My First Days in Georgia
Trip Start May 19, 2009
76Trip End Dec 31, 2009
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Truth is, this country is set at the border of these two continents, geographically, just like it is stuck between the East and the West, culturally. After more than two hundred years as a part of Russian and USSR, she is struggling to become a viable country. Entering Georgia struck me as returning to Ukraine, since both countries have been parts of Russia/USSR for more than 200 years, it is not surprising (but depressing) to find out that there are a lot of similarities between them: trash, ugly buildings sloppily built and even more sloppily maintained, lousy customer services (this is better in Georgia), expressionless faces in the public, lack of eyes contacts
Our first day in Georgia wasn't a good one. We traveled all day, from 9 to 9, crossed the border by bus with no hinderer but had to wait for a long time for other passengers to get thru, and at the end of the day arbitrarily chose to get off from the mini-bus at a town where, we found out after the bus left, that there was no hotel (if you come to Georgia, never stop at a town called Khashuri).
Our luck quickly improved on the following day. We traveled about 20 km up a river valley to a town called Borjomi that is at the edge of a national park with the same name. The very helpful staff in its tourist information center helped us find a homestay with reasonable prices. In that place we met Bob and Jean, a RPCV couple who lives there. They were stationed in Borjomi and chose to come back on their own expenses after they were evacuated because of the Russian-Georgian war of last year. We had dinner together with wines and good conversation over drinks and they gave us a lot of help too.
The town is famous for its mineral water spring, so we visited its Water Park, and got invited to one picnicking party while walking pass it, after a few bowls of house-made white wine I invited myself to another picnicking group that was singing and dancing with a accordion player and a drum player, and drank (this time home-made red plus some chacha, a home-made, vodka-like liquor) and ate and dance with them. The famous Georgian hospitality is true, and on top of that, they love Americans (the government even named a highway after W. Bush, but to my relief, the people I talked to generally have enough common sense to know that he was not a good president, and like Obama better); I think it is mainly because we backed them up all the way (at least in talking) during last year’s war - later I found out that Biden the VP had just visited and did more talking.
The next day we did a 6 hours hike thru the mountains in the national park. Some portion of the trail was quite challenging and the view wasn’t spectacular but we enjoyed it nonetheless – lots of wildflowers, butterflies different kinds of mushrooms, and, well, nature.
We left the day after that for the capital, Tbilisi.