Another adventure in the spirit of Yuri!
Another work journey at Yuri's speed – fast and packed with sights and adventures.
In a week we drove from Istanbul to Yerevan, passing through most of Georgia on the way. The language of road signs changed faster than even the weather outside. With Yuri’s reliable old Honda, waiting calmly for its owner at the new Istanbul airport, we departed east, along the Black Sea.
We admired the fact this is the first country we travelled together (Dinara and Yuri) that hasn’t had a communist/Soviet/socialist past. The contrast was painfully evident when we crossed the border with Georgia. But before this we had a wonderful sunrise at the town of Unye, hills with tea plantations around Rize, and tasty freshly-baked simit in a local bakery on the way.
The Georgian checkpoint at Sarpi/Sarp was a famous new modernist building. But behind it, you enter a different world – the world of limited capitalism, post-Soviet style. It tickles the senses, not in a good way.
We've driven before in Georgian towns, and it's never been too much fun, but we still decided to go through central Batumi to have a look at Ali and Nino.
Barely met these two love birds, and we entered back the crazy car traffic of Batumi. After another long and wild drive we arrived in Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city. And the next morning we were off to explore Tskaltubo – the ruined Stalinist spa town, with barren windows, crumbling staircases and colonnades, and overgrown parks.
On the road to Tbilisi, as given to Yuri's team, we managed to visit a few more places and by chance we came across this wonderful mosaics not far from Ergneti. We also had a taste of traditional sweet bread in Surami.
In the capital Tbilisi we went hunting for architectural artefacts. Maybe we were tired, or maybe the buildings look far more impressive in the books, we don’t know – but our main joy was walking the busy streets of Tbilisi and coming across a lovely little cheese shop. The cheese lasted for a few more days on our journey.
The next morning, the city still waking up from its good sleep, we were quick to conquer new places in Georgia.
In Jocollo we met the local community of Kist Muslims, where we had an unexpected adventure – our car did not fare well with the Kakheti heat, and the dynamo went out. But good people we met, just seconds before, warned us not to continue on a dirt road, over a crumbling bridge. They rescued us from being stranded in a dry desert.
We met many kind people with big hearts and strong hands. Completely unplanned we spent the night in Tsinandali, but that was a gift – how else would we have learnt about Alexander Chavchavadze?
And not to miss Sighnaghi…
The prettiest roads in Georgia were along the Paravan and Saghamo lakes. The air got cooler and more humid. After 35 degrees in Tbilisi this felt like a big welcoming bowl of ice-cream.
And now we have a new belief – if a chicken crosses your road early in the morning, then you will have a wonderful day of adventure.
This area, we think, is the most interesting part of Georgia. Various ethnic groups live here – and you can see it in the names and look of villages. In the early twentieth century many Armenians settled here. And in the nineteenth century, many Duhobory – an ethno confessional group of Russians, who came to mountainous Javaheti region between 1841 and 1845.
To meet with them we decided to ride through Gorelovka, where around 30 Duhobory families still live. Here you can find their main prayer house.
After Gorelovka we went back to Armenia – our big love.
We will write more about Armenia in a new post... have a look at our Armenia tour in the meantime.