Telavi or Tel Aviv?

Trip Start Aug 17, 2013
Trip End Dec 10, 2013

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Where I stayed
Tushishvilli Guesthouse

Flag of Georgia  , Kakheti,
Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9, 2013

Tiblisi to Telavi
Tushishvilli Guesthouse, 25 Lari per person, double with shared bath, including breakfast (it is near Batonistsikhe Castle)

We managed to compile what we need for this excursion in one pack and store the rest. We had a loose plan to be back in Tbilisi in week or so, but possibly later.

Where is the Marshrutka to Telavi?

By 10:30 am, we were in the metro planning to go to "Station" metro stop, per the tourist office's directions, where we would catch a marshrutka to Telavi, 2.5 hours from Tbilisi. We were approached by young woman on the platform. We told her we were on our way to Omalo. She handed us a business card for her family guest house in Kazbegi and asked us to stay there if we get that way. Then she said it would be better for us to catch a marshrutka to Telavi at the Isani metro stop. Others around agreed we should go to Isani station. We followed the advice. When we popped out of the metro at Isani, we were bombarded by taxi drivers. "No thank you," we kept telling them, "We're looking for the Marshrutkas". We assumed a taxi would be too costly. One short stocky guy with laughing eyes wouldn't hear no for an answer, which normally would irritate the bajeezis out of us. But then he said the magic words, "only 10 lari per person". That got our attention. "Marshrutka is 8 lari and a taxi is 10 lari". We told him to show us the taxi.

Show me the Taxi

The taxi was a decent looking Opel Astra. We pointed to our guest house location on our Tevali map and indicated we wanted to be dropped off there. "Okay, okay" the driver said. Our pack was tossed in the trunk and we took our places in the back seat. Another passenger was sitting in the front seat. We realized this was a shared taxi and figured we were still waiting for a one more person to take a spot in the back seat with us. Lucky for us, it turned out to be a skinny guy.

Pretty Mountain Scenery

The 126 km drive took us through pretty mountain scenery. Dave slept through most of it. Then the wide vineyard strewn Alazani valley opened up in front of us and soon we got to the city limits of Telavi. 

Plenty of old homes were mixed in with newly built homes and business-fronts. The market was still in full swing (1:30) and the driver pulled over to call our guest house to get directions.

At our Guest House we were greeted by Svetlana who was nursing a cold. Our room was spacious and looked down over the grape arbor bursting with purple and green grapes.

A great little restaurant next door quickly became our favorite place for a meal even though the Stroganoff didn't look or taste anything like we expected. It was served over French fries instead of pasta. The Ceasar didn't have much in common with a real Ceasar salad either but might be close, if passed off as a Cobb."Georgian version," the waitress explained.

Get It!

We strolled through town. It has a nice vibe, the center piece being the Batonistsikhe Castle.

Dave noticed a freight forwarding company with large Ebay and Amazon logos painted on its front window. He went inside the one room business containing a wrapped up windshield and a few small packages on a table and asked the guy what it was about. He didn't speak more than ten words of English but quickly conveyed that people buy items from America and have it air freighted to Georgia through his company for 9 lari per kilo. What about import tax? Then he pulled up Google translate on his computer and explained there was no tax if the purchase was under 300 lari and items arrive in 10 days or sooner. “No tax and cheap airfreight is very interesting”,  Dave said.  “I want to get a camera on Ebay. How would that work?” The shop guy pulled up website and created an account for Dave and showed the address in New Jersey where the Ebay seller would ship. Dave didn't waste any time and ordered an “open box.” demo Sony WX150 identical to my problem camera except silver and not red. Since it is now last year’s model, the price was below the 300 lari tax free limit. I loved my Sony and we banged it around pretty good on our cycle trip so we did not fault Sony when it started acting up. We are hard on cameras. My old one lasted only lasted one year.
September 10, 2013 - Telavi

Lining up a Ride to Remote Omalo
At breakfast, we met Neddy and Victor, from France, and Nora, from Germany. Neddy and Victor are at the start of a one year world trip. Nora, 30 something, is on 3 week vacation with her dad. They had just returned from trekking in Tusheti area where we are headed tomorrow. She told us Hotel Tusheti Tower in Upper Omalo looked great. She only ate there and the food was fantastic.

Svetlana is a great source for information about transportation to and from the different sights and destination. She lined up a Jeep for tomorrow to Omalo in Tusheti. We will share it with the Czech Republic couple so it will be 50 lari per person. Great

Telavi Market

We checked out the local market. The selection of vegetables in Georgia has been limited, few leafy greens. What is in season is super fresh and abundant. I bought some figs and few oranges.

Socal Supper
Our guesthouse serves breakfast. But it only does dinner when they are in the mood and there are enough guests that say they want it in advance. Today, Svetlana prepared a very tasty dinner, which nudged my opinion of Georgian cuisine in more positive direction. Dinner was served on one long table and we were in stimulating multi-cultural company; French, Italian, German, Polish and Israeli couples plus Nora and her father from Germany. The Italian couple had rented a car for a week in Tbilisi (€350 including GPS). He said it was a very frightening experience to drive. The Georgian drivers follow no rules; passing on the left, passing on the right, it is all acceptable. In addition, his GPS was pretty skittish. He joked that he feared that they would end up in Tel Aviv instead of Telavi. But he made it. It was a lively group and dinner was wonderful. The Polish couple had some Cha Cha (like Grappa) for everyone to sample. A tiny taste was enough for us. The dry white wine served with dinner was not my taste. I should have brought some from Tbilisi. But we figured, we'd be in wine country and I surely would be able to buy some semi-sweet white here. I'll survive.
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