Georgien

 

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At the border of Georgia we ended up communicating using our hands and feet, since we speak neither Georgian nor Russsian. Georgia is an ex-Soviet land and only became an independant republic in 1991 so the second language there is Russian. Just past the border were rows and rows of shops selling Schnapps. Cows wandered aimlessly all over the main road to Batumi, oblivious to the heavy traffic, not seeming to notice the rushing cars as they honked their horns and swerved to avoid the animals. In the end one cow’s luck ran out and it had to be put out of it’s misery after being hit by a car It ended up under the butcher’s knife.

The excellent roads of Turkey were behind us and from now on we had to ride with total concentration so as not to crash into one of the many deep potholes in our way but despite all caution, Nathalie skidded on a slippery patch of road caused by a fresh spill of diesel oil and tumbled to the ground. As quick as we could, we moved ourselves away from that area because of the danger of a car zooming by and maybe skidding into us. Up ahead parked on the side of the road, was the broken down truck that had caused the oil spill. We explained to the driver how dangerous diesel on the road could be and he consequently set up a „Warning Triangle“, made of three large stones in a pile, topped by a leafy tree branch

Luckily the bike with the rearview mirror wasn’t damaged, but Nathalie’s pants were ripped and had to be sewn up. When we arrived in Batumi, a large harbour town not far from the Turkish border, we had great trouble to find the hotel that was recommended in the travel guide, because all the street names, when you can find them, are written in the Georgian script, which is completely different to the Latin alphabet that we are familiar with making reading directions virtually impossible. Many buildings here have been empty for decades, the walls and facades crumbling away as a result of a dire lack of funds for renovations or rebuilding. All the Internet Cafes that were noted in the 2004 edition of the „Lonely Planet „ travel guide had already been converted into gambling casinos.

After drinking so much tea in Turkey, it was great to enjoy a cool beer down at the harbour and eat a „khachapuri“, which is a Georgian flatbread filled with cheese. You can buy them just about everywhere and they taste good but are very greasy. In Batumi, we met a biker from California who was doing a trip through Turkey.We couldn’t decide if we should take the main road to Tiflis or the country road over the mountains however David, the biker, thought that although the mountain road would be a real challenge, the landscape would most probably be more spectacular.so we started riding in the direction of the wonderful white mountains of the Caucasus but only after a few kilometers, the locals began to dish out warnings; „Problem! Problem!“ About 50 kilometers and a bit of altiitude later, we arrived in a small town where at least 100 curious people quickly gathered around us One man who spoke French told us that the mountain pass was snowed in and would be closed for at least a month.

Another fellow with a really fat stomach challenged Kurt to drink vodka together with him but Kurt declined graciously
The Georgian folk are unbelievably hospitable and very easy going.By evening, we were back in Batumi, in a village where we wanted to pitch our tents but the driver of a car took us to a beautiful hotel where we were able to lodge for free!! For the first time in ages we could enjoy a hot shower!
Construction workers who were lodging there invited us for drinks.serving Kurt a beer, and Nathalie a „Georgian Cola“ (100% natural pear juice) after she’d toasted the men with a beer that wasn’t actually meant for her. The men were very polite and attentive to Nathalie,spoiling her with sweets and gelati,while poor Kurt was obliged to eat a „delicious!“ sausage which they served him..

Suddenly we heard the hotel owner yell for us, and Kurt raced outside. Someone had tried to steal our bikes but the hotelier managed to scare the theives away. In Kutaisi we were stopped by some people on the side of the road who were very interested in our trip, recorded an interview with us and took photos, saying they were from a newspaper and wanted to publish an article about our travels.We had no chance to say goodbye and get on our way, but instead had to follow them into a house where the table was already set and the „Mama“ of the house was serving red wine. As is practice in Georgia, the toastmaster ,David, kept proposing a toast to something new, be it the President of Georgia, our host, us or to any of his friends and every time we raised our glasses,clinked together and drank. Natje, one of the editors, sat down spontaneously at the piano and began to sing then the other members of the newspaper staff, began to dance and of course we jumped up and got our legs moving to the rhythm of the polka..

Finally late in the aftenoon it was time to say farewell to our new friends but first of course, we all posed for a photo session for memory’s sake. Off we rode,until we saw a police car coming towards us He honked his horn, we waved in greeting and the car executed a sudden 180° handbrake slide to come up alongside us. He accompanied us for a while, then leisurely overtook us and drove away. In the early evening, we arrived in Kutaisi, the second largest city of Georgia, and also one of the oldest in the world. As we rode further towards Tiflis, many locals at the reststops insisted on inviting us to „just one“ glass of wine, or a vodka, and then to eat with them, but some were so drunk already that we just waved hello and rode on past. Thanks to the gusty tailwind we were able to pedal easily all the way to Tiflis, the capital of Georgia.

The next day, we set off to the Consulate of Azerbaijan to apply for our visas. The whole beaurocratic process took four working days to complete, so we used this time to see the sights in this beautifully situated and historically interesting city and also to do maintenance on the bikes and lastly, enjoy the nightlife.. Fully motivated and tanked up on energy, we left the Georgian capital. On the morning we departed, the charming owner of our guesthouse called „Charm“, played us a farewell song on the piano. We could tell by the way that she played that she was an expert pianist and the wonderful melody made us break out in goosebumps as we listened

Back in the saddles, we were once again the exotic foreigners, causing people to gape in wonder at us, and car drivers to blow their horns. The land north east from Tiflis turned out to be exceptionally green with pine trees growing alongside the road giving off a fine fragrance and providing good shade from the sun. We camped out in a really wonderful spot next to cows out to pasture, and pigs and horses all around. In the morning a woman neighbour, brought us fried eggs,cheese and fresh bread for breakfast. We’d already just eaten our muesli but to refuse her offerings would have been impolite, so we ate heartily for a second time. By nine o’clock we had warm summer weather and it seemed we’d left the Springtime behind us. Back on the road, people showered us with gifts of bread fresh baked in wood ovens until finally we had so much bread that we couldn’t eat it all ourselves.However before we left Georgia for good, we enjoyed one more really greasy, fatty Khachapuri.
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