In Akhalkalaki we stayed at the Fish Hotel. This was very funny because they have a fish pool in the restaurant part (where they only served closed parties during our time – we got breakfast in the back room).
Fortunately, a Marshrutka went to Tbilisi. And a man brought us to it. He was a bit late, but they must have already called the driver who was waiting for us. And so we left this particular rather ugly place.
I didn’t take any pictures during the journey – it went via Borjomi to the motorway and via that to Tbilisi. The driver was very fast. And in Tbilisi we were amazed – it was high summer! Many rather good-humoured people were loitering on the streets. Tbilisi is a city where I love to walk around and discover lots of details and people, cosy corners and decayed beauty. I stay in different accommodations here every time and it’s hard to decide which one I like best. This one is very special. You step into a dark hallway of a dilapidated looking house and turn on your torch so you don’t miss the stairs. You go up to the 3rd floor (by the way, they count differently here: Ground floor = 1st floor, so I am more or less on the 4th floor), and there is an automatic light on each floor. And at the top there is a sticker-covered door and behind it a hostel with 2 dormitories and an extra room for 1-2 people. I’m in the extra one. Facing the city is a continuous window front. There is a communal kitchen and lounge.
In Tbilisi there is a cable car that goes from the bottom of the river up to the Mother of Georgia and the old fortress Narikala. That’s quite nice to ride.
The old fortress is a good place to be, especially in the early evening. There are paths with almost small climbing units and a great view over the city and the old walls.
I also met Nicki that day, but didn’t take any photos. I got to know and like Nicki here in 2008. When I was here again in 2021, I had found and contacted her on Facebook and we had a nice day together in the botanical garden. This time I met her during her break at work (she works at the Georgian Museum) and we ate cake and talked. She gave me a better insight into politics (e.g. how Madam President says one thing and acts another, how hard it has become at her job with the political backgrounds etc.), which she mostly dislikes. Also, everyday life is getting harder financially – she and her husband both have full-time jobs, but they still have to earn something on the side, otherwise it doesn’t work out that way. The children are both studying – and she doesn’t mind if they see their future abroad (which only one is doing at the moment).
The next day I booked a Freetour. I had already done this in Yerevan and thought it was great. People show you different things in the city between the sights that are only touched upon and tell you stories and about everyday life. In return, you give as much as you want in the end. I think that if the people are good, you definitely always get more than if you pay a standard price.
I arrived just before the start and there was only one other person: Frieke, also from Germany. We had to laugh so much: the punctual Germans. Another 12 or so people from elsewhere slowly arrived one by one. Our guide was Davit, he was very lively and funny and almost danced his tour, which he made amusing and interesting.
I learned a lot – for example, that people like to steal whole or parts of statues here.
And that 20% of boys in Georgia are named Giorgi and 23% of girls are named Nino. And that in Soviet times, churches were converted – and so his grandfather is said to have played basketball in this:
We only went to 2 churches, but they couldn’t be set up more differently. This is the other one:
In the church we also learned the story of Saint Nino with her special cross. Saint Nino was a healer and missionary and brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century. She carried a special cross, the grapevine cross. It has arms that hang down. There are various legends, in one of which she made it herself from grapevines and also wove her own hair into it. This is then depicted in some pictures.
Another important topic on this tour was culinary. We visited a nice shop with churichela (walnuts in dried grape juice) and spices.
And one of the oldest bakeries in a special vault:
Davit said that Georgia has one thing in abundance: Wine. However, it is difficult with the export profits, as 60% is drunk by themselves. And if not like that, then in the form of ice cream, for example – here a stand with wine ice cream:
We saw more and Davit told more, but I think that’s enough here for now. Then I thought a bit about looks: Davit’s hair length is worn by many young men here. And when they get older/old, it often alternates with baldness – whether natural or helped. And then it’s interesting what kind of clothes some travellers pack in their luggage and then put on for a city walk.
Frieke and I walked around a bit more and discovered a great café. It was even bigger with balconies and a lot of details to look at.
Frieke had already been to Svanetia and could tell me about it, and then she wanted to take the night train to Yerevan and I could tell her about that. So we had a short nice meeting and it was fun for me to get to know her a bit.
At the parliament building there was a demonstration by some people. It remains difficult in the areas of tension between Russia <-> EU and government <-> citizens.
Then the plan was to start the next day with Patrick on the train towards Svanetia in the mountains. During the night, however, Patrick reported diarrhoea. What now?