I am writing the post from one of the most pleasant places I've ever opened my laptop. It is 8:30 pm, sitting on a second floor balcony of the Albatros four room, family run Inn, on the Greek Island of Symi. I see the Greek flag waving on the hill above me. A couple of doors down a harmonica player is entertaining. At the end of the narrow alley, glimpses of the tall ships docked at the harbour come into view. I have glass of red from the island of Crete in front of me. If words don't flow tonight I'm not sure they ever will :) Cannot wait to tell you about it, but first Georgia.
On another recommendation from Emma and Simon, we made the journey to Georgia, the second former Soviet country on this leg of our travels. We decided to spend five nights in the capital city, Tbilisi, and planned a couple of day trips.
The cab driver at the airport quoted us above the going rate so we bailed and hopped on a bus instead a 1/60 of the cost. It was short walk from the bus stop to our hotel in the old town at Maidan Square. Hotel Rasta was modern, comfortable and had very friendly and courteous staff.
On the first morning I ventured out for a walk before the city woke. This is something I have neglected and vow to do more often. Dogs roam freely in the city and for a brief moment I though I was being followed by a group of barking dogs. As it happens they had no interest in me and were merely chasing each other.
Later in the morning we took a gondola to the ancient fortress Narikala, which provides great views of Tbilisi. After coffee we moved on to Tbilisi St. Trinity Cathedral, a Georgian Othodox cathedral, opened in 2004, which can house up to 15,000 worshippers. The feature photos above is St. Trinity. It was burning hot but we enjoyed wondering around this enchanting city. Georgia is where Europe meets Asia. Mix that up with impressions from the Middle East and and you have an exciting cocktail.
Our first day trip went to the Kazbegi District north of Tbilisi. Heading into the Caucasus Mountains we had hoped to see unspoiled nature and perhaps even see the peak of Mount Kazbek, elevation 5033 meters. Emma and Simon had forewarned us about the drivers in Georgia. They are in a hurry and and will use every trick in the book to get where they are going as fast as possible. When sightseeing, it did take away from the enjoyment but our driver wasn't the only one in a hurry. In a strange way, traffic just had a different pattern here with cars constantly hanging out in the middle of the road passing other cars with impeccable precision. Even though we were on a two lane highway / old military road. The road was much busier than anticipated with a steady stream of tourist busses, vans, cabs and heavy trucks from Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is a major route and a new four lane highway is under construction to make the journey easier (safer?) and lighten the load on the old road. The highlight of the day was a wonderful Georgian lunch enjoyed at a small guest house in Kazbegi. Di especially enjoyed Khinkali cooking lesson, a new favourite.
Our second day trip went to Armenia. Details, coming up in the next post.