Our Georgia

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Posted by Giom | Posted in On the road | Posted on 29-09-2012

We leave Turkey on the shore of the Black Sea, behind us a last mosque on the side of a cliff. We’re leaving behind beautiful landscapes, a gastronomy as good as France’s, welcoming and smiling people, omnipresent “cay” (Turkish tea served in a glass with a fastened belt) and “Turkish coffee”.

 

გამარჯობა ! Gamardjoba (Hello in Georgian)

After we crossed the border ( without visas), the first building that we notice is an Orthodox church under construction! Is it to defy the mosque on the Turkish side of the border? It has a clock tower to rival the Muezzin and impress its own daily rhythm. And that’s only the beginning of changes for us!We’re face to a strong cultural change! Different religion, food, music, values and traditions. For a while we’re not in the East anymore, nor in Russia, we are really in the beginning  of our Caucasian adventure! We’ll need a couple of days to get used to this new culture.

 

And for  “immersion” in this new culture, what could be better than swimming in the Black Sea? We enjoyed it even more knowing that we won’t swim in the sea for a long time! After riding for a while, we arrive in Batumi, a sea resort which is being totally transformed. Huge buildings, impressive sculptures, oversized casinos, clean open spaces are side by side with dirt roads and old buildings. Little by little those changes will transform the city into a mass-tourism destination. Signs say in clearly: “In 5 years, Batumi will become the best city in the world”.

Loïc, our film editor joined us in Batumi because he had dreamed of visiting the Caucasus for a long time. He shot a stop motion in the city, as in all the cities he visits. While waiting for Batumi’s, here is Berlin’s.

Here we are in contact with Ivane who did a European Voluntary Service with me and told us about a EVS program related to bikes! It awoke our curiosity. So Dato, the 24-year-old coordinator invited us to see what the other 12 volunteers do. They offered us to sleep in their big house with Poles, Estonians and a Dutchman. And because of the downpour outside, we were particularly happy to sleep in a house during those 2 days! All of those guys are great and like many ESV volunteers, they have a positive energy that makes you want to share and help. Here is a video they shot while we were there.

One of the best things about traveling on a bike is that you almost never know where you’ll sleep at night! It’s a magic adventure, however small it may be. That’s how the first night after Batumi we tried to ask a man where we could sleep, while filling up our bottles at the fountain. Using his hands, he asked us to follow him and lets us know that we can sleep at his place. Then we arrive in a heaven with an orchard, both simple and comfortable. Very proud of his trees he lets us taste his persimmons and urguenis. And that’s only the beginning of Georgian hospitality!

They cook for us and give us some local eau-de-vie called “cha cha”. Almost pure alcohol: 80% distilled wine! We only dip our lips in it.One of the Georgian traditions is to propose toasts. A tradition very much alive, every time we sit at the table with a glass, all excuses are found to raise it: wives, children, siblings. Friendship between people, people dead and alive, gastronomy, everything really!

Felix wakes up with an upset stomach, he didn’t say no to toasts clearly enough… The numbers on the speedometer are a clear sign of tiredness! On top of that, the wind is blowing against us the whole morning. We have to move on, so we decide to hitch-hike. Three cars stop within one hour, and the fourth is the right one. Enough space, no hot asphalt and he goes to Tbilissi! When you’re patient, everything works fine eventually. The vet in his pick-up speaks better English than us and he explains us his country’s distant and recent history. The refugee camps along the highway were built 4 years ago for people fleeing Abkhazia after the war with Russia. He tells us about the parliamentary elections next Monday, October 1st. A big change is possible and it could mean that people would take to the street to protest!

Here in Tbilissi we’re staying with Eveline from Switzerland, thanks to “Warmshower”, the hospitality network for bikers. She’s lived here for more than 2 years. Friendly and quiet, she gives us her house keys without hesitation. We go out in the evening to meet up with bikers we met in Trabzon in Turkey, and Loïc who is here too !After visiting the city and resting, we start to climb the mountains between Georgia and Armenia!

Translated by Maïwenn MORVAN

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