2,50 For A Weekend

“Everything that is possible in the rest of the world is impossible in Georgia and everything that is impossible in the rest of the world is possible in Georgia.” We’ve been told that in orientation week and had a good smile about it. And here comes a story that proves that this statement is at least partially true.

So a few weeks into the new semester I was asked by my host dad’s TV station to come to the city centre for a small TV report. Nothing big they said. Look winter-y, they said. So I borrowed my host dad’s winter jacket, brought my scarf, called a good friend and off I went to the centre.

There we found that we were supposed to go to a tourist information to get information on Skiing in Adjara, apparently also because they opened up a small resort in Khulo, a major town in the mountains. So we did. Who would have thought that one week later the two of us would be on the way to that Khulo resort in real?

Here is how this happened: My host dad asked me and my friends if we also wanted to go skiing for real with a TV report team. Sure, we said, no problem. Despite that fact that I am a terrible Skier and my last and only time skiing was some day last millenium (Exaggeration!).

Anyway, one nice Sunday morning we were sat down in two TV station Lada Niva with a pile of reporters and hit the road to Khulo – not for super long though. After an hour or so we stopped at a Petrol station that turned out to not be a petrol station but our breakfast – picnic stop. So we got bread, sausage and ate it from the front lid – until an elderly man came by with a couple of shot glasses and a GIANT glass full of liquid – which of course turned out to be Chacha.

The breakfast stop

Anyway, after the earliest two Chachas I ever had (around 9.30?), we kept going to Khulo, were we were sat down in a more modern truck to take those last 3 kilometers up to the resort. Around 1,5 hours later, we finally managed to get up the hill, thanks to winter service, random people pushing the car out of snow etc. When we arrived, they gave us Ski boots and ski and off we went, skiing. Fortunately, it wasn’t exactly a big hill, I was afraid enough (and looked terrible on TV, while Dustin skied and raced like a champ), especially because a pile of around 100 people gathered at the bottom of the hill and I didn’t want to crash into them.

After around 2 or 3 hours skiing, temporarely trading boots with an important looking man for his TV appearance (I wore his shoes in the meantime) and an interview, we went back to town, directly to a big suphra, where we, as on every suphra and the province ones in particular, had way too much food and way too many drinks. Which alone is ok, but after that we stayed with my amazing host grandparents in Khulo, who of course fed us with more food and a bottle of vodka. That knocked us out and into a 12 hour sleep at 10 pm.

Panorama photo taken with my phone. Click to enlarge.

Next day the roads where too snowed in for driving up to the resort, so a cousin and a few of his buddies grabbed us and we walked up there – just to find that they didn’t have our boot sizes and we actually didn’t really have time to ski. It was a super nice winter mountain walk though. Followed by – of course – food, chacha and clothes drying at my host cousins’ family’s house.

After that, we were driven to the bus station were we took the bus back to Batumi, costing us 2,50 – the only expense for the whole weekend. Everything that is impossible in the world is possible in Georgia.

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2011 – Journey to Tbilisi

If you have ever lived in a country for a couple of months – and have fallen in love with it by then – and were about to come back after a full month back at home, you do know that there are no words that could possibly describe the feeling when you get back to that country.

There are no words for the feeling that you feel when you sit at Munich airport, waiting for your flight and next to you this one kid plays with this other kid until one of the kids is getting distracted by its mum yelling “Gogo” at it.

There are no words for the feeling that you feel when you see people at that airport in your home country, travelling with their well-known plastic bags, speaking that language you were desperately trying to learn for the last couple of months, that language full of ‘kh’s (ხ), ‘qkh’s (ყ) and ‘gh’s (ღ).

kinoteat'ri

There are no words for that feeling that you feel when you are arriving at the airport at 3 in the morning to wait an hour for other TLG’ers and then two of your favorite people, usually living an ocean and a few hundred mails away, walk through the arrival gate.

Nothing in the world can express what you feel when you arrive at that Hostel you’ve been staying at a dozen times before at 6 in the morning, just to head to that 24/7 store (Populi – პოპული) around the corner to get ingredients for an awesome sandwich breakfast in that kitchen, that actually belongs to the lady running the hostel.

Outdoor bathroom

I can’t find any words for the feeling that you feel when you wake up at one, just to find that there is a power cut. No words describe that tour around Marjanishvili to that nice restaurant, that can’t serve you food, because there is no electricity. Nothing resembles the strange excitment you feel, when 7 hours later with the beginning of dusk there is still no power and the hostel lady asks you to help her getting that 250 pound generator from the balcony to a lower storey to make up for the power cut. Just no words.

Anyway, because I can’t describe all this, I took a few pictures on the tour through Marjanishvili and further that give you and idea of how that first day back in Georgia was.

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PS: Georgia, I’ve been missing you!

Posted in Georgia, Tbilisi, TLG | 3 Comments

Christmas Special III – A Winter Walk In The Potsdam Park

In the last Christmas post I want to share a few photos of a walk in the park with a friend on a freezing cold but stunningly beautiful winter day in Potsdam in Park Sanssouci.

Garden facade in Sanssouci

Not much to say, it was a good day, we had a two hour walk at around -10°C (keep breathing amazed and surprised Georgian reader, keep breathing! It doesn’t kill us) shook snow from trees to let it snow at us, enjoyed the fresh, cold winter air, did a snow angel, took a photo of a statute that Georgians would probably like a lot (I just took this picture to show it around in Georgia, I hope you do like it 🙂 )and relaxed. Raughley, you would have loved this and Raughley, I missed you there!

With this post, I finally finished updating this blog with all the events from 2010, now off to 2011! Stay tuned! 🙂

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Christmas Special II – My Georgian Gift

So if you ever go home after a couple of months in any country or even region in the world, you will run into the situation where you start thinking of presents. Especially when you are going home for Christmas.

I started playing Sherlock and started combining and considering my options. Not much money. A significant amount of spare time. Techie. Lot’s of photos from Georgia. The will to create something personal, that not essentially comes from a shop and cost like 95 tetri.

So I started collecting 13 photos for a calender. 13? Yeah. One for the front page and twelve for the months. I ended up with around 25 pictures, so I started to do a two week cycle calender.

I created a calender draft with the excellent open source and free Scribus software. To make the whole thing more interesting and good looking, I did not only add captions in German, but also in Georgian.

There were certainly a few spelling mistakes for which I sincerely apologize, but no insider will notice them anyway. 😉

Here would be the last of captions in German and English:

Front page: Gelati near Kutaisi, Imereti. – გელატი ახლოს ქუთაისი, იმერეთი.

Jan 1: Mestia, Svaneti. – მესთია, სვანეთი.
Jan 2: Cemetery in Batumi, Adjara. – სასაფლაო ბათუმში, ადჯარა.
Feb 1: Mtikhala, Adjara. – მთიხალა, ადჯარა.
Feb 2: Kutaisi at night, Imereti. – ქუთაისი ღამის, იმერეთი.
Mar 1: Botanical Garden near Batumi, Adjara. – ბო­ტა­ნი­კუ­რი ბაღი ახლოს ბათუმი, ადჯარა.
Mar 2: Sameba, Adjara. – სამება, ადჯარა.
Apr 1: Mestia, Svaneti. – მესთია, სვანეთი.
Apr 2: Botanical Garden near Batumi, Adjara. – ბო­ტა­ნი­კუ­რი ბაღი ახლოს ბათუმი, ადჯარა.
May 1: Port in Batumi, Adjara. – პორტი, ბათუმში, ადჯარა.
May 2: Botanical Garden near Batumi, Adjara. – ბო­ტა­ნი­კუ­რი ბაღი ახლოს ბათუმი, ადჯარა.
Jun 1: Chkaduashi, Samegrelo. – ჩკადუაში, სამეგრელო.
Jun 2: Port in Batumi, Adjara. – პორტი, ბათუმში, ადჯარა.
Jul 1: Batumi Centre, Adjara. – ბათუმი წენთში, ადჯარა.
Jul 2: Sameba, Adjara. – სამება, ადჯარა.
Aug 1: Batumi at night, Adjara. – ბათუმი ღამის, ადჯარა.
Aug 2: Beach in Batumi, Adjara. – სანაპირო ბათუმში, ადჯარა.
Sep 1: Mandarins in Sameba, Adjara. – მანდარინები სამებაში, ადჯარა.
Sep 2: Mountains in Svaneti. – მთები სვანეთში.
Oct 1: Autumn in Zugdidi, Samegrelo. – შემოდგომა ზუგდიდში, სამეგრელო.
Oct 2: Botanical Garden near Batumi, Adjara. – ბო­ტა­ნი­კუ­რი ბაღი ახლოს ბათუმი, ადჯარა.
Nov 1: Borjomi, Samtskhe-Javakheti. – ბორჯომი, სამწხე-ჯავახეთი.
Nov 2: Vardzia, Samtskhe-Javakheti. – ვარძია, სამწხე-ჯავახეთი.
Dec 1: Botanical Garden near Batumi, Adjara. – ბო­ტა­ნი­კუ­რი ბაღი ახლოს ბათუმი, ადჯარა.
Dec 2: Batumi at night, Adjara. – ბათუმი ღამის, ადჯარა.

Here is the link to the calender PDF:
Kal_draft

So I went to print the PDF at a copy shop and the photos at a photo printing machine (13*18 cm), glued them into the calender and that was it. I made around 5 calenders and two are still in the making. I will have to give them to people later, but they are not limited to 2011, so it’s not a big deal.

Also, if anyone is seriously interested in getting the PDF file in another language or getting the pictures for an own calender, let me know and we will figure out how to transfer the pictures to you (all in all, at full resolution, they are pretty big in file size).

And now enjoy the slide show with the calender pictures!

PS: I made one calender for my Georgian family, but apparently they either didn’t like it or I have to reexplain the concept of calenders. They browsed through it, rewrapped it and it’s idling in the wrapping paper ever since. 😮

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Christmas!

Christmas on my blog. For one reason, because I am still so much delayed with posting stuff from Georgia, that I just right now reached Christmas. But on the other hand I don’t feel to bad, as you, Georgia, represented by your national Post, just delivered my Mum’s Christmas parcel – after a pretty competitive time of only 4 and a half months. Right. 4,5 months. that makes around 20 weeks. Around 140 days. Not bad. And, although my Mum cared for customs etc., it cost me another mysterious 9 Lari.

Christmas decoration at home.

The Dresdner Christstollen (yes, it is from my hometown Dresden [and on that package in the first picture on facebook in the background? Yes, that is Dresden]) had certainly seen better days, but at least Mum’s and Grandma’s self made Christmas calender survived.

Thanks you two! I just shifted opening the 24 self-knit socks from 1st through 24th December to 1st through 24th April. Works. And makes me happy like a little kid everyday! Also, thanks a lot for that Räuchermann and the two chocolate filled christmas calenders for my host sisters – with which I could at least somehow share some christmas traditions from Germany! Nice. Also, thanks for the pack of coffee, which makes me feel a bit like home everytime I have a coffee from that pack. Nice!

Anyway, so I went home for Christmas, had a good month at home and took a few photos to share with you Georgians how snowed in my home town was (night and day pictures from windows of your appartment), how nice that looked and how my family sets up our appartment for Christmas. Might be interesting and new for you and if not – you will enjoy the photos anyway I hope. Also, another thing that usually makes you Georgians stop breathing for a couple of seconds: At home we had -20°C at that time. Nice – every now and then! 🙂

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You can see the upper Caucasus from the lower Caucasus

So we had St. Giorgi’s Day off last semester and I used that day to finally climb that one hill, that from the first day in Batumi was one of the destinations I wanted to go to: Sameba. That nice hill with the nice Church that I can see everyday on my way to school and from the windows of my school building (except it is foggy [so every other day {that is an exaggeration <yes, I stole this brackets system from Raughley>}])

I joined my friend Nikolaj from Poland who has already been there and who – due to proficiency in Russian and general willingness to get into chats with foreigners – knew a few things about it. He had also checked out this cemetery near my school before and advised me to go there. How different cemeteries here are!

A Georgian Cemetery, north Batumi.

Georgian Cemetery

It is STUFFED with graves and there is very little space to walk through the cemetery. We crossed the hill the cemetery was on and also noticed many unmaintained graves on the back side of it.

Also, we saw the work of a genius, an exceptional electrician talent.

Safety first!

This is like a 2 year old kid drawing a spider web.

After that, we started climbing the hill, chatting with a nice mandarin grower, who allowed us to directly hike through his mandarin yard and eat as many mandarins as we wanted. Which eventually turned out to replace any lunch-like meal that day.

We took a small side way to the top, approaching the whole thing from the back, finding some old bunker buildings and ruins and finally reaching the church – which unfortunately was under construction. It was an awesome mid November day though and as the photos will tell you more then 1000 words, see yourself!

Oh, and by the way: From up there in the background you can see the Upper Caucasus mountain peaks, located in Svaneti and Abkhazia, around 100 km away! What an amazing day it was!

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The umbrella traveller

Despite the fact, that I actually wanted to keep blog posts in a chronological order, I want to share this small story with you, before I forget to post it.

So after a recent weekend trip to Turkey, where I discovered a proper mailing infrastructure with post offices, specific opening hours, post cars, a unified corporate design and even a small post booth in Sapri 50m behind the border, I decided to go quickly cross the border on Women’s Day, which was a non-working holiday in Georgia, to mail a few postal items that were due to mail.

As Batumi is a 70 tetri bus or 1 lari marshutka ride away from the border, I figured that would make sense to take advantage of the also cheaper and more reliably looking Turkish post system.

So I crossed the border, walked up to the post office and tried to convince them in sign language [despite the fact that Georgians keep telling me that Turkish people behind the border and even up to Trabzon speak proper Georgian, nobody we actually talked to in Turkey does, the most we got was “tsota vitsi” (I know a bit) from an old man in Trabzon] to ship my items.

When they realized that I wanted to ship international items, they plainly waved their index fingers in an indefinite direction, saying ‘Hopa’ which is the closest town across the border, 25 km away.

That made me leave the booth again, cosidering my options. I already took the marshutka to the border and I also crossed it. I had roughly 25 Lira. The postal items would cost 10,40 TL [1,30 TL each compared to 4 Lari each with the Georgian Post, the exchange rate is roughly 1,05…]. So I figured [applying Georgian marshutka rates] that 15 TL should be way enough to take a round trip to Hopa and just decided I’d drive further into Turkey.

However, I somehow ended up in a Taxi whose driver wanted to charge десяать долар (10 $) first and when I refused he sat me down in the Taxi with a Georgian lady [who got super excited that I spoke Georgian] and made me only pay 10 Lira.

Anyway, he asked me Russian куда (where do you go?) which I, with my very limited knowledge of Russian, mixed up with от куда (where are you from?). After the answering из германии (from Germany) he, as it would be the most normal thing in the world, said something like “So you are going to Istanbul now and then to Germany?”. The Georgian lady helped me clarify the issue and translated my Georgian explanation into Russian.

Only later I realized how ridiculous this assumption of his actually was: This random German guy, at the most eastern remote corner of Turkey, not speaking any word of Turkish, not having dollars, speaking more Georgian than Russian and wanting to travel the 1200 km through Turkey to take the plane from Istanbul – with no luggage whatsoever except an umbrella.

With a good smile on my lips I wandered through the streets of Hopa until the post office reopened (on time) from the lunch break.

By the way, I sent my items (again through sign language, the guy at the desk only stared at me when I asked him qartuli itsit?) and paid exactly the rate I calculated before (through their fancy English website)..

A marshutka ride to the border, a purchase of amazing Turkish buscuits and a marshutka ride back to Batumi later and I still had more money than I’d have had after using Georgian Post. It just took me a bit longer and gave 4 brand new stamps in the Passport.

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