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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA

ARRIVAL IN GEORGIA

Despite being given completely wrong directions by someone who worked on the boat as to where the exit was, I managed to eventually escape the boat. The four of us (Max, Andries, Inga and I shared a taxi. We got dropped off at the hostel, Max went elsewhere for his business.

Because too much Logan is not good for anyone, I decided to set off on my own. After asking directions for things and discovering nobody knew where anything I was looking for was located, I just decided to do it the "Logan way". There's the right way, the wrong way and the Logan way. The Logan way is the wrong way, but faster.

In this case, it worked out nicely. Within an hour of arrival in country, I had a place to stay, a shave, an English-Georgian dictionary and a Turkish meal. Not bad. I think I am getting a bit better at dealing with new countries. Part of the trick seems to be sticking to smaller population centers, or in the 'old town' district of a city where you can actually find shops and such rather than spending hours wandering in endless residential areas.

One of the things I was concerned about was the Georgian script but it turns out that many of their signs are also in English.

I did discover you should be very wary of stand up urinals as some of them seem to be the 'surprise mutherfucker' variety. Rather than just flushing away your piss, they spray you with water and perhaps your own piss. Good times. Roll your dodge!

After accomplishing that, I just settled down into the hostel.



HOSTEL BATUMI

Aside from the words 'Hostel Batumi' and 'knock here' printed on the door, there isn't a lot to let people know this is a hostel. The layout is a big square inside. Starting at the bottom middle of the square, you walk into a small room that contains a couch, two somewhat uneasy chairs and a wooden chair. There are also (and only) six gear lockers for small valuables. I'm not sure what happens if seven people want to store shit in them, but I've got one geer locker. There is sometimes an inflatable rectangle capable of seating two people, three if they really like each other. There is a rickety table in the center of the room. going either left or right, you walk through a door into a room containing four beds. Going up either side of the square you find another room with a bathroom on either side. One of which has a shower. The water is usually but not always hot. The beds are moderately comfortable but still of the 'slat' design. They are bunk beds, four per room with four rooms. The middle top of the square is occupied by the kitchen. Well, it has a refridgerator and a sink but not enough space or facilities to cook. Even the people who work here don't cook anything. They send out for food - it's cheap to eat out here. Thank God.



CAST OF CHARACTERS

Other guests staying at the hostel:

Lasha from Georgia - he runs the hostel. There are other people but he's the guy who during my stay is pretty much always around. He is a very good host and his generosity impresses me.
Ellia from Finland - a short, cheerful, whimsical bundle of energy. Ellia does not like to eat animals that fart. "I don't eat people, either." she quipped.
David from Canada - he is a musician who travels with both a guitar and a violin.
Suzie from Hungary - she is a writer and makes jewelry.
Holgar from Germany - very cool guy studying to be an engineer and is traveling while he can.



FEED ME, SEYMOUR

This is a country I can (and have) gotten 'a decent meal' in. And cheaply. One of the places to eat cheaply here are bakeries. These are not bakeries as thought of in the West making pies, cakes and whatot - these are places where they may make perhaps seven different things and that's it. They make hamburgers, mini pizzas and several varieties of 'bread with shit baked into it'. This shit might be cheese, onions, whatever. I like to refer to it as 'mystery bread' because nobody at the bakery speaks English and you have no idea what's inside until you bite into it. Or sometime later, depending on how little is in it. You can get a filling - if bready - meal for about half to one dollar and twenty five cents. When I say filling, I am of course referring to 'Logan is full'. If your inside stomach is still 'American size' (or if you are ravenous) double or tripple the price to be completely full. I have no idea at all how these bakeries keep open other than a 'brisk trade'. They charge hardly anything for their wares and employ a staff of eight. The bakery itself is say a 'standard US living room and a half big'. Not very large at all.

Since I'm planning on being here for literally a few months, I am hunkering down in my hostel. Walk around and see the town and such. Read some books. That sort of thing. Or so I thought... (Que dramatic music...)



WEATHER

Due to a day and a half of rain, my otherwise picture perfect three month streak of weather has officially ended. It's true that I didn't really need to go anywhere anyway, but still. Bad weather does help Logan save money so I suppose I should be greatful.



ROADS IN GEORGIA

The rain wasn't really that hard on the first day but it was enough to cause mudslides and knock out the road. I've been advised by natives that if I'm wanting to go anywhere, I should use the train. It may cost a little more, take a little longer but it is more comfortable and won't get turned back due to flooding.



GEORGE THE GEORGIAN

Lashi has a friend named George who lives in Tblisi and was coming here to visit. George, Lasha said, enjoyed talking to foreigners and such. It was obvious who would be hanging out with him. George's actual name is pronounced "Gee-ah" but he answers to 'George' and it's a lot easier for my pickled mind to remember. George use to have a job as a sales manager but decided to instead go back to college to study public relations.



HOLGER S.

Yes, he's on my Facebook. He's a German from what I always think of as 'up north' (ie not Munich) in Hamburg. His English is good enough to ask him if I can't remember a word.



THE BAZAAR

Holger, George and I decided to go to the bazaar to see if we could find a few things. I was in the market for a traveling Backgammon set and some underwear. Yes, excitement is my middle name. Holger was looking for some socks. George was enjoying hanging out with us.

When we went to buy the backgammon board, the guy was selling them on the stairs of some building. He said he liked foreigners and was willing to sell the smallest board he had for just 10 GEL. George seemed surprised - he felt that such a board would normally sell for 15-17. Personally, I was a bit disappointed as I was looking forward to haggling. So, I asked for a couple extra die, expecting this to start some sort of haggling. No, he was happy to include them for free. I bought it.

I'm not really sure if I want to even try lugging around this backgammon board but even if I keep it for just a month or three, under seven dollars US is not bad to pay for a wooden board with wooden pieces as well as chess pieces. I can live with that. With just the games we've played on it so far, I've probably gotten my money's worth - and that was just the first day.

After failing to find underwear that will fit my fat ass, it was time to get some drinks. We found a hole in the wall place that had the best deal on coffee and beer I have seen yet here. Georgian coffee is much like Greek in that it is served in small cups. It is strong and bitter, despite the sugar they suposedly put in there. For six of those and three half liters of beer the total came to an astonishly low seven GEL. Oh...my...God. I'm going back to the bazaar just to go hang out at that place again. Cheap, cheap, cheap!
An excellent time!
On the way out, I found that one of the street vendors Holgar described as 'They carry everything, yet nothing' actually had something useful aside from the miniture plastic guitars that nobody ever buys. He had larger die. Very small die I call 'sneeze die' - you sneeze and they're gone. I wanted something larger.



THE WHITE ROOM
Can you believe this is the entrance to a restaurant?

Here is what you see from the front.

Considering George is actually from Tbilisi rather than Batumi where we're at now, he seems to know this city really well. Better than Jana knows Prague even. (Yes, Jana!) Anyway, he took us to a restaurant that unless you were a local, you would have no way of even knowing there was anything even in the alley it was in. They have a simple menu of not very many different things - maybe fifteen. In Georgia, the custom is to order a few dishes that everyone shares. In this way, you get more variety. We ordered several different things and had a big huge feast. I was a bit concerned. It was a lot of food - we could have easily fed a fourth. The bill was a huge shock at a mere 16 GEL. That's like $10 and the food was very tasty indeed - the best meal I've had in a long time. This is quite exciting to me because this restaurant is in walkable distance from the hostel. Even if I get something by myself I can still work my way through their menu. Who knows, it could become a regular hangout. And I will have the time, especially since this town will probably be cheaper for me than Tbilisi.

In addition, small meals (noodles and such) from the store as well as things from the 'bakery' I should be OK on inexpensive food.



THE RETURN TO THE WHITE ROOM

Holgar and I decided to go the next day to pick up some food at the White Room restaurant. We had George write down what we were suppose to get and we were going to try to get them to package it up and let us return with it to the hostel to feed George. A lot of restaurants really haven't gotten much call for food 'to go'. This place had never heard of it but they were game to try. While we were waiting for our food they directed us into the dining room.

Within the dining room, there were five men who were drinking and partying rather heavily. Being that they were Georgians, they immediately invited us over to their table.

It became a party.

It was Levaia's birthday.
(Logan pictured with Levaita who is nicknamed 'Al Capone'.)

Celebrating with him were his buddies Ele, Ooo Cha, Ko-Ba and Demetri #2. Obviously, these spellings are my phonetic renditions.

We were drinking homemade vodka called "Cha cha". I'll leave it to your imagination to think of the strength of home made alcohol...

While we were there, Holgar showed his train ticket that said he needed to leave soon to go to Tbilisi then dramatically ripped it in half. This caused quite a bit of cheering from the assembled Georgians. [And Holgar was out less than $10...] It was a very cool gesture since while we were drinking with them he decided to show quite a bit of spontaneity and change his travel plans. Unfortunately, spontaneity is not valued in Germany so he may not be allowed back into the country.

I paid attention to the toasts and discovered they were almost ritualistic in nature. By American standards, the toasts were very long (perhaps 1-2 minutes - real minutes) and can follow a distinct order. See the section on customs for details.

During the toasting, I asked if it was permitted for a foreigner to make a toast. They looked a bit surprised but said of course it was allowed. I said something along the lines of "All of Europe knows of Georgian wine but Georgian hospitality is known throughout the world and I thank you for the hospitality you have shown to Holgar and I." They seemed to like the toast very much.

Eventually, we felt that it was time to take our leave so we collected the food we had ordered quite some time ago, went back to the hostel - and had another party...





BLACK SEA OF STONES

A swimming beach is within fairly easy walking distance of the hostel. I got quite a surprised when we got there. Unlike every other beach I've been to, this one was made of rocks. Lots and lots of rocks that hurt my feet. David said that these black stones are how the Black Sea was named by the Romans. I don't have any confirmation on this but it sounds like a good story to me. I went into the sea in my flip flops and played around for a bit. After a couple hours I got bored on the beach as I'm not really into sunbathing. So, I went back to the hostel and showered up. The rest showed up an hour later.




GEORGIAN CUSTOMS - DRINKING

All of the following information comes from Lasha and George.

When the people are at their get together drinking, this is called a 'supra'. We don't really have a good translation I've found in English. The group itself is not a 'supra' but when they are drinking together the event itself is.

By general consensus of the group, a toastmaster (in Georgian, 'Tam-ah-dah') is elected. If there are both men and women in the group it is either extremely rare for a woman to be elected toastmaster. According to Ellia who has been present at some of these, the women really didn't seem to take part. They pretty much sat there and sipped their alcohol. The toastmaster gets to call a toast when they see fit. They may choose to use the traditional order of toasting or not.

The traditional order of Georgian toasting is as follows:

1st toast: Ask for God's blessing and peace.
2nd toast: Situational, usually for the reason of the get together. This could be pretty much anything - wedding, just out drinking with friends, honored guests recognized, etc.
3rd toast: For the dearly departed; those who have died are remembered.
4th toast: Life and children.

Keep in mind that each of these toasts seems to average a minute or two in length though there is no set time limit. A toast can literally go on for a half an hour 'so long as their words are not empty'.

The toastmaster may monitor the conversation and make appropriate toasts based on the topics discussed.

The toastmaster determines if they need to stand up when giving the toast or not as well as if others (excluding women) need to stand up. [I asked why women do not need to stand up and was told 'because they are women!']

The toastmaster ma also assign a penalty drink for anyone not paying attention during the toast. This is consider a bad thing because "for a Georgian man there is nothing worse than drinking without saying anything".

Whether you need to completely drain your glass at each toast is determined by the toastmaster. If you must, that toastmaster is considered 'strict'. If you have some sort of health problem you can be exempt.

Between the toasts (with the exception of after the toast to the dead) you can sing, dance, talk, tell stories - whatever. Toasts may also purposefully be followed by these things. After the toast to the dead, there are only certain special national songs you can sing.



GEORGIAN HISTORY

Before the Rose Revolution, Georgia was best known for it's mafia. These mafia people were often called 'robber in law's'.



WHY GEORGIANS LIKE THE USA

I was curious about this so I asked Lashi, one of the four owners of the hostel, why Georgians like the USA so much. He told me there are two reasons for this - first, they really, really hate the Russians. I'm thinking something about the little war they had with Russia just three years ago might have something to do with that. They see the USA as often working against Russia. The second reason they like the USA is that America helps out with money, teachers (of English) and other things. I've got to say that being from the USA here is quite nice. If you want (certain select groups of) people to be instantly more friendly, just say "Fuck Russia". Me, personally, I like the Russian people I have been privileged to meet thus far. I haven't met their government officials yet and have doubts I will get to in the near future.



PRICES

Bottle of water, 1 GEL

Main course in a Turkish restaurant, 7 GEL

Salad, 2 GEL

Bed in a hostel, 20 GEL

Georgian/English dictionary, 11 GEL

Shave off my fucking beard that had bothered me for days, 5 GEL + 1 GEL tip

Beer in a 2 liter plastic bottle, 5 GEL

Four plastic cups that you think the kindly shop keeper is including with your beer for free but in reality you are getting charged for them, 1 GEL

Six 'kinkelees' which ake a meal even for my fat ass, 4 GEL

Weissbier imported from Germany, 4 GEL

Hamburger at bakery (with tomatoes, meat, some sort of cheese), 2 GEL

Mystery pastry at bakery, 1 GEL (or less)

Three pair of decent socks from bazaar, 5 GEL

Four six sided die, 1 GEL

A very small backgammon board with extra die, 10 GEL

Skull and crossbones bandana from an upscale shop, 2 GEL. I'm not kidding, yes, I bought it. Well, you can never have too many bandanas.




GEORGIAN PHRASES

Mad-loba, thank you.

Didi-mad-loba, thank you very much.



TRAVELR'S TIPS

Georgian hagglin isn't the same as in some other countries. In Georgia, they start very close to the price itself. On single items, haggling is often not possible. If you are buying multiple items you may be able to bring down the price by something like ten percent.

Avoid flip flops with wood or wood like products in them. Instead, stick to plastic ones. The wooden ones take longer to dry out and retain feet stink.

7 comments:

  1. Other handy local phrases:

    Greeting to a Georgia Woman:
    ...shegidzliat’ madzlevs pirshi sek’si ?

    Greeting to a Georgian Man:
    ...ik’nebit’ t’k’ven ts’khimi k’art’uli

    Greeting to a Georgian Child:
    ...me mogts’emt’ kamp’eti t’u tsashalos t’k’veni tansats’meli

    And feel free to thank me for shipping your fat ass to Georgia where the living is easy and CHEAP Logan.

    ...and at least try to spell the name of the country correctly, its GEORGIA not fuckin GORGON.
    (Nimrod!)

    LaContra
    Hostel Owner..World Traveller..Logan Survivor

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, where did I misspell it as Gorgon?

    And thank you Adam!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Thanks, where did I misspell it as Gorgon?"

    What?
    You want me to do everything for you?
    Why don't I just sit down and write the blog for you?
    better yet...
    You go home and I'll do the fuckin travelling for you as well.....

    jesus on a pogo stick....read your own blog and see where you misspelt the country you are visiting...after all, you're the one with the friggin pirate bandanna

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, corrected. I had tried a control F and didn't find it as the misspelling you'd entered. I figured since you were volunteering to become my unpaid editor I should find out specifically where from you. You know - work you to get that zero dollar paycheck.

    Thanks Adam!

    ReplyDelete
  5. So, sounds like you've got a good start. Plan on spending the months in that one town or still move randomly?

    BTW, watch out for Strigoi!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Adam is all riled up... musta spent a week with Logan. I can tell. I lived with Logan for 5ish months... I understand the signs. = )

    ReplyDelete
  7. Going to spend awhile here. Not sure how long but a bit. Then I'll figure out the next place to go. Why do I have to watch out for Romanian monsters? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strigoi

    Chris, you're right. Too much Logan can do that to anyone. I did purposefully follow Adam when he moved from one hostel he owned to the other because he knows a LOT of stuff about a lot of stuff and I wanted to get some mentoring on long term traveling. So, unfortunately, I had to subject him to more Logan - but it was worth it. Well, at least for me it was worth it. If he had hair on his head, he might have pulled it out.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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