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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Arrival and Day 1 in Tbilisi

When we were planning our trip to Georgia, we had hoped to get the direct flights from Astana that we heard were available.  Sadly, none of these were available during our fall break, and we had a layover in Almaty.  Almaty is a lovely city, but its airport stresses me out.  This time going through, the major excitement was that the woman who was processing me at passport control abruptly ran out of her booth to help a coworker who was dealing with some young guy who slumped over while being led away.  I never did figure out what was going on there, but I was selfishly concerned at the time because my passport and boarding pass were still inside the booth and out of my reach when she ran off.  Fortunately, she eventually returned to stamp my passport.

The flight from Almaty to Tbilisi was raucous, due in large part to members of a Georgian judo team who were flying with us.  I was glad to get in to Tbilisi and have Nikoloz, the hotel owner and tour guide, waiting for us.

Glad, that is, until we got to the hotel.  One of our friends with whom we traveled had booked an apartment with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  I think we were all picturing three bedrooms of roughly equal size, where each couple could sleep comfortably.  I, at least, was also picturing two bathrooms that were both equipped with showers, so that six adults could realistically not have to spend all morning cycling in and out of one shower.  What we found was two relatively normal bedrooms....and one room only barely large enough for the broken pull-out sofa it contained.  Also, only one of the two bathrooms contained a shower.  But, it wasn't a total loss because featured prominently in the living room was a liquor cabinet with lights that changed color!  Too bad I'm neither a big drinker nor a twenty one year old partier with a large decorating budget.

Only four of us arrived that night:  our other two friends were due to join us the next day.  Scott and I took one real bedroom, and the other couple who was with us took the other one.  We figured there was no point in anyone sleeping on the broken sofa bed until absolutely necessary and that we could figure out what to do the next day.

The next morning, we decided we would ask nicely for a second room to put our friends in.  Nikoloz's mother, Mia, who was decidedly the bright spot of the entire operation actually beat us to suggesting that.  She also served us a very tasty Georgian breakfast.  We had had a bean dish called lobio many times at the Georgian restaurant in Astana.  She served us lobiani, which was a pastry filled with lobio.  She also served some sort of soup, pickled vegetables, and tea with local honey.  Optimism restored, we went forth to explore Tbilisi.

It took us a little while to get our bearings, and it started raining in the afternoon, but we did see some interesting things.

I'm always interested to see how American logos are adapted for other alphabets.

They had a variety of donut that for some reason, I never see in the US.  I can't imagine why not...

A street stall with candy made of strings of nuts dipped in a grape juice syrup, spices, vodka, and honey

A cool alley and a big, beautiful tree!  Living in Astana has made me appreciate big trees.

A lovely church with more trees

An inspirational message spray painted on a wall

A synagogue!

The Peace Bridge

When we ate dinner out that night, we had a Spanish-speaking waiter!  It turned out that he had lived for several years in Valencia.  I felt that my Spanish was embarrassingly rusty, but it did get the job done.  The next day, we were scheduled to take a tour of Kakheti, and we all were looking forward to that.

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