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June 2009

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January 6th, 2009

It was snowing and I had ice cream almost everyday!

New Years in Georgia, what a wonderful getaway! Firstly, my friend Ian who used to live in Baku and recently moved to Tbilisi lent me and 2 of my friends his apartment. He was in America while we where there so this was especially nice of him. He has a very nice computer with DSL and a webcam so we all got to talk to our loved ones in America. Not to mention having a warm place to rest and as many hot showers as we wanted.

So what did we do? Well the first priority was getting some delicious Georgian food and wine. Georgian food is really rich and flavorful. It was nice to drink some quality wine as Georgia is known as “the birthplace of wine.” We made a plan to do Mark Elliot’s walking tour of Tbilisi with Kelly as our tour guide. We woke up bright and early and were off. To my surprise nothing opens until 10am or later, except churches. So we began there. It just so happens Tuesday is the day Georgians go to church so as we entered we encountered some amazing singing in three parts. We quietly wandered slowing trying not to disturb anyone, it was a unique experience. We walked to other churches and statues, the Turkish bath area and slowly made our way up the mountain to the botanical gardens. Now it is winter so the botanical gardens were not as impressive as they could be. However, it was a nice hike in a quiet, serine place that could not be experienced anywhere else in the city. The botanical gardens led up to the Mother of Georgia monument; then eventually around and up to the Narikala Fortress. We were not sure the way and ended up climbing up the side, not on the beaten path, and sliding our way back down. We did eventually find the official entrance and explored that as well. Then we went down the mountain to Saint George church and through town to the Basilica.

At this point we were starving and decided to go to the movie theater that shows and English film at 4pm everyday. The film of the week was “The Day the Earth Stood Still” which got mixed reviews in our group. We then had dinner and met up for drinks with the other group of PCVs and friends who had just arrived earlier that day.

New Years Eve day we took a day trip to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. It was about an hour and a half marshutka ride there then a 30 minute taxi ride to the mountains. Our destination; the Uplistsikhe cave town. This decision was a brilliant choice on our behalf and defiantly worth the ride. These cave dwellings date back to the 8th century BC and were created by native pagans. They had a theatre, bazaar, pharmacy, places of worship, wine making areas, dungeons, community areas and of course homes. People inhabited this area for many centuries eventually converting to Christianity and modifying the space. What is left is only 7% of what it once was. We had a guided tour in English accompanied by a great group of dogs. It was snowing all day and had been the day before so it was a challenging mountain climb slipping and sliding everywhere. Needless to say for me this was the highlight of the entire trip. The history and the view were breathtaking. On our way back we drove by the only Stalin statue in Georgia and his birth house, which is tiny.

Back in Tblisi we ate rested and got ready for new years festivities. We met up with the entire gang and went to get our faces painted. We wondered the streets eventually arriving at freedom square where the fireworks would be. There was a huge concert event and we were all in a mashpit-type crowd. Amazing fireworks! We then all made our way to a nearby bar and danced the night away. The next day we stayed home. I left for about an hour to go to the store and see if anything was open. After a night of drinking, we just wanted to rest and eat.

So day five we woke up bright and early to go to the Turkish bath. A Turkish bath is always a different experience. We were there at 8am when nobody else was so we did the communal area. We tried to communicate the best we could but we kept on being shuffled around by staff. Eventually we got to the bath which was a shower with hot sulfur water streaming down. We washed ourselves waiting for someone to come. We thought this might be it and so after a bit we went back out and were shuffled back in to get our scrub down and massage. The scrub down and massage hurt!! I couldn’t tell if I was just sore from all the walking and mountain climbing or if she was just being too rough. However, after all was said and done it did feel really good. We went to lunch and realized the roads were all iced over. We called Peace Corps to find that others were detained in Baku because of the danger of traveling on these roads. So our vacation was extended for a day to let the roads thaw. We went souvenir shopping around town and at an outdoor art bazaar. We went home and rested and decided that we would have Chinese food for our last night.

The ride home was long. The roads were still kind of bad and it was very cold. What a trip though! I put some pictures below of highlights.

Happy New Year,
Kat Zig

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