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Published: January 17th 2009
The first day of travel is always the most confusing and often the most tiring. It is when the traveler has to deal with new languages and new customs in new surroundings, all the while often being jet lagged. I recall reading in a travel guide about the amount of culture shock that you can expect in any given place. Georgia wasn’t listed as one of the countries with the most expected travel shock, though by rights it should have been. The hardest countries to travel in were those with both cultural differences and incompatible languages. Some countries expect visitors and so there is often someone around who can speak some English, but Georgia draws very few travelers and so the English speaking population is negligible. So as Aleks and I stepped off the airplane we weren’t exactly sure what to expect.
One thing was certain though. The group of people congregated at the airport in Vienna waiting for the flight appeared homogeneous, and there didn’t appear to be any other travelers in this group. This fact would be reflected upon us wherever we went, empty hotels and restaurants filled with locals only. After clearing customs we decided first to change some money and then to look for a way into town. Our original plan had been just to wait out the daylight, it was then around 5 in the morning and we had thought it might be possible to find some place to park ourselves and our luggage for a few hours so as to not have to spend an extra night on a hotel room. When we got off the plane though we felt excessively tired and thought that the extra thirty dollars or so that we might spend at a guest house would be an inconsequential added cost of our journey. As we stood changing money we were approached by an individual who offered to drive us into town for a fee. As I was used to certain other countries around the world, I thought this was the system in place here. When we got outside we saw the taxi stand and I thought that maybe I had made the wrong decision, but we kept on with the driver we were with. I figured that at the least it would mean a smaller cab fare.
It turned out that our cab driver was very much of a moonlighter, so much so that he didn’t even know his way around the major hotels of the city (which was made worse by the fact that two of the guest houses we were looking for had since closed). As we sped back and forth along the city’s main streets stopping and looking for places, we eventually decided to give up and go for a hotel, a cheap one though. As we were soon to find out, all of these were either closed or no longer in business. Eventually we decided on one which we had already been to for directions. Our entire journey had taken us over an hour and the taxi driver, even though he had been responsible for us getting lost, was asking for more money. Once we dealt with him we found out that the hotel was going to charge us for an entire night’s sleep even though it was only four hours until checkout. Begrudgingly I paid out two nights accommodation in the fairly expensive hotel. At least at that point Aleks and I could go to sleep.
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