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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

EXITING GEORGIA, ARRIVING IN TURKEY


GEORGIAN CUSTOM

If you sneeze while someone else is talking, it is proof from God that they are correct in whatever they were saying. [Logan thinks this is some goofy stuff.]



MONEY MUSEUM OF THE NATIONAL BANK OF GEORGIA

I had gone to the "Money Museum of the National Bank of Georgia" on a whim during my last day in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was hanging out and looking at a case of coins when one of the people who worked there came up to me. In typical Logan fashion, I look at him, smiled and said "Hi there! You want to be my unpaid tour guide?" Well, it turns out he did! His name is Roland and he literally knew more about coins than I ever want to. He is pretty good in his field and history in general. Sending out a big thank you to him for his excellent tour. Below are a few of the notes I put down.

Old coins were made by stamping. "Mint" means to stamp.
Silver coins were often measured in grams. The silver coins I saw were four grams each. There were also three and six gram coins. Some coins were twenty or thirty grams. Clipping would be rough as merchants would weigh the money. Amount of metal equals value.

Money was known in some places as 'taler' which became 'daler' which then became 'dollar'. I found that interesting.

Some very small coins had holes in them for women to be able to wear them.

The small money in Georgia is called 'tetrie'. Tetrie means white. This change use to be made out of silver - silver is white hence the name. Pretty neat.



DROP YOUR TROUSERS AND GRAB YOUR ANKLES

I decided to go scope out the Tbilisi Marrott and see what they were charging for a room. If you wanted breakfast with that, it was $220 USD +18% VAT. Without breakfast is only $205 +18% VAT. VAT is a way for governments and people to pay more and get extra hassle. Plan on paying it. What an amazing rip off. Naturally, there were some tourists in the lobby as well as taxi drivers outside the hotel. These taxi drivers could speak some English and could literally 'take you for a ride'. [For readers not up on US slang, the phrase 'taken for a ride' could refer to someone literally taking you for a ride, robbing you or taking you off to be killed. In this case, I am referring two two of the three in an amazing play on words. Sit and look amazed.]



EXCHANGING GEL FOR NTL

When I was exchanging lari for lira I went to a bank to see what the best rate I could get was. I found that exchanging 70 GEL I got 70 NTL - with 1.4 GEL change. So, it's pretty much one to one. Just shit here (in Turkey) costs more. Joy! But I was warned. Repeatedly.



PHILOSOPHY

I was in a park with many paths.
People wandered the paths, distracted by their own thoughts
and appearing not much pleased with them.
When a path went a direction of my choice,
I walked along it for a time.
when there was no path toward where I wished to go,
I made my own way.
The grass against my sandaled feet brought faint happiness.
A simple pleasure
in leaving the path.



SHOES
These shoes are only a few weeks old! I think they are three weeks old. Obviously, I'm trying to walk a bit more than before...



INTERESTING ARTICLE

I found this article on boat hitchhiking to be of interest although honestly, Adam had already covered it when I spoke to him in the past.



LEAVING GEORGIA

Not a peep from my new travel alarm today. My cheap wristwatch I was worried about not working worked like a champ to get me up and going on time. Well, to be fair, I was already up. Excited at what the day would bring. Not sure what's up with the travel alarm. Piece of shit.

Until today, I've never had a 'bad' cup of Turkish coffee. The bus station obliged me.

It turned out that the 'direct' but to Kars wasn't really. To me, 'direct' means you get on one bus and your ass stays in that seat for the trip. Instead what happened was we got the meanest ugliest way to travel in Georgia - a marshrutka. Note that in Turkey, these traveling torture machines are called 'dolmus'. They called it a 'service bus' because 'automatic torture machine' would have sounded a bit negative. The driver, however, spoke some English and was much less insane than others in the same field of work. This is why they had him only driving a service bus I suspect.

After waiting there for forty five minutes, we had to wait another twenty because three asshats who had bought tickets didn't show up. Rather than doing the thing that makes sense (putting up a sign saying 'no refunds, mutherfuckers' they delayed the bus twenty minutes. After we got going on the road, the tardy people showed up and convinced them to have the bus wait en route while they got a ride out to it. For another half an hour. I was fantasizing about riding in a German bus, I've got to say. Whole different story.

Because I didn't know when or if I'd get to eat within the next eight hours, I bought some sort of bread which looked less and less appetizing in it's plastic wrap. Eventually, it became 'dwarf bread'. If I felt hunger, I would take it out and examine it and ponder eating it. This caused the hunger to go away.

Due to early arrival, being personable and of course asking, I got to ride up front in the marshrutka to the Turkish border. It was nice but after enough dramatic mountain views, I just fell asleep.

Eventually, our 'service bus' got us to the Turkish border. Nothing much to look at as most borders are. I ended up getting served in preference to the other passengers because my passport was blue rather than red I'm guessing. Or, they detected I had nothing other than 'dwarf bread' and might eat the other passengers. For an entry visa into Turkey, $20 US or (in my case since I didn't offer any dollars), 35 NTL.

I met up with a guy motorcycling through the world. Tbilisi was on his route so I suggested Friends hostel as a good party hostel. He seemed interested. I also gave him the last of my coins from Georgia as it wasn't much and they can't usually be cashed. I also warned him about insane Georgian drivers and cha-cha.

At the time of this writing, I have only a 10 GEL note left so even if I can't get that cashed, it's not a great loss.

For those wanting to hitchhike at the border near Posof, Turkey, I wouldn't try it there. I don't think the amount of traffic is heavy enough to make it work. Sarpe near Batumi is a much better choice for hitchhiking.

Also, for those traveling in this part of the world - rolling suitcase is not your friend. We had to get off the service bus and walk across the border. A long walk. Fortunately, I had on my backpack but for those with the rolling suitcases, I've seen people during funerals looking happier.

We then got on a nice big bus to continue on. But, not long after that we got transferred to a dolmus to take us the last hour or two into Kars. More nightmare. Fortunately on the dolmus I met a nice girl named Mary Ann who is from Switzerland and also headed to Kars. Like most of the women I meet, she seemed comfortable with me and we decided to share a hotel room for our two days in Kars. I didn't know I'd be doing two days here but it kind of makes sense - I can see the town after the lost city of Ani and buy a ticket to the next destination. I just need to find out where the bus station is and such. As a side note, don't get a taxi to the hotel - there are some within walking distance. We went to one she had heard about rather than any my research provided the names of. The hotels in this area are pretty crappy overall and a bit pricey. This is a town that could really use a cheap hostel or few.

Kars is a town on the way from Tbilisi to Iran. We had at least three Iranians in the transport with us.

The first sound I heard in Turkey was the call to prayer.

Next up: Are Turkish prisons really that bad?



COSTS

Tbilisi to use a bus station bathroom a blind man could easily locate by smell, .2 GEL.

Hotel room (double) in Kars, Turkey; 55 NTL per day (hence half that for my cost).

Going to Kars tomorrow morning, 35 NTL. Bit pricey but it's door to door service.



VIDEOS

The things on the stairs

Monday, August 29, 2011

REFLECTIONS ON GEORGIA

DOWNTIME IN TBILISI

Within an hour or two after arrival in Tbilisi, I had my bus ticket. Props to Lasha #1 on that. He called the bus station and found out there is indeed a bus that goes straight from Tbilisi to Kars, Turkey. Someone had said on a year old post in the Lonely Planet forums that the trip took twelve hours, wasn't direct, etc. Although the bus stops in other places it does eventually go directly to Kars - and in only eight hours. I've heard that the roads get better once you leave Georgia. I have no idea if the driving does or if it is still an ass clenching adventure ride.

The bad news is that the bus doesn't leave until Wednesday morning. There is no Tuesday bus. And (at the time of this writing) it is Monday. That sucks hairy balls. (This blog is award winning material, I'll tell ya.)

Hence, I'm basically trapped in Tbilisi tomorrow. I'd be less trapped if I didn't mind spending money, but I do mind. Thinking of the boredom and such brings to my mind the immortal words of my mentor Adam. "Shut the fuck up and stop yer bitching." Words to live by. Adam did warn me that travel was full of boring downtime, but it still beats a nine to five job.

I may end up reading a book and walking around tomorrow. I've already walked around a bit in this town and can tell you that there really isn't anything I know of right now tha I am wanting to see. I'll do some more research later and see if I can find a little gem.



LASHA'S VILLAGE

Lasha's village was interesting to visit, but take it from me that a day or two is enough. Most people watch TV as their big recreation. Given my pathological aversion to it and not having watched it for a decade or more, this left me with not a lot to do. Since the invention of TV and the internet, things like weekly village get togethers for singing and dancing have been relegated to the movies only.



TONIGHT

Being that this is a party hostel, despite the owners claims to the contrary, I suspect there will be a party tonight. This is a good thing - it may help me sleep in a bit. We'll see. I normally don't sleep a lot due to pain. If I'm somewhere interesting, that means I get to see more. Look on the bright side.

For the party, I'd purchased a twenty lari bottle of "Whore-tits-ah", a vodka I am fond of. Sure, cha-cha is about half the price but I'm pretty tired of it. About sixty percent of the cha-cha I've tasted thus far has been absolutely foul. It's the kind of drink that you're told to exhale when drinking so you get less of the 'taste'. So, for my "I'm fucking off soon" drinking I am planning on doing tonight whether I'm joined or not, I've gotten something nice to drink. [Note, that although I know the Georgian custom of when a man wants to get drunk he goes out and buys a lot of alcohol and invites his friends to help him drink it, I am still on money conservation mode and follow 'Logan customs' more often than others. I did buy a big enough bottle that I might get some help to drink it but they need to buy more alcohol too.



TOMORROW

Many countries (perhaps even Georgia) have a common problem. That is that once you have left the borders of that country, their money is worth a bit less than the paper it is printed on. Hence, I'm going to try to figure out how much money I will need to survive tomorrow and get the remainder changed into Turkish Lira. Unfortunately, that's my only real project for tomorrow.



WHEN I GET TO TURKEY

One of the things I plan on looking into is their postal system. I want to go have them weigh one of my notebooks and see if it is going to be feasible to have it mailed to Jana in the Czech Republic.

On the subject of Jana, I wonder if she ever got in trouble for using the money she was given for a washer to go on vacation? Well, that will teach her parents the importance of gift cards, I suppose.



REFLECTIONS

Why is it that whenever something is ending, people feel the need to reflect upon it? Is it some part of the human condition that feels loss? Is it needing a sense of closure? Is it that we are all a bit nostalgic?

Looking back on Georgia, it's been an interesting experience. They have a lot of history here and a lot of culture. While I'm not overly interested in much of the history, I have made quite a study of their culture. And thinking back on the things I have done in this country, I've worked for a hostel and was fortunate enough to be invited into three people's homes. I've witnessed life in anything from the capital city down to a small village. I've been robbed. I've tasted some whines that Pete would say (in his usual reserved way) were "Very nice indeed." I've tasted cha-cha which is foul enough that you should exhale immediately after drinking it to cut down on what you taste. I've become a regular at many different business establishments. I've met more backpackers than I can remember - and been fortunate enough to have many of them Facebook me. I've had what could be the best beer in the country - made from Czech hops. I've made some good Georgian friends who have really shown me hospitality.

But it's time to go!

Unless something really wild happens tomorrow or en-route to Turkey, the next blog should be from somewhere in Turkey.



FEEDBACK

Let me know if you have watched and enjoy the videos. If I don't have enough people tell me they are enjoying them, I'm just going to keep them for myself as the internet connections at hostels are usually shitty. [Note that if you are not watching them or don't like them, you don't need to respond to this - I'm looking to see if perhaps ten out of the hundred or two hundred people who read the blog every day say 'yes, please keep them coming'.]


TRAVELER'S TIPS

Just because something is or is not on the internet, doesn't make it so. This is doubly true with the bus and train schedules of 'developing nations'. To find out the real information, get a local on the phone with them - or better still standing in front of them asking the questions.

If you're wanting to catch a bus or train to an out of the way place, remember that somme rides only take place once a week. Best to check as much ahead of time as possible to avoid sitting around for several days scratching yourself and wondering if this is what Hell is like.

How to spot a party hostel: Noise level and cleanliness. If they have a party a couple times a week (or more) that's a bit of a hint as well.

Dump all local currency before leaving the borders. Get the currency of the country you are going to. Lacking that, I'd recommend Euros as the dollar has tanked and continues to do so at an alarming rate.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

RESEARCHING TURKEY TRAVEL

RESEARCHING TURKEY TRAVEL

Researching is a time consuming pain in the ass. When most people go on vacation, the length of the trip is generally 2-4 weeks. They have plenty of time to research as well as 'dream build', generally while they are at work. By 'dream build' I mean to envision, plan and get excited about their upcoming vacation. All from the comfort of their home. When you are already on the road, it gets harder. You are busy doing stuff - like seeing stuff.

I am visiting Lasha at his house. Lasha loves to sleep so while he is unconscious (or watching TV) I am trying to make good use of my time to do some research on Turkey.

For my Turkey trip, I only have three 'fixed points'. I am coming in from Georgia, I want to hit Cappidocia and I need to end up in Istanbul. Anything else done in the meantime is gravy.

Numerous travelers have told me that the bus system in Turkey is very comfortable. I suspect that I can travel much longer in a bus than I could in a marshrutka. The most time I'd want to spend in a marshrutka is about three hours. Not sure on a bus.

The only other thing I'm pondering on is 'where will be my next sit and wait for my finances to recharge' place. It might end up being Egypt unless things are too expensive there. Not sure what to do still about Tunisia or Morocco but I'm going to worry about that later. The political situation down there may have resolved itself (or completely blown up) by the time I get there. As a side note on that, if things aren't going well in Egypt by the time I get to Istanbul, I may just end up flying to somewhere else - like India if I need to. I am not sure on that but I do know Istanbul is a major transportation hub and I can get to lots of places from there.



ADAM'S RECOMMENDED LIST

This is for those folks who want to do what Adam did. [Adam is cool. If you do what Adam did, you might become cool too.] I've used it as a starting point for my research. He had a couple things in there that I didn't know about, including the lost city and the giant heads.

Kars>Lost City of Ani>Lake Van>Malatya>Nemrut Doagi (giant heads)>Kayseri>Cappidocia>Ankara>Istanbul.

*************************************************************************************
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Despite my coolness factor needing a real boost, I am planning out a different route after some study for a couple days and finding stuff I think I'll like. The beginning of the route in the undeveloped eastern part of Turkey is naturally going to be more difficult as far as finding lodgings and such go but I should be able to come up with something.

Like all of my travel plans, these are somewhat tentative. If someone has any additional information that is helpful, please let me know.


KARS (I am going to try to go straight here from Batumi, Georgia but I might need to get a bus first to Hopa, Turkey and from there six hours to Kars.) I might need to go Hopa > Artvin > Kars? Apparently, it is going to be some sort of crazy juggling to make this go. Irritating. I have asked someone about this and worse comes to worse, I'll go to the bus stations and talk to people about it. Going back to Batumi seems pretty out of the way if I'm trying to get to Kars. If anyone has info on this, please let me know. Two hours on the internet I've been at this and can't get a straight answer.

This place seems like a very logical 'getting into Turkey' place. It has a citadel and a bridge to see. It also has under 100,000 population which I think is a good thing. It's a logical jumping over to Ani (45KM, 1 hour) away place. I read somewhere that it costs 35 TL. Even the author of the website that is a reference thinks the hotels are sucky there.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here: Just the lost city? 45KM away. "However, it is easy to hire a taxi for the day, ask at your hotel in Kars and expect to pay around 100 Lira (four people) for a five hour trip, including two hours driving time."
Places to stay listed on the internet: Wikitravel from $25 up.
Travel time to next place: 12 hours.
Time to spend here: 2 days - one before Ani, one after. Possibly an extra day if I am completely shagged out from a long trip from Georgia because they make it stupid hard to get here.



KAHTA
The only reason to come here is to use it as a base for visits to Nemrut Dağı. According to the internet, Kahta is two hours closer than Malatya to the big head ruins. I am confident that everyone will tell me that the ruins on the Malatya side are much better... Unless I started from there. [Don't do Malatya - costs a lot to stay there.]

For some odd reason, Google Maps lists Nemrut Dagi as near Lake Van. Wikitravel and the site I'm using to help plan Turkey list it as much further West. I have no clue why. Are there two fields of big heads? The town of Malatya is best avoided anyway as it has no place cheap to sleep.

Shit I'm interested in seeing here: Just Nemrut Dagi. There seems to be jack shit i the town but it is a small place.
Places to stay listed on the internet: $11 or $17. The more expensive place drives people up to Nemrut Dagi for $23/car - tour extra.
Travel time to next place: 8 hours
Time to spend here: 1-2 days.



GOREME
Possible to stay here for Cappadocia stuff. Interesting info: "By the way, many bus companies will sell you a ticket "to Göreme" or "to Ürgüp," but what they mean is that your big comfortable bus will go as far as Nevşehir, after which you must transfer to a servis minibus or taxi to be shuttled to the smaller town. (The transfer should be—and usually is—included in your bus fare. The major bus company serving Nevşehir—Nevşehir Turizm—is usually dependable in this regard.) Some less-than-honest bus companies actually just drop you in Nevşehir and let you fend for yourself. Ask the ticket agent specifically how you will be getting to your final destination." "You reach Göreme via either Nevşehir (bus, plane) or Kayseri (bus, train, plane), the transport hubs for the region."



In looking into a balloon flight, the research material recommends Butterfly tours. They seem to have pretty decent rates and promise to pack less people into the basket. Less is better. So, it looks like 165 Euros if I bring cash, possibly 150 for mentioning TTP (Turkey Travel Planner). Making the broad assumption that I'll be paying 165 Eur, that is (today) $238. Quite a bit. Half as much as my last computer that I had for a couple years to go for one hour of entertainment. I'm not sure if I'll do it or feel that I'd rather keep the $238. We'll have to see what my expenses look like by the time I get there.

I've been reading that I need to stay in Goreme and that they have hostels there from 10-15 Euros. Looking on the internet though for the town of Goreme, I'm not seeing any town of that name - just a national park. The closest towns I'm seeing is Nevsehir to the west and Kayseri to the east. More research required on this shit.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here: Cappadocia
Places to stay listed on the internet: 17 hostels, $8 to $12 low end. (From Hostelworld).
Travel time to next place: 8 hours.
Time to spend here: If can get a decent hostel, till I get bored. Adam suggests 4 days.



ANTALYA
Doesn't seem to be much specifically in this town but it is a big jumping off place for lots of other interesting stuff.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here: Better do more research or strike from list.
Places to stay listed on the internet: $20/night - not many places to stay. According to wikitravel, getting a $12/night guest house is not difficult. "Antalya is also a good base for day-trips to nearby archeological sites such as Aspendos, Olimpos, Perge, Phaselis, Selge, Side and Termessos."
Travel time to next place: 4 hours
Time to spend here: There is a lot to see here. If I can find cheap lodgings, could be several days.



KAS
"Kaş is also a good base for exploring the plentiful ancient Lycian cities and archeological sites such as Demre (Kale), Patara, Xanthos (Kınık), Letoön, Saklıkent and Tlos." Considering how 'unspoiled' it is, the prices are a bit high - $20 to $25 for lodging.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here:
Places to stay listed on the internet: Probably $25/night (Hostelworld); on Travelwiki Ateş Pension listed at $14 'during high season'.
Travel time to next place: 5 hours
Time to spend here: There is a lot to see here. If I can find cheap lodgings, could be several days.



PAMUKKALE
It is a city in tourist decline according to the web page but it is easiest way to visit Aphrodisias which looks very interesting.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here: Afrodisias aka Aphrodisias, about 2 hours away.
Places to stay listed on the internet: $14 to $16 - several places (Hostelworld)
Travel time to next place: 3+ hours
Time to spend here: Probably one or two nights to tour the ruins.



KUSADASI
Close to the ruins of Ephesus. Looks cool. Hostels and such start at $15.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here:
Places to stay listed on the internet: About five places ranging $15-18. Wikitravel has more info. You can use it as a base for visiting sights in the region such as Ephesus; Priene, Miletus and Didyma; Euromos; Pamukkale and Aphrodisias. [Note, Aphrodisias is about 3 hours from here - do it at the previous place. But here we can see several other things on day trips.]
Travel time to next place: 3 hours
Time to spend here: If COL is not bad, several days doing day trips.



BERGAMA AKA PERGAMUM

Long spread out city makes it more of a pain in the ass to get around in but some of the Greek stuff nearby may make it worth it. The city only has 100,000 population but for some reason it's spread out over 7KM.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here:
Places to stay listed on the internet: Only two places listing 'private' rooms $15-18. Wikitravel lists some places also for $15.
Travel time to next place: 3.5 hours
Time to spend here: Could be interesting. Everything in easy reach.



CANAKKALE
"Çanakkale is your best base for visiting the Gallipoli battlefields and the ruins of Troy." Aside from Troy, there are a couple museums that might be interesting (not sure).
Shit I'm interested in seeing here: Gallipoli and Troy
Places to stay listed on the internet: One place only, dorms $15 on hostelworld.
Travel time to next place: 4 hours
Or to push on to Istanbul: 8.5 hours
Time to spend here: Couple days?



BURSA
They have a cable car there which goes up a mountain (good) and also ferries to Istanbul. From my possible direction of travel, that might be an interesting way to enter Istanbul rather than by bus.
Shit I'm interested in seeing here: The ferry out? Not sure if it would be worth it to ferry in as opposed to bus.
Places to stay listed on the internet: Only high priced privates, $35 to $42. Another $36 one here.
Travel time to next place: 4 hours driving, unknown by ferry.
Time to spend here: One night or less.


From there, on to Istanbul...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

CHABUKIANI, GEORGIA

TO THE VILLAGE!

Lasha's (#1) father, 'Mal-khai' aka "Micha" (in the Russian pronunciation which I can actually do) picked up Lasha and I. When Lasha got into the driver seat, I immediately offered Micha the passenger seat but he kindly told me to take it. That was really nice of him because it allowed me to make a lot of videos of the journey.

I haven't gotten to talk to Micha a lot other than to find out he's been a brewer since 1996. When I speak to him (with his son interpreting) I want to be able to see his face and body language. Since it is not possible to turn my head, him being in the back seat and me in the front don't really make this possible.

We did a lot of chatting on the way to the village of Chabukiani and I video taped it.

One thing that came up somewhere in the conversation - according to Lasha #1, it is not the oldest son which moves into the house but the youngest. This contradicts what George #1 had told me about it. I'll let those two figure it out. Needless to say, only one son gets the house though my guess is that more than one may live in it if circumstances require it.



BREWERY

Rather than just staying on the customer side which is a pub, I was given a tour of the brewing side. Naturally, the space on my camera ran out halfway through. That irritated the shit out of me as getting to see how beer was made is interesting.

Lasha's family also employs two fierce guard dogs. These are the bark loudly as they're coming after you. This is a bit less fierce than the ones that don't give you any warning but just charge at you to bite the shit out of you. The guard dogs he has are fierce enough to keep me in check though. My personal philosophy is that when the person who owns the guard dogs tells you to get inside and they sound concerned, do not argue with them. Get your ass inside.



HOUSE

Lasha's mother and father are what I consider pretty well to do. Near the brewery they have built a large three story house. As a side note, I'm not sure when a house becomes a 'mansion'. I'm thinking when you start getting rooms that the normal person cannot name you've tipped into that. I can name all of these rooms so despite having a floor to myself, I'm sticking with 'house'.

I've quickly formed the opinion that Lasha's parents seem to spend most of their time at the brewery, rather than the house. The house seems to be more of a place to sleep and maybe get in some TV. Life goes on at the brewery.

Despite Lasha's instructions to wake him up when I get up, I've decided to use the time he is sleeping to catch up on my blogging as well as do some much needed research into Turkey. I've got to figure out what I want to see there. Adam was kind enough to provide me a list of what he found interesting and I've found an excellent website that seems to detail quite a lot about Turkey. So, I am working on studying that. I'm going to probably even detail my research in the blog in case someone out there has any thoughts on it to add - also for those interested in traveling in Turkey.

My goals for the village are not too well defined. I know that at some point we will be drinking plenty. I'd like to see more of the village and discover what goes on here. And the brewery.

A side note on the brewery, it is the main social thing within this village. If it had rooms for rent above it, this would completely fit into the 'tavern' mold we have all come to know and love from fantasy RPG's.

My kind hosts, Lasha's mother and father. These are warm and hospitable people.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS

Planning on drinking is not a Georgian thing. It just happens.



THE NEXT DAY

The next day, we headed over to where Lasha's grandmother as well as his aunt and uncle (the uncle works in the brewery) live. We got to see the very compacted farm they had in the back of the property. I was also taken on an excellent tour of the house by Lasha's nephew. Lasha's nephew seems like a cool kid, I wish I could understand him.

I also got a chance to ask Lasha's eighty year old grandmother a few questions. She taught biology and chemistry for forty five years including in the 'USSR' time.

She shared with me that when Georgia was part of the USSR, they had all of their required equipment to teach with. Now, not so much. She doesn't want us to think that life was better then, however. There were a lot of bribes and corruption. People would go to rot in prison for little things - including saying things that disagreed with the government.

I asked her what was the most important thing in her life. She said it was that her children and grandchildren turn out well. She never wants to see the bad of them in her lifetime.

In Georgian society, the grandparents usually live with members of their family (often, it's their house) making them an integral part of the grand kids lives. In America, this is not the case. Usually, we either ignore the old, visit them once a year or lock them away in an 'old folks home' until death finally takes them.

Her current favorite daily activity is teaching her grandchildren and TV.

I asked Lasha's grandmother if she had any advice for Americans. She responded, "What can I give you?" She only had good wishes. She said I seemed like a self educated, curious and kind person to her. Good enough for me.

After that, it started to rain so we headed back to Lasha's house so he could take in some TV. I had gotten back the internet connection wireless box thing (weird) and am working on writing this blog as well as doing some research on Turkey.



LEVANI

This is Lasha (#1's) nephew. He is 10 years old. This is the kind of kid who does things like make food for the family, coffee for yours truly and tries to convince me to eat more. Just like his fellow countrymen. He is probably one of the most mature ten year olds I have ever met! I'm not even sure I am as mature as he is.
I haven't found out what sort of weird skin rash thing he has but apparently the green stuff is medicine and the rash itself is not contiguous. I've been told that anyway. When I first met him, Lasha told me he was very shy. I've noticed most kids tend not to keep that way around me for long. The kid hangs out often with me. Cool kid. [TJ, if your kid turns out at least this cool, you've won.]



GEORGIAN NAMES

The Georgians' word for their own country is "Sor-Kart-Vey-Lo". I don't know why we don't call it this instead of 'Georgia'. It would keep Americans from thinking tanks are rolling on Atlanta.





VIDEOS

Leaving Tbilisi

Georgian Driving Fun

Georgian Countryside, part 1

Georgian Countryside, part 2

Camera Love

Georgian Honking

Corn on the Cob

Honking in Action

Georgian Honky Tonk

Under Construction

Where are we going again?

Brewery

Me Drinkie Beer

Tour of Lasha's House

Cleaning the Yard

Special Drink Silliness

To Grandmothers House We Go

Traditional Georgian Stockbrokers

Lady Fingers

Translation

Georgian Village House

Tour of the Village

Dining With Plague Victims

Supra 1

Supra 2

Supra 3

I found a what?

Is it contagious?

Ah, nuts...

Nut gathering

The difference between American and Georgian children...







YOUTUBE WEIRDNESS

Here is your dose if strange for the day. Thanks to John M.








SIGHNAGHI OVERNIGHT

GUESTHOUSES

I'm beginning to equate guesthouses with 'staying at old people's houses'. They have a lot of the same things - big, solid furniture inherited from relatives who knew enough to get rid of it. The house it is now in is always two sizes too small for this furniture. There is also the perpetually dying mother/grandmother in one of the rooms. Beds whose surface looks like the inside curve of a banana. Surfaces crammed with nicknacks. They also have unspoken rules of the house which I haven't found out yet as I've been pretty careful to not break any of them. [I'm sure the rules are standard 'anti-Doyle' stuff like no raping the family pet in the living room while the family is trying to watch TV.]

Speaking of TV, it seems to be a Georgian tradition to have the TV, radio, telephone ringer and such at as close to concert level as possible. I'm not sure why but it could be to try to match the way the Georgians sometimes talk to each other, often very loudly. Mind you, I've encountered blaring TV's in other countries but usually there are some softer ones mixed in. Not so here.

Add to this that often there is some single mother living at or working at the guesthouse. Their child is often male and hyperactive. Georgians tend to be extremely indulgent with children. If some kid is wanting to yell at the top of their lungs and run in a circle for a couple hours, they're OK with that.



MOVING ON

The bed about killed me so I moved some of the padding onto the floor and managed to get some sleep. It was kind of a shame that the place wasn't very good. I could tell that the lady really wanted to be a good host. Unfortunately, the people who have guest houses often rely on whatever income they get from them just to live. There doesn't seem to be any money left over for for things like 'fixing up the place'.

I had gotten a message from Lasha #1 on Facebook that he was working on finding out when we could go to his village. He wasn't sure when it would happen. I am very excited about checking out his village. Lasha suggested that I return to Tbilisi to wait until the village could be arranged.

I agreed and told him I was on my way.

I really didn't get an opportunity to see much of Sighnaghi other than what you saw in the videos. It's one of the smallest Georgian towns, looks nice and all of that. I could have used one or maybe two more days there but the prospect of getting to go to Lasha's village trumped this touristic town.

Plus the village was completely fog bound when I woke up. Hence I wouldn't have seen much.

So, I took off in the marshrutka. The beginning of the journey kind of reminded me of riding a mechanical bull. On the marshrutka I met up with one new person from Israel as well as two I'd met in Telavi. It's always interesting how often you can run into familiar faces. We got to visit until the marshrutka got full enough it became impossible.

What very much turned out to be odd is that when I finally arrived in Tbilisi, Lasha's father picked us up in his car and we went out to Lasha's village. The village was back in the general direction from which I had just come. The fact that I spent only a few hours in Tbilisi before getting back on the road again made me happy I had returned as early as I did.



VIDEOS

Road to Sighnaghi

Natias House

Secret and Silent

Great Wall of Where

Castle Tower

Bodbe Monastery

Descent into Pain

Hose Fed Holy Spring

Pilgrims

Return to Sighnaghi

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WANDERING ABOUT IN TELAVI

FIRST GUESTHOUSE IN TELAVI, GEORGIA

For some reason, sveteana doesn't seem to like me. I'm not sure why. I haven't given her any grief at all (unlike poor Adam). It could be a mixture of her guilt over having kicked me out to make room for more people and perhaps the Georgian custom of 'not taking anything that could be your neighbors'. In other words, once she referred me to the place I am in now, I pretty much belonged to the neighbors. If she was to allow me back in her house, it could create some sort of feud. Aside from the trouble with the water (and hot water) today and the fact that nobody aside from Sveteana seems to have internet, I probably wouldn't go back. Well, that and I want to have another feast with my new friends. I am the only guest here and I am glad for it. It's my first semi privacy in months.

I still need to use Sveteana's internet to research my next jump. If the other towns in this part of Georgia are like the one I'm in, I may as well head out. There isn't anything I'm really wanting to see here. I do enjoy the alcohol and the company of the other travelers more than the site seeing in this region.

Perhaps I should try hitchhiking in Georgia. After all, I am planning on trying it in Turkey. If it doesn't work here, fuck doing it in Turkey. I will need to review Adam's list of recommended places and see what I want to do there. I am starting to suspect that Turkey may cost too much for aimless wandering. It is possible that Istanbul - despite being a very expensive city - might be one of the cheaper places I go. I checked out Hostelworld.com and everything seems pretty cheap there.



15 NADIKVARI STREET

This is the address of Sveteana's place. Would I suggest it? For a group (the bigger the better) certainly. If you're solo, maybe during the off season but expect to get bumped out at any time if you can't tell her how long you'll be staying in a strange town you know nothing about.

Plus, if there is much to see here I haven't really found it. There is a cathedral close by but if you're wearing shorts you'll get turned away at the door. Despite God not saying anything about it when someone with shorts enters his temple, the worshipers do. Since I have no real interest in any religious place that isn't an awe inspiring work, I don't feel pressed to go into them and don't care. But for the people who like looking at religious stuff, I'd suggest the pants that have zip on and off legs. Carry around the legs in a backpack and zip them on if some pesky door man wants to turn you away.

Despite there not being a lot to see in the town, there is a small poorly stocked grocery store literally a stones throw away. You can buy a couple different things there including semi cold drinks. I do like the building itself and she has masses of room within it. I'd describe the place as a bit quirky and artistic.

The morning breakfast (7 GEL) is nothing special but the evening meal is quite a feast (15 GEL). Be warned that it's mostly the same food every night. Sure, the cost is double that of Batumi's White Room but how often will you be able to find that?

Svet's English is rough but I've noticed that it tends to become worse when she is not comfortable about an idea and it becomes really good if you're talking to her about money. Since I've played the "I don't understand" game when I don't want to understand people, I recognize it when others do it.

So if you are traveling with a group, go for it. Her 'gotta make money' mercenary sensibilities will kick in and you'll feel yourself well taken care of. If you are traveling alone, she'll take you till she can get a more lucrative deal.



GUESTHOUSES - WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THEM?

Guesthouses in general: Pretty much whoever lives in that room has temporarily gone away to live in a different part of the house - and left all of their shit there. I'm not talking about things like books on shelves. I'm talking about closets stuffed with clothing, easy to clear away nicknacks festooning every surface and such. Why they leave them there I have no idea. Maybe they aren't worth stealing or they just believe people won't bother to steal them. Or break them. Intentionally. Then eat them.

In the past, I've stayed away from them simply because on sites like hostelworld.com they insist on two people minimum in a room - or you pay for a room for two even if you are only one. In some places that may be true, but not Telavi. Though I might get kicked out if a couple wanted that room.

Most of the people who run guesthouses seem to be elderly women. Not sure why that is, but it seems true thus far.



THE SUPRA

We had a supra with 11 people at Svet's place during and after dinner. For some reason, I was made Tamada. Again. And I had to do the toasts partially in English and partially in German. Believe me when I say that my German is not up to any fancy toasting and the saying anything in German (other than a word here and there) dropped away after the first couple of toasts.

I drank Bruderschaft with Marek and Piot (Peter) from the Polish group. It was a great party. After we drank the rather mediocre table wine Svet provided, the Polish folks produced a couple of very large (3L?) bottles of wine that kept the party going.

In addition to the six people from Poland, there were also two Brits and two from Israel.

A bit after 11pm Svet did ask us to keep it down. I've noticed that she is also working on having dinner an hour earlier tonight (the night after) possibly so that she can keep it quiet later in the evening.



THE MORNING AFTER

I was told by the Poles that drinking a shot of Cha-Cha followed by a shot of Coke was good for hangovers. I figured it was rubbish but what the hell, why not. I didn't have much of a hangover (very slight) anyway and I figured I am into trying new things. Damned if it didn't work immediately. Weird.

As they were planning on going to Tbilisi via marshrutka, I told them about my marshrutka experience. They said it was 'atmosphere'. I replied that it was 'too much atmosphere'.

This group makes me (again) wish I spoke fluent Polish. Hell, I'd even be OK with fluent Russian.



OFF FOR ANOTHER SHOT OF CULTURE

Hell, I've gotten so many shots of culture, I'm glad I'm not in the 'Culture Club'. (/shudder)

We (the group of six Poles and I) went to a place that I was told was a wine factory.

This turned out not to be the case. It is in fact some rich dead dude's house with a place that sells wine in the basement. The Poles requested the Russian speaking tour guide and got it. It was a very Russian tour. The guide was an old woman who always stood carefully ramrod straight and would point with a small folded fan. If people were talking among themselves, she would repeat her words more loudly until they shut up and listened to her. It was a 'you are here to be instructed by me' type of tour.

I also discovered that even museum curators in a fairly somber place have loud and annoying ring tones on their phone. That kind of thing never ceases to amaze me. It's like people are fascinated with it.

Anyway, the house and grounds were OK but going through them at the speed of tour guide (especially one I couldn't understand a word of) was fucking painful. Marek would occasionally give me a quick 'Cliff Notes' version in German but for the most part it was listening to people in Russian for a couple hours. I'd have walked through that place in about twenty minutes and not feel I'd missed anything important. I'm really the kind of person that can walk through a place quick unless something catches my eye. Most things don't.

Since the Poles had supplied the wine for the Supra the night before, I figured I'd pick up a bottle or two of the 3L (?) wine they'd gotten. I was told by our gun toting police guide "No problem" several times. I did specify I'd like to buy it but they appeared to not wish to sell it to me. They never did talk about it again. So, I am without wine.

I got a lot of pictures taken of me (and with me in them) for other people's photograph album. For me, this is still an odd feeling.

Due to the presence of the firearm, I got to discover that 'waffe' is German for 'firearm' though 'schusswaffe' is in the Google translate.

Another interesting thing is that I was asked my age. Naturally I told them to 'guess'. There were guesses in the 30's. When I lived in the states, the guesses were in the 50's. I might be aging backward in Europe.



ALARMING IN GEORGIA

Watch this knowing the lady is an English language instructor in Georgia.



UPCOMING PLANS

Right now, I'm trying to figure out if I want to stay in Georgia or get out. I'm thinking I might try some hitchhiking tomorrow and see where that takes me. I might end up heading toward Sighnaghi then to Sagarejo and eventually to or through Tbilisi then further east.

I'm beginning to wonder if I enjoy living other places more than seeing other things. I do like to move around a hell of a lot more often than every six weeks though for sure. I am thinking that I should try the hitchhiking to see what I think about it now. [I did it when I was in my 20's but that was a long time ago and I had a lot more stamina then.]



COSTS

Meal at guesthouse, 5 GEL, 15 for big feast dinner.

Bottle of red from the winery, 23 GEL



VIDEOS

Polish singing

Israelies Singing

Famous European Song

Polish singing (part 2)

Brits singing

Bruderschaft Demonstration with traditional song

Bruderschaft Song Lyrics Explained

Svets Place from the Hammock

Drive to so called winery

Arrival at winery

Wandering toward dead dudes house

The Grounds



SEEING SOON...

Why no, I think we should haul this into our city gates. What harm could there be? I'm sure we can find out why they put windows in it after we get it into the city gates. [Obviously, these were simpler times when people were more...stupid.]

Monday, August 22, 2011

ONWARD TO TELAVI

MARSHRUTKAS

A marshrutka is a short rather stout bus which has seats for fifteen plus the driver. Often they can hold twenty people with many people standing in the aisles.

If you've ever wanted to know what riding in one is like, consider the following:

The roads in Georgia are not good. Bumpy, twisty and windy with switchback and hairpin curves. The drivers of all marshutkas are chosen in part for being clinically insane. Passing people around blind turns on hairpin curves is a normal part of the job.

Suspensions on the marshrutkas I've been in probably wore out about the same time as the seat padding - back a couple of decades ago. This causes your ass to fall into a deep, painful sleep. This sleep is the kind of semi permanent sleep that brings to mind poisoned apples and some prince whose idea of a good time is molesting coma patients.

There is usually someone with both chronic halitosis and body odor using you as a pillow. I am apparently damned cuddly.

I was only on a two hour trip! I have no idea what the people who insist on going from Batumi to Tbilisi (or vice versa) have gone through on their six hour trip but I'm sure it is hellish.

I eventually arrived in the small (20k people) town of Telavi.


TELAVI

In Telavi, I was unexpectedly met by three people whose knowledge of English stopped at the word 'guesthouse'. They hustled me from the marshrutka to their car and started driving me to the center of town. I kept asking questions about the guesthouse they wanted me to go to until they decided to find someone who spoke English. Once we had that person, we fell to negotiating. Remember, Georgians don't really haggle much. Initially, the people who had taken me into their car wanted 20 GEL per night for staying in their guest house. This started to go up when I was asking about things like hot water, internet, food costs and such. After they had gotten to 35 GEL, I'd decided I've had enough of this and grabbed my pack and took off. I'd rather listen to the little voice inside me that says "It's time to go" and be wrong lots of times than ignore it and be deadly wrong once.

So, it's creeping up on evening and looking like rain. What to do? An internet cafe of course! I wanted to do some research I should have done before leaving Tbilisi. Yeah, I don't know what the hell I'm doing half the time either. Just something in me had said "Hey, you can just show up and find something!" This is true, but when you're trying to live on the cheap, what you just 'find' might be more than you are willing to pay.

By Googling the town I was in and 'guesthouse' I discovered that there was one not too far away from where I left the other people's vehicle.

So, I went and inquired about a room. The lady who owns the place hemmed and hawed a bit. She did, in fact, have a room. It had been booked though who through I have no clue because I didn't see a way to book it. She really did want to rent the room because there was no sign of any of the people who were suppose to show up. I managed to get the price out of her - 20 GEL. That comes with WiFi, hot water and such. Sadly, the electricity was not working when I first got to the place but due in part to the volume of rain coming down, I told her that was fine. She also told me she offered a dinner. Price, 15 GEL so 35 GEL total. Irony is pretty ironic sometimes. I could have potentially had a better deal with the first couple that had me in their car but this lady actually speaks some English - worth a couple of Lari I figured.

The room itself looks way too ritzy for me. I made a video of it to show everyone. The room itself is pretty big and has a couple of couches as well as a fireplace. I understood that after one night I'd be moved to a smaller room. No problem, I really didn't need all of the space she gave me.

I also decided to check out 'Couch Surfing' to see if any of the locals do it. There are only eight people, three of which are currently out traveling and the others are on their for a 'drink only'. Translation, no, stay at a guest house.

As I was hanging out at the guesthouse, I was listening to other guests speaking in Russian. With Georgians really hating the Russian government and not teaching their kids Russian in schools any more (it's now all English! Yea!) it will only be a generation or two before it gets much harder to find Russian speakers here I think. Maybe they'll stop dubbing films into Russian someday.

I don't know if the guesthouse has a name. Given the wireless name and the owners' name, I am calling it Sveteana's Home Stay.

The next morning, however, I was told it is time for me to go. Contrary to what some of you may think it was not due to my behavior. Rather, Sveteana was doing the mercenary thing of chasing money. Given the size of her house and the monthly bill, I suppose she has to. A large group called up and wanted most of the guest house. She kicked me out because I am only one person. I can understand it, though it is a 'dick move'.

I'm not sure if it will matter a lot as I'm not planning on staying very long in this town. There is simply not a lot here. I'm now in the countryside and seeing 'the real Georgia' but meh. I'm thinking I need to keep looking around for something more fun. Who knows? It could involve riding a horse around for the day at a cost of 40 GEL - or maybe it will just give me a different type of sore ass than the marshrutka did?

So, Sveteana stuck me at her neighbors house. It is not as cool as Sveteana's Home Stay and has no internet. The first thing the lady tried to do was tell me the price was 25 GEL per night but I just kept repeating that Sveteana had said 20 GEL until she acquiesced. The neighbor also speaks no English, just Russian and Georgian. She also wanted to know how many nights I would be staying. I told her to 'ask me tomorrow'. I'm going to have to see what the town has to offer.

The next day was bright and sunny so I wandered around the town for a few hours. I think I've seen most of it. It's bigger than I expected with a population of 20,000 people or so. I had gotten the impression from people I had talked to that it was a lot smaller than it is. I envisioned an stereotypical 'Old West' town with one main street. This town is substantially larger than that but still lacks anything really interesting. I can hear Adam's words in my head now saying "What did you expect, a state fare? It's a fucking village!" This is true. I wouldn't mind hanging out in it for a couple days just to sit but I know that I'm going to be doing some self enforced sitting at some point when funds get low. So, I know that now is the time I have got to go and do some stuff.

I think I'd enjoy getting into a wine drinking Supra here.

One of the things I wandered around doing was looking for more Gauloises cigarettes. It took seven stores before I found more. This, George, is why I stocked up a bit before leaving Tbilisi.



AMERICAN VS GEORGIAN RESTAURANTS

There are a couple big differences between American and Georgian restaurants. As a lot of the readers of this blog have been to neither, I will detail both.

In America, restaurant visits are an established process. You go in and either seat yourself or are seated, depending on the restaurant. A server (that's a waiter or waitress) shows up within a minute or two and gives you menus. In between two and five minutes, they return to take your drinks order. While they are getting the drinks ready, everyone tries to figure out what they want to eat. The server brings the drinks, gets the meal order and takes away the menus. In a good restaurant, the chef times it so that the food is all ready at the same time. In a worse restaurant, heat lamps are the substitute for this skill. Eventually, the food is brought out all at once. After you've had anywhere from one to ten minutes to start eating, the server will pop back up and ask if you have everything you need. They seem to enjoy doing this just after you've taken a huge bite of something and can only grunt and nod their head. As soon as you are done eating, the server brings by the check signaling it is time for you to get the fuck out. American restaurants concentrate on 'processing' (fed, paid, out) people as quickly as possible. Better for the restaurant, better for the server's tips. Dawdling (ie hanging out for a long time) after the meal is not appreciated.

By contrast, how it works in Georgia: You go into a restaurant. I haven't yet been to one that has seated me (that I can recall). After being seated, you either go to the counter to order, or convince the servers to give you menus. After figuring out what you want, you order everything - drinks and meals - all at once. It is important to do this as you may never see your server again. Sometimes, after giving you the food and drinks, they may wander off completely and sit chatting with other servers. The servers really don't care if 'you're OK'. They often don't even try to fake as many American servers do. The American servers who often badly fake caring may be the same people who often whine on Facebook "If you can't afford a 20% tip, don't eat out". In Georgia, nobody cares if you order a 1 GEL coffee and then sit around hogging the table playing backgammon with your friends for an afternoon.

These differences are interesting to me.



COSTS

Internet cafe usage, per hour: 1.2 GEL. Note that if you only use it for part of the hour, you only get part of this cost! Not a bad deal.

Laundry service, 5 GEL at guesthouse

Cup of Turkish coffee, 1 GEL

Weird ball of chicken with some cheese in the middle, 4 GEL.

Mashed potatoes, 2 GEL

1.5 L bottle of water, 1 GEL



VIDEOS

Telavi guesthouse

Telavi smoking view

Telavi walking: one two three four five six seven eight nine ten



Saturday, August 20, 2011

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

And now for a public service announcement...



RANDOM CONVERSATIONS

I was talking to a group of Poles and telling them I am from a country founded by prudes where we must know the name of a woman before we can even make love to her. One of the ladies said "That's disgusting!" Another lady said "What are you in, the twelfth century?" One of the guys asked "Can't you just write it down on a card and leave it when you're done?"

It's good to be in Europe. I've got to visit Poland some time.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS

If you call and book a taxi the day before you need it for a full day of work and wish to cancel it, you must pay 10% of the price that would have been paid. According to the folks I spoke with in Georgia, this is common and correct.

All of the gas stations in Georgia are 'full service' meaning that someone else pumps your gas and takes your money. They are not full service as in the 'Back to the Future' movies where a mob of people rushes out to check your oil, tire air pressure and clean your windshield. In fact, I think panic would set in if a mob of people rushed your car at a gas station for any reason.

If you are a guest in a home, they will bring you an ashtray and encourage you to smoke - even if nobody in the family smokes. Contrast this with the 'angrily huff off or say bad things if you are outdoors and smoke around them' crowd.

'Ala Verde' - this is part of the Supra tradition and is continuing someone else's toast. For example, if the Tamada's toast is about all children, you should continue your toast (ala verde) on children - not talk about the Space Race or some such.

Georgians love their freedom. This accounts for both their hatred of the Russian government as well as how little USSR 'stuff' they have left over here.

The oldest brother (unless there are special circumstances) remains in his parents house. Even after he marries. He and his wife will inherit the house from the parents fully after they die.



TBILISI CUSOTMS

People are issued short wooden clubs. Their job is to chase gypsies away. I'm not kidding. Apparently, the clubs are not used to actually beat the gypsies though they could be. The threat of the club and someone coming after them is often enough to pursuade them to move along. Sadly, the people with the clubs are lax in their duties so I was still beset with beggars.



TBILISI NATIONAL MUSEUM

Costs 5 GEL to get in and sadly, you get what you pay for. There are four floors to the museum. One floor seems to be underground and could be more accurately called 'the basement' rather than the 'first floor'. The third floor is marked 'closed' with no explanation or date of possible opening available. The second floor (the ground floor) exhibits were remarkably lame. I walked quickly through them, quickly leaving behind the small group I had come with who chose to dwadle over a remarkably unremarkable group of pottery shards. I went down to the first floor (basement) and saw some very nice examples of great detail craftsmanship in long lasting gold and silver. Unfortunately, pictures weren't allowed in there. In particular, there was one small horse. It was pretty remarkable to me. In addition to the fine craftsmanship present in all of the other relics, the legs of the horse were made from small dangly rings of metal. This would give the impression of movement in the horse when it was worn. They really don't make them like they use to. Since the third floor was closed and possibly hosting the command center of a force of invading aliens, I checked out the fourth floor.

Whoever did the interior decoration for the fourth floor did a nice job. It was done up in 'grim'. Good lighting and use of colors to give it that moody, depressive, 'we've got the KGB and built a big wall around the country to keep you bastards in' look. Nicely done. True that it could have used a touch of barbed wire and maybe a search light you have to avoid but they did a good job with what they had. The exhibits themselves however I could only term as 'lame'. They were enlarged photocopies of various documents. A couple had on the barest of information in English on the identity plate but not really enough to understand the significance of the document. I'm sure that if I read Georgian or Russian they would hold more meaning. But I don't so it went into my 'list of museums that should be set ablaze for only displaying pieces of paper and photographs when there was so much more interesting stuff available. It is my belief that even a truly significant document such as the 'Magna Carta' should be surrounded by suits of armor, barding and such. I'm not sure what sort of people find pieces of paper and photocopies of pictures they could easily find on the internet worth visiting a museum to see but I'm hoping there is a special ring of hell reserved for people in museums who make the decisions to display these things and nothing else of interest.

Overall, I'd suggest the museum is only worth seeing if you a) need a shot of 'culture' or b) if it is raining too hard to do anything better. Bring a student ID and get in for just 1 GEL. It would probably work with a fake one as well if you are really interested in saving 5 GEL.



LAST NIGHT IN TBILISI

This was a rough evening for me. We had two Italian guys (the ones I was hanging out with in the videos) as well as Friends Hostel owners Lasha #2 and his girlfriend Nino making some amazing food. The problem - George's mother was expecting George and I over and had been cooking all day as well. If I was fresh from America, this would not have been a problem - at all. But since my inner stomach has shrunk to 'European size' (despite my outstandingly big 'American sized' gut) this presented a huge challenge. I knew that I'd be pressured to eat until I exploded at George's house and I'd never tried pasta made by actual Italians (who said they could cook!!) before. After these two feasts, the mandatory drinking of a shitload (about a liter or more) of wine. I compensated by eating very little of the food at the hostel.

Afterward, George brought me to his parents house. I had carefully explained to George that I'd be taking a very small helping of the food so that I would be able to take seconds and such. Believe it or not, the first thing George did was to pile more onto my plate after I'd given myself a small portion. I think the concept of 'feed guests until they explode' is on the genetic level.

During the meal and the supra afterward, George's mother was pretty much invisible. She had made the food, made sure we had enough of everything then disappeared. I gather this is pretty normal behavior for the ladies of the house but it seems like less fun for them to me. Fortunately, George's father and George's brother joined us for the supra.

In addition to trying to kill me through overfeeding, George had another trick up his sleeve for me. He made me Tamada. For those too lazy to read the other entries of the blog, the Tamada is the dictator of the Supra. He (almost always a 'he') is the one who must do the correct ritual toasts in the correct order as well as other common toasts. Also, the Tamada needs to monitor the other conversations the group is having to search for material that could be made into a toast. Georgians are trained in being Tamada from the time they are able to drink. They pay attention to the older Supra member's toasts and learn them. Since I'm not Georgian, I had to keep on the ball.

After I found out that in the old days Georgian's use to worship 'a wine god' and have Supras in which the Tamada was basically the 'priest' for the day, this lent extra weight and responsibility. It takes some quick mental work as well - which isn't helped by drinking a lot of wine.

George was interested in not only getting himself drunk but getting me drunk as well. Needless to say, when I meet up with someone's parents and am Tamada on top of that, hell no I'm not getting drunk. Fortunately, I had a bit of luck and some quick mental finesse secured me a large shot glass sized cup. George had a much bigger glass I'd guess was two of mine. He's happy, I'm happy.

With Georgian hospitality, you must be aware that 'good hospitality' is equated with 'stuffing the guests with more food than they can possibly eat without dying'. If you don't come back for seconds, they won't think 'he's full'. They will think 'he fucking hates my cooking'. It will cause feelings to be hurt. This reminds me of a book on etiquette I was reading. Those who know me well (or have seen me eat) may well be surprised that I've read four US Yellow Pages sized books (ie really thick) on etiquette. It may reassure people to know I choose to ignore much of that unless I feel I need to use etiquette. In one of these massive tomes on etiquette, it cautions readers that if meat is brought out to only take one slice. The host may have prepared only enough for each guest to get a single slice and it will cause embarrassment (and possibly another guest not getting meat) if you grab more than one slice. I think a Georgian host would die of shame if they didn't make enough to feed everyone fourths. Outside of the USA in many countries if you have a guest, you make a huge feast. Only the Americans seem stingy with how much food we prepare - and we have Tupperware and microwave ovens. Many of the 'feast' cultures don't. Americans are just a bit cheap, mean and stingy in that regard apparently.

There was more than enough food. As a side note, praise the food as a whole but do not - I repeat do not - point out any specific food as something you really liked. You will get more forced upon you. Packaged so you can bring it home. Dumped on your plate. People running to the neighbors to see if they have ingredients to make more of it.

In Georgia, if an American came in and went ballistic, literally eating every bit of food in the house and causing them to go to their neighbors and the store for more, the Georgians would consider it a job well done in their duties as host and a good guest besides. I didn't try for that. I like my stomach being smaller - at least on the inside. Possibly because it costs less to feed myself if nothing else.



THE NEXT DAY

I drug George on "That Fucking Pen" quest part two. For anyone wanting to see the exact pen I am looking for, check out this pen. I didn't count the number of places we went to but I'd guess around a dozen. I enjoyed it because it took us to some places in Tbilisi that I know we wouldn't have normally gone to.

Despite my being told that Tbilisi would have 'everything', we could not find this pen. This is a constant irritation to George who will probably have nightmares about the pen.

After we got done with that, I said goodbye to George and pressed on via marshutka to Telavi.



VIDEOS

Mind control over Georgians

Supra 1

Supra 2

Supra 3 The Joke

Supra 4

Tbilisi 1

Tbilisi 2

Tbilisi 3

Tbilisi streets

Friends Hostel

Near Tbilisi 1

Near Tbilisi 2

Near Tbilisi 3

Near Tbilisi 4

Near Tbilisi 5

Near Tbilisi 6

George's house

George, beer and the Lari



FROM FACEBOOK

Thanks to TJ for this funny condom ad. Some others for you here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

TIBILISI TRIP

DEDICATION

I'd like to dedicate this wall of text to Adam who was concerned that text was going to be replaced with my slick videos.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS

Kelecki: This is a short supra, only 2-3 hours, given for a funeral. The drinking is faster. The food is different than what is norally served and includes fish and sometimes beans. When the rice (plau'ed) is served, it means the supra is ending, time to go home. As a side note, Georgians believe that bodes should return to the earth from whence they came hence cremation is very bad here.



COUCH SURFING WEIRDNESS

I had chaged my couch surfing location to Batumi, Georgia. Since I've done so, I've received four messages. Two were of the normal 'lets meet up for drinks sometime' variety. One was fro a lady who lived in the kind of country that the wages of Georgia looked like a big step up. She wanted me to find her family jobs and a place to live. The fourth was from some guy who claimed to be an 'experienced traveler'. He wanted me to figure out his countries visa policy with Georgia and find him a cheap place to stay in Tbilisi for five days. Apparently this 'experienced traveler' had never heard of embassies, consulates or the internet. I told the first two messages to look me up at the Batumi Hostel and told the last two (in as classy way as possible) to fuck off. I never heard from any of them again. I'm really not sure if the difference between getting no messages when I was in Virginia vs strange/going nowhere messages in Batumi is better but at least I know their message system is working.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS

I was talking to Irakli who didn't feel I understood Georgian customs. Au Contraire, Mon Frère. Because I choose not to live under a certain custom does not mean I do not understand it. For example: If a Georgian man wants to drink a lot, he will buy a bunch of alcohol and invite lots of people over to help him drink it. Drinking by yourself is unheard of in Georgia - aside from clinically troubled people. For me, I don't really have enough money to buy a lot of people alcohol. I also prefer to often drink alone. If I make an ass out of myself, it is in private. Unless I get drunk an write a blog or something. I really have no opinion on which way of living is better or worse. I don't think it's for me to decide. I do have a very strong opinion on how I will live though. By my own code and my own customs. If I find a custom in a different country I like, I can strive to adopt it. Otherwise, when I leave the country unwanted customs will fall off me. Some won't even affect me when I am in the country.



LEAVING BATUMI

David had taken off with his girlfriend so it was just Irakli and I. I didn't really have any goodbyes for him that losing something like fifty straight matches in Backgammon couldn't say so I kept it brief. I didn't really feel like I got to
'click' with any of the last batch of guests. I did feel I was pretty burned out on hostel work. The whole concept of working at a hostel now would cost a lot more money to whoever had me there than it did going in. Adam knew that when he advised me not to work at a hostel but just own one, but I still think it was a valuable work experience. I met a lot of great people through the hostel and my Facebook friends page grew considerably. Who knows - some day, maybe I'll get a chance to visit some of them in their own countries. Maybe even run into some on the road. But I'm Really not interested in owning a hostel at this time. In the future, who knows.

In short, I had Irakli call me a cab and I hopped into it and took off when it arrived - just as I've seen lots of travelers to the hostel do.



TRAIN TO TBILISI

The Ukranian rail system is better than the Georgian one. The lower seats still have the nifty secure 'roll my fat ass off of this bunk if you want my shit' storage I loved from the Ukrainian train. I was disappointed that the bottom bunk was seats - not really a bunk. It was pretty hard and about one step up from sleeping on a shaking park bench. Also, be aware that you have to get your plastic bundle of sheets and such from the conductor - they aren't laid out on the beds prior to your arrival.

There were the usual mix of people on the train - the noisy young people, the old people who lug huge bags that don't fit down the isles of trains and expect others to help them, the strange, the creepy and the harried.

In my compartment, I was careful to book a bottom bunk as I don't think my fat ass could climb to the top. Two rather heavy ladies joined me in the compartment. I was very curious as to which would make the climb. Honestly, I wanted to catch that on video but I figured it would be indiscreet. But damned funny. So, I just went to bed and slept. Chivalry died with equal rights, despite claims to the contrary. In the morning, I discovered that the ladder to get up to the top bunks is well camouflaged.

Surprisingly, just after departure, the TV's in all of the cabins switched themselves on simultaneously and began to blare loud, annoying music. The conductor was going around with a remote lowering the volume. He turned ours off. Thank God. I have no idea why that is there on a sleeper train.

The doors of the rooms also lock from the inside. This did give me a nasty shock because the ladies decided to lock the door while they 'freshened up'. I had bad visions of them slashing up my pack with knives yelling "Don't give us the top bunk? Die bastard!"



IN TBILISI

As we were headed into Tbilisi, we went through a lot of really run down area - the footprint left behind of the USSR. I wouldn't mind going back there on foot sometime to take a bunch of pictures to send to the folks making Fallout 4 of new 'post apocalyptic' stuff they can use for the game. Hell, I'm surprised Hollywood hasn't used that stuff for some scenes. My guess is that it is too dangerous to work in and around.

I was told to get to Friends Hostel, it would be 7-10 GEL. Accurate. It wasn't easy to get the cab driver to find/acknowledge this street. Cost me 10 GEL and I even was out of it enough to toss in a 2 GEL tip. Dumb it was, especially since the 'foreigner tax' had already doubled the price.



FRIENDS HOSTEL FIRST IMPRESSIONS

They have a good sized common room downstairs. Upstairs is a large dormitory room with perhaps fifteen beds in one room. They have a couple private rooms that seem to be very booked. They have the kind of gear lockers I like - the ones that fit the entire backpack in. Unfortunately, the first one I tried only appeared to lock but didn't really. Fortunately, I'm the kind of person that checks. I think the worst thing I've found in the hostel thus far is they have their computer hooked to big speakers. Instead of headphones. This is a horrible move in my opinion, but I just got here. But that sort of thing won't keep me staying as long as I'd thought I was going to. A day or three before I move on. But I appreciate the complimentary bed they graciously are giving me while I'm in town. [This hostel is owned by the same guys who own the Batumi Hostel.]



BREAKFAST IN TBILISI

I went to a restaurant, determined to have eggs. I was trying for something simple like a cheese omelet. They told me that would be half a GEL. Per egg. That's still pretty good but any mention of 'cheese' caused them to try to default to the 'cheese plate' at 10 GEL. Not a chance of that. So, I eventually managed to get scrambled eggs and some sort of potatoes which sucked. The scrambled eggs were fine - they were so greasy that the plate could have been used for a demonstration of 'friction-less surfaces'. Apparently, this country hasn't heard about the war against cholesterol. Since that was the first egg meal I'd gotten in a couple months, I ate it and liked it. God knows it slid down my throat easily enough.



EYE DOCTOR EXAMINATION

My eyes had bothered me a bit so George took me to the biggest hospital in Tbilisi. It looked like a pretty run down 'County' hospital in the states. The doctor wanted me to do a lot of stuff like pinch my eye lids as part of the treatment because he saw some inflammation in the lid. Since this directly contradicts what I've been told by American eye doctors, I'm not going to be doing that shit. I've got a prescription for some fairly expensive (40 GEL) crap to put on my eye. The pain pretty much went away a couple of days ago. I had just wanted to see if my iritis was acting up. Since it isn't, I'll try a bit of 'wait and see'.



PLANS

I have no idea how long I'm planning on staying in Tbilisi [food is expensive here!], where next I will go in Georgia or anything. I'm keeping it loose but attempting to stay here at least 11 more days till the end of Ramadan. I'd like to avoid running into a lot of alcohol, nicotine, sex, food and water deprived Turks if I can. Better to see them happy and satisfied.

My buddy and local guide, George (one of the six approved names for men in Georgia) will steer me toward some interesting stuff so I put myself in his hands.

I have also been contemplating Adam's words when he said that 'traveling doesn't do you any good if you miss all of the good stuff'.



GIVE ME THAT OLDE TIME RELIGION

According to one woman I was talking to on a marshutka (like a short bus) she said that prior to Christianity, Georgians worshiped either wine, or a god of wine. Hard to understand her. If this is true however, it gives a lot more weight to the whole Supra thing and would help explain why it is as it is. I'll have to check into this more later.



COSTS

Second class to Tbilisi, 23 GEL
Eye doctor consult, 34 GEL



VIDEO TIME

Rather than having the videos embedded into the blog, I'm just going to have links so that it loads faster. I tried to look at my own blog and on the shitty internet they have in Batumi, it took forever to load. Videos are just an extra thing I'm doing when I am out and about but the typing is still the main thing. Extra warning! All of these videos are extremely low quality. If you want to bitch about the quality, you can save yourself the hassle (and my 'I told you so') by not watching them. I'm just putting them up for completeness.

Tbilisi shot

First steps into Friends Hostel

Introducing George!

Some strange buildings in the distance - what could they be? (Warning - found out my camera doesn't do well in low light - at all).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RESTAURANT QUEST BATUMI

RESTAURANT QUEST

Logan goes out to find a restaurant and gets more than he bargained for! [Note this is a seven part video because it would have been paused for too long and my current computer power is insufficient for video editing. Send me a film crew and I'll do better.]

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Part 4:


Part 5:


Part 6:


Part 7:





BATUMI TRAFFIC JAM

An example of common traffic snarls when bad traffic laws and drivers get together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA VS A BANANA

BATUMI BEACH BASH

I was walking along the beach here in Batumi (Republic of Georgia) and decided to make a video. The quality isn't great but it's done with my camera. I hope you enjoy it!





BAZAAR BATUMI

Heading to the bazaar in Batumi, Georgia. This is part one.


Because I mixed up the 'off' button with the 'pause' button, here is part two.




REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA VS A BANANA



STICK AND BUCKET DANCE

MORE TRAVELER TYPES

RUGGED INDIVIDUALIST

By the very name of this type of person, they are a solo traveler. Eighty or ninety percent of the time they are men. This person is defined by not only have they been everywhere but want to do so on their own. Even showing them something close by isn't really appreciated. Quote: "No, I'll find it myself - thanks."


JOINER

Dislikes traveling by themselves, will join others groups. They either set out to travel by themselves and decided it wasn't for them or more commonly got ditched by their group and are attempting to get into a new one. The reasons for wanting to join up with others compulsively is usually based in fear. Note, this is not the kind of person who joins up with others to go do a museum or go swimming - this is the kind of person who is trying to join up with others for long stretches. Quote: "Mind if I tag along?"


COLORFUL CHARACTER

This is a person who has literally seen so much they seem to have stories (interesting ones, mind you) about lots of different things. You usually won't know it's a 'colorful character' unless you pick up small hints dropped along the conversation or question them about their background. Quote: "Back in '97..."


DO GOODERS

Idealistic young people who believe they can and will change the world. Usually involved with programs like TLG ("Teach, Learn with Georgia"), Peace Corps, etc. These are the people who usually set off wanting to do good and make a difference. By the time they're done with their six months (TLG) to two years (Peace Corps) they are anxious to get the hell home. Some may want to stay but others have a burned out look to them. Quote (from the ones stuck in Muslim countries): "Do you know where we can get pork?"



MORE ON HOSTEL OWNERSHIP

I wouldn't allow people to use Skype within the hostel (the voice part) because 1) People who are on skype typically disregard those who are reading, studying where to go to next and so on. 2) People on Skype often idiotically like to raise their voice because the people they are talking to are 'so far away' 3) Nobody builds life long memories of good friends they met in a hostel talking to people elsewhere on Skype. If people use cell phones, we like to send them outside as not to bother the other guests. (Note, none of this applies if people have a private room. They can use skype, phones, fuck, whatever there. The hostel I am currently working in is very connected though with no private rooms and you can hear stuff all over it.)



INTERVIEW

Since Irakli didn't want to do an interview, he decided to do one of me. Unedited, unscripted and unrehearsed.




STICK AND BUCKET DANCE

I've been reading too much Pratchett lately.

Friday, August 12, 2011

BATUMI HOSTEL VIDEO

ELVIRE

I went to the Nobel museum (which should have been named the 'Petro-Chemical history of Batumi with some stuff on Tea thrown in for good measure' - though it wouldn't fit in on the name plaque as well) with a lady from France named Elvire.

For anyone to travel by themselves requires a certain level of 'mental toughness' - often it seems more so with women. She was unique in that she was both married and traveling by herself. She said that she preferred to travel without her husband on vacation. Also, she is no casual tourist. She has been (solo) to both North and South America as well as Europe and Africa. She has a long list of countries she's been in from each of those continents. She even met her husband in South America and has been married to him for six years.

I asked her what was important for a woman to know when traveling by herself. The most important thing Elvire said was knowing how to say 'no' in the language you were going to in order to put a stop to the (often clumsy) sexual advances of men. You could even get a fake wedding ring and say you are married.

She said that people are a lot nicer to her when she's traveling on her own. She enjoys hitchhiking a lot and says she has twice the chances of getting a ride as single women will also stop for her.

Elvire very much seems to enjoy traveling alone and I wish her continued happiness from this!



COMPETITION? NO

I had gone over to Bbeach Hostel in Batumi to check it out at the same time I was escorting a couple of guys over there, since we ran out of room at our hostel. It is much larger, dirtier and louder was my initial impression. When I reported a lack of toilet paper in a restroom (at a very unfortunate time) I was told it was the cleaning ladies fault and nothing more was done about it. I've talked to a couple of people from Poland who told me they got a quieter night sleeping on a public beach than they had spending it there. Another guest reported that the place was filled with Georgians and he didn't like it - nobody spoke any English. Note, English isn't this guy's first language - but it is the international language of travelers.

This reinforces (like it needed it...) my opinion that hostels need to be clean and quiet for sleeping. Also, if you let the locals stay there, your international crowd will dry up.



GERMAN SAYING

"Der wegg is das ziel." AKA "The way is the goal." Thanks Phillip. An excellent reason to more closely consider Jordan for the next destination... More on that later...


I LIKEA DO THE 'CHA CHA'

After hearing about the alcohol content of Cha Cha as well as how it is made (distilling that which is left over after making wine), Grega from Slovvenia remarked "Cha cha sounds like the 'crack' of alcohol."



BATUMI HOSTEL VIDEO



I recently made a short video with a walk through of Batumi Hostel. I didn't talk during the first half of it but eventually I started to babble. The volume is faint but remember, this is a standard camera - not a video camera. It was also quite a nightmare uploading this short video. With the crappy wifi found at the hostel, twelve hours to upload it...

I hope people enjoy it!



TURKEY

Turkey gets cold November to March. Be out by the end of October.

In Istanbul, be sure to check out Harmony Hostel. It has been recommended by others.



COSTS

Prescriptions filled for about a month and a half, several meds, 110 GEL.
Business cards, 20 GEL for 100, 60 GEL for 300. Felt the guy was on crack and I'd get them done elsewhere.






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

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

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