Thursday July 2 – Today I was brave and took my first minibus (marshrutka) to Gori, Stalin’s hometown. First stop was the Stalin museum, where the driver politely dropped me off. The exhibits were written in Georgian and Russian, with little English, so I cannot say I learned much, but it was cool to see. They even had a creepy copy of his death mask. Outside, they also have the small one room house where he grew up. It remains where it has always been, but all the other houses around were demolished to make a pretty museum area. Next I took a taxi to Uplistsikhe, an ancient cave city outside of Gori. Taxi was the best way to get there. A driver approached me to ask if I wanted to go there. This might be a good time to mention that English is not that common here. Georgian is in its own language group. It is not related to anything else. Even the script is very different. Very different. This is what the word “different” looks like in Georgian - სხვადასხვა. See what I mean? So there is no hope of reading any signs of anything ever, or being able
to sound something out. At least not without a lot of practice. Russian is the next big language here, since it was part of the Soviet Union. And Russian uses its own alphabet as well. Here is different again in the Cyrillic alphabet - другой. It is easier for me to sound these letters out after some practice. There are not many Western tourists I’ve come across here. Mostly Russian. But back to the story. When the taxi driver asked me if I wanted to go (in Georgian), he had a picture, so I knew what he meant. I asked him for the price and he asked if I knew Spanish. I do! All of a sudden I had someone I could talk to! It was great. And he charged me what I expected, even better. He let me grab some food at the grocery for lunch and I ate while he drove. I was paying for a lift there, an hour waiting time, and a ride back.
The cave city was beautiful. It was so nice to see. I wandered around where everyone was at first, and then I was able to climb up higher and get away
from the tour groups, the other main way to get there without your own car. It was just really cool I saw some fat lizards that blended in with the stone. I told them they were adorable and moved on. I really enjoyed it there. It was close to 100°F, but windy, so it felt cooler. When I got back to the taxi, there was a Russian girl in it. She needed a ride back. The driver asked if I wanted to stop at the Ateni Sioni church on the way for a few more dollars, as it was in the wrong direction at a fork in the road. I agreed and I’m glad I did. The church was under renovation, and covered inside in scaffolding, but it was still a special building to visit. It was built in the 7th
century, with frescoes from the 11th
century. Very old and very special to see. I love churches. Not so fond of religion, but love churches.
The driver took us back to the Gori bus station, and showed me where the right minibus would be and that the fortress was nearby. I decided to go to the top of
the fortress and then catch the minibus. They only leave when full, and I was hoping I wouldn’t just miss one, but didn’t want to miss the fortress either. I was in luck. When I got back, it left a few minutes later and the Russian girl was on it, so I would have been on that one no matter what.
I stopped at the train station on my way home, to buy a ticket for Batumi, but they were sold out for the Saturday morning train. So I didn’t buy one – had to find a new plan. I figured it would be a six hour minibus. Back at home I made my way to the grocery for some quality computer time, as per usual. A successful day, over all.
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