most adventurous destinations.
On the one hand Klaus, a former entrepreneur from Bavaria, has been travelling with public transport for at least 6 months every year for 13 years. Meanwhile he has seen the whole world, except for a few smaller islands maybe…
This time he is travelling by bus, ship and train from Munich along the Silk Road through Central Asia and China to Singapore – back to Germany he will probably be travelling on a cargo ship again.
Or Sam with his girlfriend Vicky from England, who has been driving his BMW since August. Has already been to Syria and Jordan, his final destination is to arrive sometime in Australia via India and South East Asia. The special thing about the two of them is that his girlfriend accompanies him by public transport after she can’t find a place on his motorcycle. In the morning they leave separately, in the evening they meet at the next destination.
I would particularly like to highlight the French couple who have been cycling from Lorraine to Pamir since February. I find it a special challenge to master this route at the age of 62 and 64. By the way, 4 years ago, they were also travelling by bicycle in Central Asia and had to spend 2 days in prison in Turkmenistan because they exceeded their transit visa by a few hours. This can also happen to me if I get a problem with my ferry connection.
Dodo, the “young” old lady is a revolutionary. Her indication that at the moment peaceful demonstrations against the president and the government are taking place every day in Tbilisi was the first information we received from her. She is of course always present – “The president is an idiot and corrupt, he is destroying the country – he must go” is her opinion. The protests should continue until the government abdicates. She doesn’t like the question of a possible successor at all – “God or devil doesn’t matter, the main thing is that the idiot is gone”.
Inside the cages people sleep, drink and discuss. After it was clarified that I come from Austria, the first answer from the two gentlemen on the right side of the picture was: Storm Graz! As it seems, soccer even puts the current day’s politics in the background, as an avowed Sturm fan I was of course especially honored.
The common goal is a gentle revolution, but should there be riots on the part of the state power, the disciples in particular are prepared to resist.
Tbilisi is a city with a 1500 year old history and you can feel the flair, especially when you walk through the old town.
The other side is the shared past with the Soviet Union. The prefabricated concrete slab buildings in the residential areas are available as witnesses to this. If anyone would like to experience the term “desolate” first-hand, I can only recommend an extensive tour of the satellite settlements of the former Soviet Union.
The Georgian food is indeed very good, but ordering does not really work, because unfortunately one fails already when reading through the menu.
That’s why there is usually no other choice than to make do with the national dish kachapuri (is phonetic transcription – how it is really spelled I have no idea). This is a kind of pizza bread with different fillings. Anyway, the main ingredient is cheese and then you add meat or eggs or anything else. Tastes great, but is extremely fat. Instead of the kebap stands there are the kachapuri windows, behind them, the flat cakes are freshly baked by women and sold in the alleyway.
The repair of my Kati was a strange story. The crash bars had to be welded. On mediation of Dodo a “specialist” came to me, after the price negotiation and the relatively high price of converted 10 € he gave 3 times quite loudly and also for me understandably “No Problem” from himself. The offer was tempting, because he had his workshop just around the corner. Then I went with the parts and was so captivated by the infrastructure and the surroundings that I did not look at the two professionals at their work – unfortunately.
The dwelling house, the “workshop” and the tools (welding machine) of the specialists
When I was back at the bike with the crash bars, I had to realize that the parts were put together wrong, but now they did not fit anymore. After I didn’t want to bother the two of them with the solution of the problem anymore, I started to look for a real workshop.
After some time I found one and was lucky that there was a customer present who spoke English. The guys were competent and extremely nice. The prehistory provided for general amusement. Probably because of this I was invited during the waiting time for a few halved tin cans full of homemade wine and in the end they did not accept any payment from me.
Unfortunately I had to learn that my Kati is not allowed to stay in Azerbaijan for more than 72 hours, although I have a visa for 30 days. I would like to reach the ferry to Turkmenistan on April 30th (if one is possible at all – unfortunately we don’t know exactly), so I can enter the country on April 28th at the earliest. Originally I wanted to go to Yerevan in Armenia for 2-3 days, but there it rains for the next 10 days. So I will probably make some trips to the Caucasus from Tbilisi.
Until next time.