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Unexpected "visitor" and Georgian explorations

How I received a "parcel" and first trips with that "parcel" in Georgia: holy Mtskheta, Stalin's hometown Gori, sacred water of Borjomi and 2 cave cities.

Friday, 15:00. I'm at work lost in my Excel sheets, when someone calls me that there is a parcel waiting for me at the first floor and they need my signature.
I knew that was a bullshit and some hoax, because no one (who could send me a parcel) knew I was there and anyway what kind of parcel could it be? But nothing could prepare me for getting out of the elevator and finding that my parcel was... Irene.

She “was” in Nepal, pretending to be in Pokhara and she should arrive here in 1 or 2 weeks, and instead of Nepal suddenly she was here in Tbilisi!

I was speechless for next 3 hours.

What a crazy woman! I love her so!!!

So after spending some 10 days in Nepal she secretly bought a ticket to Tbilisi and the girl who sat next to her in the airplane offered her to give her a ride to my office so she could surprise me. What I couldn’t understand at all and what totally blocked my brain until I found it out was how the hell did she know where the office was? Only after 30 minutes or so I realized that she must have asked Jirka whom she had met in Australia. As she told me the truth was even more complicated. Because the place is really difficult to find even if you know the address (there are 5 buildings with same number on that street), Jirka asked Brano who had been in Tbilisi few days ago to take a picture of the building and send it to her. It was a complete conspiration. Suddenly I also understood why just 2 days ago Brano had bought a bottle of wine and gave it to me, saying “This is for Irene. Enjoy”.

And so my lonely days are gone. We share a little apartment in Tbilisi, rehearsing a household life – me going to work and Irene assuming role of housewife :-) As you can imagine she is totally “thrilled” about it :-)

Luckily, the Georgian public holidays season has arrived (they have 5 days public holidays in just 3 weeks) and it started with Independence Day (one of their 2 Independence Days) on Wednesday.
So on Wednesday we made a trip to nearby holy city of Mtskheta (try to pronounce it!) – where in 337 AD for the first time a Georgian king converted to Christianity and thus established Georgia as the second oldest Christian country in the world (after Armenia). There was some “oiling ceremony” going on in Mtskheta, which proved as good photo opportunity. And on the way there, for the first time in my life I got drunk in a taxi. The driver who was taking us there from Tbilisi (taxis are incredibly cheap in Georgia) out of nothing asked me in Russian if I liked Georgian wine and when I said yes he suddenly pulled over, as we were approaching Mtskheta, opened the boot of the car and brought a 2L plastic bottle full of homemade wine. And then he forced us to drink couple of glasses for no reason, again and again, and finally I got drunk. Interesting Georgian experience.

During the weekend be hired a car and did a weekend road trip, for Irene's birthday, southwest from Tbilisi.

First stop was Stalin's hometown Gori, ruined by recent Russian invasion, where we visited museum dedicated to The Man. While Irene surely couldn’t have ever expected to celebrate her 31st birthday in Georgia, she could have expected even less to celebrate it by visiting Stalin’s museum :-) By the way, Georgia must be the only country which has George Bush Street (in Tbilisi) and Stalin Avenue (in Gori). Nice combo!

Next was ancient cave/rock city Uplistsikhe, which is a whole city carved into a rock. A very nice place and also the surrounding area. You know that kind of place where cows roam free and old folks of villages sit in front of their houses watching the world go by, not minding that nothing really ever happens.

From there we ventured on to Borjomi town, home of Borjomi mineral springs. Oh, Borjomi! Mine, Jirka’s and Lenin’s favorite mineral water. It tastes like real mineral water, like Slovak Fatra USED TO taste, before they castrated it, with that distinct taste of sulphur and iron, and it’s exactly why we (me, Jirka and Lenin) love it. It’s also a real gem for hangover. When Irene arrived I gave her a bottle saying it was “special water”, but on purpose I didn’t warn her that it would taste “strange”. She sipped a bit and in one second she spit it all out almost vomiting and then she asked me “Why the fuck does it taste like fish?”. Well, seems like Irene is not gonna join our Borjomi fanclub. I pity the fool!
After some problems with finding accommodation late in the evening and with my zero Russian language skills, we finally managed to find a room and overnighted in Borjomi and had a modest birthday party composed of dinner and Georgian wine in local restaurant.

Next morning, I was overexcited by opportunity to have Borjomi straight from the “tap”, meaning a pipe coming from ground where you could fill up your plastic bottle or container. The water was warm (some 30’C, which added to weirdness of drinking it) and the taste was truly unfiltered. I loved it, Irene almost vomited when she gave it a second try. I got like 10 liters of the Holy Water and moved on towards Vardzia another cave city, this time carved into a cliff face. Another great place - check the photos.

And from there we headed back towards Tbilisi. As we were passing villages on a high plateau on Georgian-Armenian-Turkish border, I thanked god I was born in Bratislava and not there. I had hardly seen anything more depressive. Half abandoned villages with horrible infrastructure, ruined leftovers of Soviet industry, destroyed train stations, and all of it on that high plateau which meant that there was practically no vegetation there, just stones. I doubt they can grow at least potatoes there. I really wander, what do they live from? It looked half-apocalyptic and I’m completely sincere when I tell you I was fucking glad I wasn’t born in those badlands.

Oh, and how I could I ever forget the final part of our road trip - the worst drive of my life? 3 hours through mountain serpentines in darkness, extra thick fog and rain on a Georgian road without any marking - no photos from here). That was some nightmare, even more for poor Irene who was sick all the time from all those curves.

And so was our first trip in Georgia, which is still delightfully of the beaten tourist trail (except Russian tourists, who come here by truck loads).

Next on the plan: Easter vacation in Istanbul!

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak