Sunday, 30 October 2016

Moscow Girls Make Me Scream and Shout. But Georgia's Always On My Mind.

   My visa ran out before my new invitation letter arrived. This statement will create stress for anyone that travels. Thankfully as a Canadian I don’t run into this situation too often. I can most certainly relate to friends from other countries when planning an overseas trip is an exercise in paperwork and bureaucracy. So I had to leave my beautiful Anapa and travel back to Georgia. Now I love Georgia too but at this time of year its cold. I had to fly through Moscow to connect through to Tbilisi, and so I got to feel real cold briefly as the minutes ticked away toward my expiring document. Sitting in the lounge, having gone through passport control, drinking a beer I became an illegal alien moments before my redeye flight to Tbilisi boarded.

Flights into Tbilisi are made less than convenient for large aircraft because the airport in Tbilisi is being renovated. I hope that this renovation is complete soon as it severely limits tourism to this wonderful city and country. It reminds me of when Vancouver was upgrading its airport. We saw Abbotsford and Bellingham's airports step in to take up the slack and the customer base. Many like myself discovered it was much easier and cheaper to fly to Vegas from Bellingham.

Because of this construction large aircraft land at night and passengers have to negotiate the taxi ranks at an hour usually spent sleeping. Taxis and airports are a small pool hunting grounds the world over and Tbilisi is no different. Many hotels have shuttles to bring you to your hotel and marked taxi’s gather to pick up passengers. Prices are very fluid and difficult to negotiate so I won’t give you a price other than to say it will be the most you spend on a taxi in the city. So simply pay the fee and know you will make up the difference on subsequent taxi costs during your vacation in Georgia. Ten Lari is usually sufficient for any trip in the city, corner to corner.

Returning to Tbilisi after living here for a year did feel like a form of a homecoming. Friends welcomed me in the traditional way, and so my first few days were filled with food and gatherings. They were interested in how my trip home to Anapa was and what I thought of current events shaping our shared world. Cha Cha and wine flowed along with stories about the previous three months apart. Culturally Georgians accept guests with grace and open arms. For me this felt like more of a family gathering, it was as if three months had never passed. We fell into our routines of speaking, translating, waiting for translations, like I had never left. My Russian has gotten better too, so this makes it a little easier.

If your a frequent reader of my blog you know I’ve lived here for a long period on and off. I know the city, the areas, and how to get a good deal or the best value for your money. Arriving late I stayed my first night at an inexpensive guest house near the old Dry Bridge market.  I was determined to check out a new place I had heard of. It was this “I know a guy connection” that allowed me to find a super place to stay.

The Mais Guest house is close to the University and was built by a couple of guys that know what foreigners expect from a good guest house. I know both of them spent time in America researching ideas and expectations. The guest house runs as an extension of the Mais Cafe and Resturant and the staff there has a good command of English and an even better command of Russian. A word for my North American travelers. Understand these hosts speak several languages and don’t get to practice English as much as they would like. North Americans usually speak one language, or perhaps two if you're lucky. Here two languages are the norm, and many speak four or five. So slow it down a bit and try to articulate the word clearly. The hosts will go out of their way to help you, it isn’t just a company idea, it is a traditional cultural expectation.

I arrived and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had room for me. It is the offseason, but its location near so many year round institutions makes it attractive. It is set back from one of Tbilisi’s busiest streets and is close to everything the city has to offer. For me, the main highlight was that it was very close to my favorite cigar bar. The staff showed me all three rooms, and I took the second largest room. It has a great balcony for sipping coffee and smoking something Cuban. The small room isn’t small by European standards, and I laughed when my host called it the small room. I recounted my London stay in a broom closet for two hundred Euros. By comparison, the largest suite is really big, and it has a balcony capable of hosting eight for dinner. The three private spacious bedrooms share a common reception and kitchen. Each bedroom has its large bathroom outfitted with five-star amenities. The beds are comfy, fine linens and special windows ensure guests sleep soundly. I was surprised to find English TV channels and having been struck down with the dreaded MANCOLD I curled up under the thick down comforter and pulled out my computer to write to you all.

So looking to the future I am certain my days here will be warm, and with the Mais Cafe just downstairs I won’t be going too far till this cold abates. They even let me use the backdoor to come and go, so I don’t have to go outside. Georgian Hospitality Once Again!

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