Week 5

June 4 to June 10

After a good night’s sleep in Sivas, a city that sports an ancient church in its center that is used as a tea house by the young and hip, I went on to Trabzon.

It was cool and foggy in the Anatolian highlands, the streets were nasty, wet, oily and led through unlit tunnels with big pot holes.

In Trabzon I found a hostel led by a slightly mad but delightfully hospitable middle aged woman. I stayed in the hostel for one more day and explored Trabzon. It was a complete waste of time, there is nothing at all in this city. In the evening I decided to get utterly and completely wasted and went to the only pub in town. I sat down and one of the waiters harassed me until I moved to the male-only part of the pub. Apparently the other part was reserved for couples. I drank one small beer and left the place to go to sleep.

The road from Trabzon to Batumi snugly follows the coast of the Black Sea, offering a splendid view of cliffs and deep blue water. Unfortunately, it was raining heavily and thick fog restricted the view to 50m when I took the trip, and I once saw something dark and blue glistering through the fog. I suspect it was the Black Sea.

Exiting Turkey was easy. I just showed all my documents in the reverse order, and only at one of the five stations I was stopped and taken into an office for questioning. Repeating “Schengen” five times, the officer in charge convinced the overzealous border guard to let me go.

Entering Georgia was also quite easy. I waited patiently in the queue of vehicles at the border. A dude from Antalya struck up a conversation with me from the window of his car. Soon, the topic shifted from how long the queue was to religion. The concept of not being religious was unknown to the man, an empty void so to speak, ready to be filled with all-encompassing love for the almighty creator of the world, who apparently is offended by the view of female scalps when looking down from his cloud.

The Georgian border guards were friendly and efficient. They asked me about the number of tents I was carrying. In those situations, it is of utmost importance to make a joke as obvious as possible, so instead of “five tents” I said “fifty tents”. It lead to great confusion, only to be resolved when I wrote down in the customs sheet that I only carried one single tent.

Soviet style aesthetics at the Georgian border.

I drove the final 20 km to Batumi, where I stayed in a small hostel for the night. The plan had been to depart the next morning, but I met a misogynistic Swede in his sixties and a disillusioned Pole in his thirties and we sampled the local wines with great rigor, leaving me incapacitated for the whole next day.

Batumi is a party resort for Russian tourists during the summer. In between seasons, there is nothing to see nor to do there except sweating and drinking.

On the 8th of June I went on to Tbilisi. Strong and hot wind from the east blew into my face in unpredictable gusts, making it difficult to stay in control of the vehicle. I paused frequently to recover. In the evening I reached Tbilisi and booked a bed in the fabulous Pushkin 10 hostel. In the hostel I met Lisa and Daniel from Germany. We quickly became friends and destroyed vast amounts of beer and wine in the living room of the hostel, together with some of the other guests.

I woke up hungover, unable to think clearly and with the feeling to have lost all control over my situation. The Kazakh and Azerbaijani embassy, which I had intended to visit, were already closed when I finally managed to climb out of the bunk bed, barely avoiding a severe fall.

I took a walk in the old city and was soon pulled into a wine cellar by the most gifted salesman I have ever met. He even managed to sell a bottle of Saperavi to a man who barely an hour before had sworn to himself never to touch this potent nerve toxin called ethanol again.

A short climb up to the small monastery towering prominently over the city replenished my bodily strength, and the stunning view helped me get a clear head.

Back at the hostel Lisa, Daniel and I enjoyed a cold meal, soon to be joined by Sarah, a friend of Lisa’s who worked on the same project, interviewing Georgian farmers in the mountains about their livelihood and production methods.

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