Grining and bearing it [Georgia 5/5]

After the disaster with the plane to Mestia, we have to change our plans. There are 2 days left, of which we have wasted a good few hours today and tomorrow at 22 we have a return flight from Kutaisi. It’s clear that today we should be moving in that direction. Throwing all the anger out (I swear out loud what the world is standing on), we catch a ride towards Akhaltsikhe to see the fortress and Vardzia – the largest rock city in Georgia, 60 km away from Akhaltsikhe. Before, we were sad that we wouldn’t see it, so after the emotions subsided, we are quite positive about changing our plans. In total, we have no other choice.

We get a ride from two technicians speaking English, supervising an oil pipeline. The conversation is very political. Gyus complain very much about Russia, or rather on its ruler. It’s hardly surprising – one of the most beautiful regions of Georgia, including the greater part of the Black Sea coast – Abhazia – today is an autonomous state (internationally unrecognized though), and it is thanks to Russia’s support (financial and military) during the conflicts in 2008 and to this day is dependent on Russia. Passing along the border of South Ossetia, gyus show us places where Russian soldiers are stationed and guard the border and the place where the Russian army arrived during the conflict in 2008, from where it already had a straight road to the capital. The situation is not very bright. Our drivers dislike Russia so much that they are 100% convinced that the Smolensk catastrophe is an assassination commited by Putin. We split with them near Gori and get a bottle of water for a goodbye. Another ride happens to be with the mechanic of excavators. This time for over an hour we talk with our mix of Polish-Russian about politics, religion or just life matters (again).

Most Georgians are very religious. Practically in all cars, hostels or quarters we saw pictures or figures with saints or crosses, and the drivers made a cross sign passing the churches along the way.

We reach Akhaltsikhe and practically immediately a taxi driver comes to us, proposing a hotel belonging to his cousin. He also wants to persuade us to take a taxi trip to Vardzia, but we prefer to go on our own, with our favorite means of transport – hitchhiking. Accommodation here is definitely the best of the whole trip, in addition, the hotel is located on the outskirts of the town, close to the exit road in the direction of Vardzia. We leave things and go to the city to visit the fortress. We enter a rather dingy bar on the way, but we are hungry and don’t want to look further. The bar is from the category where everyone smokes in the room, and the smoke mixes with the scent of oil, in which probably several tons of fries has already been prepared. Stylishly pink walls, with spattering paint. What can you eat in such a place? Delicious, fresh khachapuri and a large piece of meat with potatoes and salad. Positive surprise. When we reach the fortress, I slowly back off from sightseeing. I feel bad all day, I’m getting a cold. Michal goes to visit the fortress alone, and I stay in a café at the entrance of the fortress and drink tea. Here we should receive a medal for logistics – Michal leaves me entire wallet and climbs to the hill penniless, so he can’t buy a ticket to the paid part of the complex.

Immediately after I stayed warming myself with tea and Michał went to conquer the castle, a huge storm with hail broke out.
The fortress in Akhaltsikhe is finely rehabilitated (at least from the outside)

Having returned to the hotel, we buy some medicine for cold and a garlic head. I eat a few parts and go to bed early. Smelly cure works perfectly, in the morning I smell a lot worse, but I feel much better. We are getting stuff quickly and are about to leave the hotel when a downpour begins. Our trip to Vardzia is in doubt, we can’t wait too long for good weather, because we have to get to Kutaisi to catch the plane that day. After an hour, the rain, fortunately, decides to let us go. It’s raining very gently, so we move with a spry step to the spot. We arrive with 2 rides, and one of the cars we stop is a bus full of Russian teachers on the trip. The road is quite funny.

Vardzia is the largest and by far the most photogenic rock city in Georgia. Founded in the 12th century, the city had 13 storeys connected by a complex system of tunnels during its glory, it was inhabited by about 2,000 people, and in times of danger of raids it could accommodate up to 60,000 people. It was practically impossible to conquer, because the only way of entry were masked tunnels. At the beginning of the 13th century, Wardzia was struck by an earthquake, during which two-thirds of the complex fell, revealing the city to enemy attacks. The Persians used it, then the Turks, and eventually the complex was plundered and completely deserted at the beginning of the 16th century. Today’s Vardzia is only one fifth of the original complex, but it still impresses with its vastness and level of complexity.

Vardzia from far away
And a view from one of the terraces

There is hardly any traffic, so on the way back, we give up hitchhiking on this part and stop the marshrutka. We meet a group of men from Kuwait in there. One of them tells us everything about his country. He shows photos from amazing jeep rides through the desert, endless yellow sand, amazing desert sunsets and camps in the middle of the sand sea… Asked what he likes best in Georgia, he answers – green plants 🙂

We get off at the Akhaltsikhe exit road and we raise our thumbs one of the last times in Georgia. The road to Kutaisi passes quickly and without problems, first a farmer from an organic farm takes us, then a Turkish TIR driver, and finally a Belorussian girl living in Russia who came to Georgia for two weeks and couldn’t hide her astonishment how we packed ourselves into such small backpacks (“my shoes alone would take half of this backpack!”: D). In Kutaisi, before the bus to the airport, we have some time to look for something to eat. We’re looking for khinkali, but nowhere can we find any bar serving it. In the end, we reach a rather dingy pub at the bazaar. We choose items from the menu a little blindly, so as to in total pay 14 GEL, because that’s all we have left. And once again culinary surprise – I get a big bowl of tomato sauce (with coriander of course), in which floats a large ball of meat, and at the bottom of the bowl are potatoes and some other vegetables. Delicious! By far the best price/quality ratio on the trip 🙂

At the end the airport once again receives from us a big approval for the location, surroundings and friendliness for the passenger.

In conclusion, do we recommend Georgia? Definitely YES. Although we missed what is supposedly the most beautiful in this country (mountains and mountains) and despite the fact that it was raining almost every day, it was definitely a good trip. The country is beautiful, even when just going from village A to B, we pass green hills, valleys or ruins of fortresses (like the one at the top of this entry). There are not (yet) so many tourists, it’s cheap, Polish-Russian can be sufficient to communicate, and above all – it is DELICIOUS. Pro-tip: apparently it’s always so rainy in May 😉

The end.

Michal will prepare a more detailed summary for you in the next entry [click].