Journey around the world: Georgia (a.k.a. Sakartvelo)

in TravelFeed3 years ago (edited)

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BATUMI

A slight drizzle turned into a downpour. Heavy drops washed our faces and wet clothes were getting heavy. Devices were safe in the depths of my backpack and everything else didn't matter. The mood was at its peak and nothing could affect it. Not even a thunderstorm.

After three weeks in Turkey, authorization codes to get Iran visas were not ready so we had a few days. Basically, there were two options: continue exploring Turkey or visit neighboring Georgia. At that point, the second one seemed more attractive as it meant diving into a different cultural environment again.

Step by step, @Kamile and I were getting closer to Batumi - the second-largest city of Georgia, located 13 kilometers away from the Turkish border. Suddenly, two powerful masculine voices broke the silence. The driver of an old BMW wagon and his buddy used all sorts of sounds and hand gestures to ask us if we needed a lift.

For the first time during this trip knowing some Russian helped a lot. Both Lithuania and Georgia used to be a part of the Soviet Union and residents of both countries know each other pretty well. Mostly because back in the day young men from both of them served in the Soviet army together. These two guys were not an exception.

LITTLE DID WE KNOW

Once we arrived in Batumi, it was already dark. Too late to look for a campsite. The driver took us to a guest house. After some negotiations, the owner agreed to lower the price by almost 50% which I think was a standard price in the first place. 'Only for you' and 'only this time' were just a part of persuasion tactics.

The room was decorated in a familiar fashion. After that much time in Turkey, it felt like we were at least a few steps closer to home. The bed was nice and comfy and it felt nice to be able to watch a TV, despite the fact we were not huge TV lovers and did not own one back at home.

To be completely honest, the night sleep got interrupted quite a few times. In the room above us, some couple had sexual intercourse all night long. The guy must have done something right as his misses couldn't stop praising his abilities. As Ali G would say, Respect.

This was the first and the last time that we stayed at the guesthouse in Batumi. The thing is, this city is very suitable for camping and we couldn't resist coming back to our precious green tent. Kamile and I found a nice campsite right next to the beach. Little did we know that we were about to experience an unforgettable acquaintance.

 3 DAYS WITH PERSIANS

3 kg of hazelnuts that we got from teacher Faruk a few days ago were coming to an end. Round time-polished stones that cover the entire beach of Batumi were perfect for cracking them. Suddenly, a mature-looking man that spent time on the beach with four of his friends, decided to come to us and introduce himself.

His name was Shahram and the rest of the crew were Jalal, Amir, Naser, and Mojtaba. All of them originated from Iran and were on their road trip around Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. After we told them we were on our way to Iran ourselves, all of them got super intrigued in wanted to hear more. This was how we got invited for some lunch.

Despite it being supposed to be a quick Persian-style lunch, it extended into a supper, late-night meal, and even a party. A middle-aged Azerbaijani traveler named Mehdi joined the fun too and it evolved into an event of an international level.

The only thing that could stop it was a rainstorm with thunder, flashes of lightning, and all the other scary stuff. Four large stones that we placed in each corner of our tent helped to survive the night. Our Persian friends had way more problems which forced them to sit in their car and wait for the morning in a sitting position.

Early in the morning, our new friends came to say Good Bye. After such a long and tiring night they decided to rent a house and have some proper rest before a 1400 km journey back to Tehran. Our plan included doing some site seeing as well as wandering some random streets.

The day passed quickly and in the evening we went to the famous Batumi McDonald's - a piece of architecture that is well known all around the world. When we finally got back, we were surprised by Shahram and Jalal, who were sitting in Jalal's car and waiting for us at the campsite for over an hour.

'The house that we are staying at is way too big for the five of us. Would you like to join us?' - asked Shahram.

The Guys were amazed at how quickly the tent was packed and we got ready to go. Azerbaijani Mehdi followed Jalal's luxurious car in his older model made in the Soviet Union a few decades ago. Amir, Naser, and Mojtaba were already waiting for us as the supper was ready. Even after so many years, thinking of delicious Persian food makes me drool.

As in the old days, Persians eat on the floor. No wonder why they are so famous for their magnificent carpets, which play an important role in Persian culture.

I sincerely admire the fact that Persians preserved the tradition of putting so much energy into cooking and eating together even in these 'modern' times of fast food and of constantly being in a hurry.

The rest of the evening was storytime. Azerbaijani Mehdi showed us some photos and introduced us to his culture while Shahram and his friends gave us some advice which helped a lot when we finally got to Iran.

A boat trip, swimming in the Black Sea and a short tour around Batumi were what we did the next day. Mehdi didn't stop to surprise us with stories about both his wife and his girlfriend and the rest of the crew continued demonstrating their limitless ability to enjoy life.

KUTAISI

Kutaisi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the third-most populous city in Georgia, traditionally, second in importance, after the capital city of Tbilisi (wiki). What's more, hitchhiking from Batumi to Kutaisi takes only a few hours as the distance between these two cities is despicable 160 km.

Dusty roads, cattle roaming freely, and lack of communication in English painted the trip in the most interesting colors. The need to remember the long-forgotten Russian language was somewhat stressful, but kind of in a good way. In a way that makes you feel good once you succeed to compose a semi-correct sentence.

While Batumi has a more modern feeling about it, Kutaisi feels kind of old and rusty. From my perspective, being different is always a positive thing. Coming to Kutaisi allowed us to see yet another face of Georgia. One more among many others that all co-exist at the same time.

6 euros for a modest room and 30 cents for a fragrant and juicy watermelon were our spendings for the day. A package full of Irani bread and some snacks helped out too. Shahram left it to us as they did not want the surplus of food to go home. After a quick tour, it was time for some rest.

 

THE MARTVILI CANYON

Kamile and I had a feeling that the authorizations codes that were needed for getting Iran visas were about to arrive. For this reason for not go too far away into the depths of Georgia. However, staying in Kutaisi for too long didn't seem like an option. Some locals gave some advice to visit the famous Martvili Canyon.

A few years have passed and it's difficult to remember the details, but as far as I remember, we took a bus to Khoni and then shared a cab with some girls from Uzbekistan.

It's unbelievable, but they said they knew a Lithuanian guy who at that time was traveling around the world for the second time. According to them, he did it without any money in his pocket, earning a little bit every here and there.

Finally, we reached the Martvili Canyon. According to the guide, until 2000 this natural wonder of nature was pretty much unknown. The situation changed when it was found by some curious travelers in search of unexplored trails.

One after another, photos of the canyon were posted on social media. In 2016 the Georgian government decided to invest in the infrastructure that was needed for mass tourism. This was how all the paths were built and stairs were installed.

The main Martvili Canyon tourist site was swarming with tourists from all over the world. Somehow we ended up walking up the river in search of places lesser-known. The surroundings were gorgeous and we would have continued hiking if not for the rain.

Some semi-wild dogs found shelter under a lush tree. Circumstances led us to share it with them. Once the rain stopped, some senior man came from the nearby village. Even I was surprised but 5 minutes later we were following him to the other side of the village.

It turned out that back in the day the man had some Lithuanian friends. This was one of the reasons why he was intrigued by our stories and decided to help us. We were led to the field that belonged to him and his wife. We were allowed to camp right next to the canyon.

Soon the man returned with a big pot full of water and started a fire. Then we went to his garden and picked some fresh corn, zucchini, and squash. Once we finished cooking, the old man took us to his gazebo, where his farm workers used to rest. Finally, he organized some salt and the early supper was heady.

NEXT STOP - IRAN!

After six days in Georgia, @Kamile and I received an email from Iran Embassy in Trabzon (Turkey) stating that our authorization codes had arrived and we were eligible to get Iran visas.

In order to get back, we took exactly the same path as on our way here: hitchhiked to Batumi, where we spent the last night in Georgia, crossed the Sarpi Turkish border crossing, and then hitchhiked all the way to Trabzon.

Due to some unforeseen difficulties getting Iran visas took two days. One more day was needed to hitchhike across Turkey and reach the city of Agri. Lastly, it took a few more hours to get to the Gürbulak Border Crossing.

Many kind people were met, many more wonders were seen, and yet, to mention them all would take way more than a short blog post. Those who would like to virtually travel to Iran together should read '30 days in Iran: The land of misleading stereotypes'.

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