More like the land of Borat than Kazakhstan could ever be, although he would be Boratashvili or Boratdze.
19.07.2009 - 22.07.2009
After whole day of driving on the dusty roads avoiding cows, potholes and other cars we got to Kutaisi, our first stop in real Georgia (the Svan are slightly different, although happy to be part of Georgia unlike most of the other random ethnicities around here). We stopped in another homestay, with an old couple called Suliko and Mediko. As soon as we arrived we had a variety of foods and homemade alcohols shoved into us (in a nice way), and spent a long night chatting with the other guest, a Czech guy who we teamed up with to see the sights the next day.
The sights were pretty nice, we saw the first of many ubiquitous churches and monastries (all with the seemingly standard bleating goats) that dot the hills and mountains of this country, complete with bearded, black clad monks in funny hats, incuding one mafiosi looking one in sunglasses driving a blacked out jeep. A long walk accross the hills and we saw another, this time on a dramatic clifftop overlooking a valley. The walk seemed to be through fairly average Georgian countryside, but it was packed with a variety of fruit and nut trees. Everything seems to grow here in abundance (except bananas, accoring to Suliko), and walking along almost any road you can pick blackberries, plums, cherries, pomegranates, grapes and nectarines off the trees.
One striking thing about the cities here is the proto-capitalistic bazaar culture,with people selling all sorts of random stuff of the pavements, mainly large piles of fruit (including amazing watermelons). The bazaar of Kutaisi neems to sprawl through most of the centre of town, with old ladies and men sitting around spitting sunflower seeds hawking random wares (none of which seem any good for trading though).
The utilities infrastructure are also an issue here. Is our homestay, there was no running water in the evenings, and here was he occasional blackout (as well as one in the internet cafe halfway through a blog post...), and this ass seems very standard in Georgia, although they all seem to cope by having massive water tanks they fill up during the day and candles. Apparently, it used to be much worse before, as Suliko and Madiko recounted, and it seems they spent most of the early nineties by candlelight.
Some more random walking around and eventually getting stuck in an internet cafe during a huge downpour of rain (the central square filled with almost half a meter of water), we eventually got back to the homestay for more delicious home cooking and homemade wine.
Next stop was Gori, famed for the most famous Georgian of all time ever, Iosif Vissaronovich Jugashvili, better known as Joseph Stalin. He's still pretty popular in Georgia, with many streets named after him, but Gori was a particular Stalinfest, with many statues including a huge one in the main square (obviously Stalin square) which the russians avoided bombing when they shelled the town last year (there's a large Georgian half-rebuilt military base nearby that was their main target).
The Stalin museum is a temple like structure built next to the wooden shack where he was born which is now encased in a superstructure over it, the roof of which is covered in an assortment of stars, hammers and sickles as a sort of temple to communism. The museum is even stranger, containing hundreds of photos and paintings of the man, charting his course from childhood to death, portraying his as a heroic revolutionary who kicked Hitler's ass so hard Hitler could taste the shoe polish. It also proudly displays a room full of his personal items like his pen, his cigars, pipes, a watch he gave his mum, and his entire office from the kremlin. There is also a room dedicated to his bronze death mask, which lays in the middle of the circular pillared room, creating a definitively religious feel.
After a quick overview of empty ruins of a castle (apart from some AK toting guards) and some cheese pies, we were quickly shoved into a packed taxi heading to Tbilisi.