Comrade Stalin!

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September 14th 2015
Published: June 26th 2017
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0600 hrs Monday: A flurry of activity as we get ready for an early start. Today we are heading to Kutasi in Western Georgia some 200 miles away. You will of course be aware that this City is built around the the Rioni River and I have no doubt your are keen to see how the refurbishment of the Bagrati Cathederal is getting on!

Tbilisi has been a great 2 day stopover. The Group are now fragmenting into two or three camps. Barriers are coming down and to be frank, there are already frank conversations about who likes who etc......dangerous stuff! I don't think WW3 will break out but we are not so chummy as last week! "Old Boy" manages to stray onto a railway line yesterday afternoon just as a freight train makes an unexpected appearance! His long suffering wife was horrified!
Miss Marple sadly has eaten something spicy and is off games and food.......

1845: Kutasi: We have just arrived at our little guest house! This is the real Georgia!......smashed derelict Soviet metal factories......interspersed with tumbledown high rise tenement blocks.....even Sydney our little red travelling chum is looking nervous!

We are sitting on a little balcony with a corrugated iron roof overlooking very very basic housing. Dogs bark and we can hear a full scale domestic row going on below! Our little room has everything we need for one night. The "Group" looked agitated....earlier in the day at lunch, daggers were nearly drawn over the allocation of chips at lunch! "Old Boy" helped himself (first of course) to 2/3 of the portion intended for 5!!!!!!!! Poker faces all round as he cheerfully tucked in and asked for the salt to be passed down.....

After leaving Tblisi at 0900hrs, we made our way along the Military High constructed by The Russians. I note from a useful road sign that we are some 1715 km from Istanbul to the West. We pass by neat lines of refugees houses founded by The EEC. I think these are for people displaced from South Ossetia when Russia took back 20% of Georgian Territory in 2008.

COMRADE STALIN: Our first stop is the rather run down town of Gori....famous or infamous as being the birthplace of Stalin. We pass defunct railway sidings and rustic semi rural cottages. Old men sit on wooden verandahs and watch the world go by whilst children play and run around in the streets. We head through Gori past a rather sinister looking military base with watch towers at each corner. I spot heavily armed soldiers in each one scanning the surrounding country side!

Our first visit is to some prehistoric cave dwellings perched high in the hillside. The scenery is magnificent as we struggled up rocks and escarpments.....our little Georgian guide referring to us as "my dears" in a rather Greta Garbo accent.......

We then head off to the Stalin Museum and are shown round this fascinating mausoleum to Uncle Jo. He looks benign but the figures speak for themselves. Over 40 million dead Russians let alone Germans. Our male guide in his late 20s knew his stuff and took great delight in making "pulling the trigger" gestures with both hands each time he said "and he was shot by the NVKD" for his political views. Perhaps the most chilling line was a statement made by one of the Russian War Leaders to the effect that " you don't have an army without executions"!!

The highlight of the tour was a visit to Stalins railway carriage. This was previously used by Tsar Nicholas! We we allowed on board and it was in great condition. I heard the "Intellectuals" remark that it was just another dirty old railway carriage......somehow they have managed to snaffle the best room in the hotel.......I think Mr Intellectual is bribing our guide!

0700hrs Tuesday. Sipping coffee on our little prefab style balcony. It's been raining overnight but now clearing. I have to say this hotel is a bit of a dump.....surveying the scene we have an immediate view of several water tanks, an old tractor tyre and various asbestos panelled buildings.........A thousand times better than African ones but for Georgia's second city I am surprised. I am pleased to report that the "Domestic" row below us calmed seemed that the bare chested "POT HEAD" husband had over indulged on the local Vodka and had come home to a disgruntled Mrs POT HEAD and screaming baby "POT HEAD" .....all he wanted to do I guess was to snooze in his hammock!

Mission: Must rush as I need to have a shower in our moth infested "Showloo" as we have long drive to the mountains to Mestia in the North of the country. I can already her "GROUP" noises as they ready themselves for the breakfast trough.......The weather could be mixed......we will see!

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