Monday, August 22, 2011



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.


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.


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.


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


Telavi guesthouse

Telavi smoking view

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

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{{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

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