In Which Sanchezi Goes On An Excursion (or Herding Cats)

When I was young (13ish), I was dumbfounded to realize that one of my closest friends had not ever been to the beach. It was a weird thing to me because my parents took us to the beach every summer. Living in Charlotte, NC, it was only three hours away. That was my introduction to the concept that not everyone has the same resources and therefore could not afford to do and see all the things someone else does regularly and perhaps takes for granted.

One of the most endearing things that Georgian schools do, in my opinion, is the excursion. This is a trip, usually at the end of the year, that the whole class takes to another city or historical site. What I love about this trip is that it is a bonding experience for the kids. Nothing bonds like shared journeys. The other thing I love about it is, it is an opportunity for kids who would otherwise not be able to see their beautiful and historic country. I meet kid after kid who has not been to the capital or other major cities in Georgia. For the excursion, they pool their resources for food and travel expenses and go. They rarely stay overnight, unless special accommodations can be provided.

I was not invited on any excursions last year, unfortunately, but this year I have been invited on several. The first was this past weekend with Natia’s, my host mother’s, 1st grade class. They are the bigger of the two first grade classes I have.

We assembled in front of the school Sunday morning. The class was so big that we had to take two marshrutkas. And on top of that, to save costs, the kids had to sit on the laps of the parents. We were packed in like rats. When I walked up with Natia that morning, one of the marshrutkas was already there. And it was overrun with the boys of the class. First grade Georgian boys… wow. They are a toxic mix of energy and physical aggression. Thankfully they are too little to hurt others or themselves, or they would be serial killers or sociopaths. The bus was literally rocking with their enthusiasm. The girls, equally excited were standing outside being harnessed by their mothers. Don’t be fooled by the gender difference. I saw a first grade girl run up behind another unsuspecting girl and perform a flying double elbow to the head. The assaulted girl crashed to the ground stunned at the sheer violence that was enacted upon her, then obviously started crying. The assaulting girl stood above her and smiled triumphantly. I saw it with my own eyes.

Once the other marsh came, the girls and their mothers loaded up that one. They were so packed, I didn’t think I would have a seat. But a kitchen table chair appeared out of nowhere and was placed in the aisle. Problem solved.

Since the kids were no longer required to adhere to classroom etiquette, throughout the day they would just yell out my name out of pure joy. At times, my name was cascaded through the group like a rally cry. At other times, when most were in their own thoughts, it would be screamed out by one single child, who remembered I was around. They don’t know English at all at that age. They know their letters and English words for a handful of things, but they can not put together any sentences for conversation. So when they do yell my name and I turn to them, they greet me with a smile of love. That’s all the communication they need. And I am satisfied.

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It was a rainy day. It took us an hour to get to our destination. We went to the town of Chokhatauri to visit the museum of Nador Dumbadze, a famous Georgian writer. Natia explained to me that after his death, his friends constructed this museum in his honor. The museum was an A frame house. It was packed with photos and memorabilia from Dumbadze’s life.

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The kids were herded into the main room to hear the tour guide give a synopsis of his life. Thankfully it was short, as the kids were getting restless. After the tour guide’s presentation, the kids took turns standing on the fireplace giving short recitations. I think they were quoting works of Dumbadze. As one kid would start talking, they all pressed into him jockeying for position to be next. It was painfully awkward. They did this, despite Natia telling them not to for all of the speakers until there were only a few left. The others, as they finished their recitation, continued through the house on a self-guided tour. Unfortunately, for the other speakers, the house was made of wood and the rest of the tour went past an overlook down to the fireplace. The remaining speakers had to battle to concentrate over creaking footsteps and the jeers from their classmates from overhead. When the recitations were finished, we all were free to continue touring the rest of the museum.

We had brought a communal lunch and were supposed to go outside to eat it but it started to pour down. So we had to stay in the museum with 34 first graders for about 30-40 minutes. …herding cats.

But the rain did finally stop and we went outside to a great picnic lunch. One thing Georgians know how to do well regardless of circumstance and that’s eat. We feasted.

The kids ate first and as they finished, they started running around the grounds of the compound like mini hurricanes. Their favorite game is a mix between chasing each other and bumping into each other. And it’s a gender-neutral game. Doesn’t matter if you are boy or girl, you too can be knocked on your ass. As it was wet out now, the game had an added dangerous aspect to it. Also now interspersed with sporadic cries of my name, were the mothers calling out to their little ones that were doing something just a litttttle too dangerous; like jumping off a mini cliff, or throwing empty bottles into the fountain, or absentmindedly punching someone repeatedly in the face. …herding cats.

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After lunch, Natia gathered the kids for one last talk and a group picture. The parents, being the example for their kids, left no space between the kids and themselves in order to take pictures. So, either no one had a good class picture of the kids or if they did get a clean shot off, they were close ups of some kid’s face. And of course, finally, the traditional end to any great Georgian gathering- fireworks.

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Riding to the museum, I rode with in the girls’ bus, which was for the most part quiet. On the way back, I rode in the boys’ bus, which was a chatter box. And as soon as the bus was turned on, they yelled to the driver to play the radio. Besides having to stop to let one girl vomit, we made it back without incident.

One excursion down.

***

Trabzon III: Sumela Monastery And Bats Out Of Hell

The next day, my goal was to go on tour to Sumela Monastery then find a bus to get back to Batumi. I had a fear of getting stuck in Trabzon because I had missed the buses. So I wanted to secure that information before I did the tour. I went down to check out of my room. This is where I found out the price of my room and haggled them down a little. He said that the price for the tour was 30 TL. In my research, I believe that the prices they were quoting was 15 TL. So I balked at that a little, too. He wouldn’t budge, so I accepted it. I was not NOT going to go see the monastery. I had a little time to go try to find a bus to Batumi or the main bus terminal. I found a Turkish bus company that was also doing tours to Sumela monastery.

First off, he said he only went to Batumi every other Saturday. We’ll, that was not even an option, but when I tried to ask if he knew of any other bus companies or how to get to the main station, he could not comprehend what I was saying. I asked about the prices for the Sumela tour and he said 15. I felt scammed by the Benli hotel clerk. So I went over and got a refund. I came back to the bus company and he then said, “Oh, no…. 15 Dollars= 30 Turkish Lira. I still kind of think they were in cahoots with one another. Whatever. Oh, I didn’t find a way to Batumi as I had hoped.

The ride up to Sumela Monastery was beautiful and shorter than I thought it would be. Not very many people on the trip. The monastery is in a National Park. We continued up this windy path until the end. From where we stopped we couldn’t see the monastery. Even when we got to the entrance of the monastery you couldn’t really “see” it. Only from one bend in the road up did we get a glimpse of the incredible façade.

Sumela was built in the 4th century as a Greek Orthodox Monastery. It was abandoned in 1923 and reopened as a museum. Most of the monastery is still under renovations. We only got to see the ‘non-living quarters’, but the visit was still very impressive. The cost of the museum was 15TL.

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Once again I can’t comprehend the thought process that went into deciding to build this thing or other monasteries where they are. “Is this far enough away from people AND hard to bring materials to build things AND high on a mountain top AND across treacherous waterfalls?” Yes, but put it on a cliff, too. Thanks and God Bless.

Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Once back in Trabzon, finding a bus to Batumi wasn’t as difficult as I had thought it would be. I saw a bus station en route to the start point of the tour. Another couple asked to be dropped off at a hotel there, and I just hopped out, too. As I was searching for a bus terminal going to Batumi, a sales rep. popped out of a store and asked to help me in English! Yes please! They were indeed doing trips to Batumi. I could take the regular bus, which departed an hour from then, or the Express bus leaving two hours later, but taking a fraction of the time as the first bus. Express Bus, please! I even got some Turkish tea while I waited.

The “express bus” wasn’t a Turkish bus with that company. Instead it was a freelance Georgian marshrutka parked in a back ally, cramped seats and all. Off we went.

I think the driver was over excited to drive on paved roads for long stretches at a time. When I say he ‘sped’, that is an understatement. I ALWAYS felt the backwards trust of the engine. From the time he pushed the gas pedal at green lights until he had to stop for a red lights that didn’t come soon enough.

When we got to the border, I again committed to my hussle routine. There were some Germans on the bus that seemed perplexed that we were getting off on the Turkish side of the border. As the driver was trying to explain the process, I got my bag and fast walked to the first passport checkpoint to battle with elbow throwing bebias (old Georgian grandmas. And don’t feel bad for them, they can hold their own, thank you very much.)

I got to the Georgian side of the border and oddly, the bus was already there. I got on with other random people. But then we just shut the door and pulled out! We didn’t have ANY of the passengers from the Turkish side of the border!!! We left people! I was a witness. It is no longer a myth or rumor, folks. If you snooze at the border, they will leave your ass. Lesson learned.

***

“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” – A League of Their Own.

Trabzon II: Churches and Sunsets

The thing about taking a random Georgian marshrutka is you never know exactly where you will be dropped off unless you have taken it to the destination previously. I tried to memorize the map of the city as best I could. And in reading other travel blogs, I knew I wanted to end up in the city center. But that’s NOT where I was dropped off. The helper asked me, didn’t understand me, then we compromised on “Parki” (because the city center was indeed a park). So he had the driver stopp at a U-turn lane on the highway, drop me off and pointed up a hill- “Parki!”   …okay.

I wouldn’t say I’m the typical mancho dude. I don’t think I conform to the stereotypes. But I do HATE asking for directions. I would much rather rely on my internal sense of direction. Which I must say is usually pretty good. I walked up this ‘hill’.

Trabzon is a city between the Black Sea and a mountain range. It appears that as it expanded, they simply cut into the mountains and continued to build. There are steep retaining walls and terraces everywhere. I walked up this steep hill that winded me from the effort. I got to a smallish park that was packed with people. I didn’t see any of the tell-tale signs of this being the ‘right’ park, though. I saw a tourist center (one of the tell-tale signs that I didn’t observe), but it was closed for the weekend. Fail! How can the tourist center be closed on a weekend? Whatever.

I decided to regroup and walk back down the hill to another park I noticed by the sea. When I got there, I remembered I had saved the map on my iPad. I went to a vendor to ask where we were and where was the park I wanted. He briskly told me upfront, he DID NOT speak English, and promptly tried to service the next costumers. Ouch. But I wasn’t deterred. He action was not a blemish on Turkish culture or hospitality; I have seen such actions, if not worse, in the States. He simply didn’t want to deal with an oblivious foreigner that doesn’t have a clue. Got it. But fortunately the girls who were next in line were keen to assist me (and they were of such which made the vendor rethink trying to help me, too). Apparently the park I was looking for WAS up the hill. Great.

I went to the policeman beside the tourist center and showed him my iPad, and he said that this tiny park was indeed the park I was looking for. He pointed over to the mosque, which was the REAL tell-tale sign I was looking for.

In reading about Trabzon, things to do, places to see, and hotels, to gauge the prices of things, I came across a pretty wide spectrum of prices. That could be attributed to the dates (pre 2013) or the time of year (tourist season). So I will throw in my two cents about current (May 10, 2014) pricing.

I stayed at Otel Benli, which is behind the mosque. Also behind the mosque is Otel Nur, which looks and is reportedly more expensive than Otel Benli. Otel Benli is a no frills hotel. One would call it economy class. I got a single room that consisted of a single bed, towel, a sink and a table. The toilet and the shower were in the hall. They asked for 25 TL, but I haggled down to 20. I think I could have bargained for less. In my readings, they said single rooms were from 10-20 TL. The next morning, I had planned to look at their double rooms, and go over and scope out Otel Nur, but I had to prepare for a tour. They had wi-fi. It was a little noisy at night outside due to the bus stop right outside the hotel. It’s not a GREAT hotel. It’s clean, hot water, helpful staff. But you get what you pay for.

Once I put all my gear down, I wanted to make the most of the rest of the day. I found a bus to Aya Sofya. Again, the driver stopped ‘near’ the Aya Sofya and pointed in the direction I should walk. …Okay.

Aya Sofya

Aya Sofya

The Aya Sofya is a Byzantine Era Church (Hagia Sophia) that was converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest. It was a beautiful building set on a hill overlooking the Sea. I was glad I didn’t have to hike a mountain to get to it. Everyone is unhappy about the designation of the building. It is currently a museum. Which makes Muslim community angry, and the Christians think that if there are changes that are to be made, then change it back to a church. I must say from a historical standpoint, when they made it into a mosque, they installed a drop ceiling that conceals the beautiful artwork in the dome of the building. Bad move.

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I didn’t want to take a wrong bus to god knows where from the Aya Sofya, so I simply walked North in the direction of my hotel. After passing some cool local spots, I reached the city center again. I saw a sign for my next destination, Boztepe Park, but wanted reassurance. My hotel clerk said, “Just walk up the road” …Okay.

If I didn’t mention this before, Turkey is a beautiful country. They have done a wonderful job of mixing the old structures with the new living spaces in an environmentally friendly way. My hotel had to have been built in the ‘20s but they had installed motion sensors for all the lights. Love that! Walking up the ‘hill’, I passed park after park, but none gave me the sense of a “must see” destination. But the further I walked up the ‘hill’, the more it became a mini mountain. I was sweating my ass off after maybe 20 minutes of walking. I then saw how high this mini mountain actually went. I thought about hailing a bus to take me the rest of the way, but decided instead to keep the adventurous spirit. And besides, if the park is all it was talked up to be, then it would be a pleasant end to an arduous hike.

I finally got near enough to the top of the mini mountain that I could overlook the city. That gave me a taste of what I was in store for. I got to a car park overlook. I knew this wasn’t it. No one mentioned a car park. But behind it was a café, with outside seating. I decided that I would sit here and read (I brought a book for this very occasion) as the sun set. The waiter knew enough English to take my order. They didn’t serve food, which was a bummer. After ordering just water and Turkish tea, I asked him where I could get food. He pointed to the car park, and also to a restaurant a little further up the mountain.

I decided to go to the restaurant to treat myself. And I am so glad I did. The view was gorgeous. They had little cabanas for private groups scattered all throughout the woods on the property. This restaurant had a commanding view of the city, the sea, and the surrounding mountains. And I got there just in time for a beautiful sunset.

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The walk back was a breeze as always compared to the walk up. When I got back to the hotel I was spent. I had thought about going out again to try and find a dance club. But that idea died almost immediately. I crashed.

***

Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It’s down at the end of lonely street
at Heartbreak Hotel.

Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley

Trabzon I: Getting There

When a Turkish bus company says “Express” bus they really mean “a Georgian bus that warp speeds the whole way like a bat out of hell”. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Up until now, all of my trips on this side of the world have been accompanied by a group or at least one friend. Even with my trips to Turkey, I met great friends at the end of the bus rides. I kind of viewed solo traveling like eating alone in restaurants. I don’t mind, but would prefer not to. Well, there is a first time for everything!

I have been wanting to go to Trabzon for a while now. There is one particular monastery, Sumela Monastery, that is literally on the side of a mountain cliff. I have put the trip off for this reason or that, but this weekend, I chose to go, not matter what. A friend was initially supposed to go with, but pulled out at the last moment. No worries! Ladies and Gents- Introducing ‘My First Solo Trip: Trabzon, Turkey’.

It takes approximately 4 hours to get to Trabzon from Batumi. I made it to the bus station in great time from Oz. I even had time to exchange currency and eat. I am pretty impressed with my ability to order in Georgian now. I can ask what they have and tell them exactly what I want. Early in my experience, I remember vividly going to a restaurant and knowing that the server knew that I didn’t have a clue. They habitually would tell me that they only served katchapuri, the traditional dish. But looking at the other tables of patrons, they obviously had more than just katchapuri. Another thing restaurants commonly “only” had was pizza… with mayonnaise.

But knowing a language is literally a key to a society. If you speak a language, everyone relaxes. If you speak a language everything is easier. I know that sounds overtly obvious, but it’s different from knowing it and experiencing it. An analogy would be seeing a show about swimming with sharks and actually doing it.

So I sat in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant at the bus station with the regulars and wayward travellers and quietly ate my lunch and sipped my tea. I felt a little like Aragon at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings.

I got into the marshrutka at 11:30 for a noon departure. I always like to get on a little early to choose the most convenient seat… and to make sure I even have a seat. But we didn’t end up leaving until 1’oclock, which pissed me off. Even though I should be used to the Georgian way of not doing things normally or according to time, I was still frustrated. Anyway, we left.

As soon as we got a good distance away from the bus station, they driver gives money to who became apparent as the ‘helper’ of the trip. The helper then went straight to a liquor shop. He brings back (from what I can see) a case of liquor, gets more money from driver and gets another case. Once we are driving again, the helper then goes from seat to seat whispering to everyone. At first I thought he was asking for money. Then he whips open a duffle bag and starts separating cigarette cartoons and bottles of liquor into smaller bags and giving them to the bus riders. It dawns on me that he is spreading out his stash to circumvent customs into Turkey. He didn’t ask me… not that I would have done it.

When we get to the border, I know the drill by now. I race to beat the rush to get in line. This time I got an e-Visa. Which for this border cross is the best thing. So much more convenient. Before I would have had to get screened at the second checkpoint then go past the checkpoint to buy the visa then come back to show the guard to get stamped.

Once on the Turkish side, I was accosted by the Turkish Taxi Cartel. I’ve had dealings with these fellas before, they will fleece every last Lari, Lira, or Dollar you have if you aren’t careful. They have a racket on the transportation from the border to the next town in Turkey, Hopa. I will do all I can to avoid those cats in the future.

I was the first person waiting for the bus… or so I thought. I was waiting for it in the wrong place. But fortunately I saw the bus coming through. The border situation is still a hot mess. I was a little nervous too, because I heard from various people that the smaller (non Turkish owned) buses have been know to leave people. But when I got on this guy was sure to do a head count. Which was pointless (to me) because half the people that started on the trip were replaced by new passengers. How in the hell did that happen!?! Off we went.

After careful deduction and context clues, this is what I think was happening. The mini vans/ marshrutkas serve as a trafficking mule for the… traders. I don’t want to call them smugglers, but that’s what they were. They were taking goods into Turkey, pseudo illegally, to sell for a profit. So I guess all other types of goods roll the opposite way into Georgia from Turkey. You see them everywhere in every Bazaar. But it seems the only goods that are going into Turkey en mass were cigarettes and liquor. But again this is simply my observation from a few bus rides. I could be way off.

Back on the bus, as I said, we had a different cast of characters- mostly women. One woman in particular seemed to be ‘in charge’. She spent a good half an hour reshuffling goods around from different bags. She would also hand off bags with alcohol and cigarettes to other the other ladies right before they got off at different stops. These ladies also had big bags with what I can only assume were full of contraband. As we neared Trabzon, the lady in charge of this tribe of smugglers started to organize her own bag for our final stop. She started pulling out cigarette boxes front all kinds of nooks and crannies. What I thought was a camera bag had multiple compartments all filled with cigarettes. They were in jackets, shoes, socks, etc.

At last, I was dropped off in Trabzon.

***

Aragon

Aragon

Guess You Had to Be There

Natia makes me laugh all the time. If I think she is funny when only understanding a portion of her broken English, I can only imagine that my sides would be hurting and jaws locked in pain from laughing so much if I understood every nuance of her humor. Here are a few of Natia’s classics:

The Neighbors.

Georgian towns and villages are very tightknit communities. Everyone knows everyone and their business. If you want someone’s attention you simply yell from the street until they hear you and come outside. Natia doesn’t ‘like’ all of the neighbors on the street. But she has a handful that she likes very much. One being Badri who lived on the corner, four houses down. Badri would come to visit fairly often. Sometimes not even to talk. He would slide into the sitting area and watch television with us. Badri passed away about two months ago.

Our neighbor on the left is Manana. She is an older lady with the nicest disposition. I usually see her perched in her window with looks directly into our house. She hasn’t been around lately because she feel ill and is now in the hospital. She isn’t showing any signs of recovering.

The other day, I was coming home from town. I had been hanging out with some friends, but it threatened to rain. I DO NOT like being wet in Georgia. It is painfully inconvenient. So I started my 20 minute walk home. On the way, I saw Natia who was doing some grocery shopping. She told me that if I wait for 5 minutes, she would get a taxi and we could go home together. Sweet!

As we were going home, Natia told me that the neighbor on the OTHER side of us was ill with heart issues. “Wow, another person ill”, I thought to myself.   Natia, without missing a beat says, “Badri is dead. Manana is in hospital. Dato is ill. Next year at this time, I will have no neighbors on my street!”

The Sting

Gurami lost his job last fall. When he is not messing around in the backyard farm, he is helping other neighbors or relatives with their chores (I guess). Two nights ago, I came downstairs and he was asleep on the swing chair. It was a little early to find him sleeping.

Natia said that he was stung by bees at his uncles house. Gurami is allergic and got puffy and red all over. If he hadn’t gotten medicine, Natia said, he would have died. Fortunately, a neighbor had some penicillin. She says all of this laughing. “Natia!!” I say,  “That’s not funny! He could have died!!” She replies, “I ask Gurami to help me around the house he says no. Someone else asks Gurami and he goes. He knows he is allergic to bees and goes to help with the bees. I tell him to get medicine to have in the house. He never gets it. I know its not funny, Sanchez (she says with a mischievous grin)…. BUUUTTTTT…..  I’m sorry, but not sorry.”

You Love Georgia

Whenever something inconvenient happens like the power going out, Natia always shakes her head approvingly and says, “You like Georgia very much, Sanchez!”

If the water stops working, “You like Georgia very much, Sanchez!”

When it’s soo cold I can not bear to go to bed, “You like Georgia very much, Sanchez!”

When it rains for days, “You like Georgia very much, Sanchez!”

 

***

“Nothing is a joke with me. It just all comes out like one”- Lorrie Moore

Baby Steps

For some reason, Natia has been giving me meat sandwiches for breakfast and dinner lately. This is a profound change given that the past year and a half  I usually have only had bread and tea.

And an even greater break from the routine was when I said I would cook my own eggs for dinner and she allowed me!

In the States, I LOVE to cook and I am pretty good at it. So coming to Georgian and not ‘being allowed’ is disappointing. But now, she is giving me the opportunity to cook… awesome! But frightening at the same time. I immediately felt pressure to make the perfect eggs, but using pans and utensils that I am not used to using.

As I am preparing the eggs, she asks would I like butter to fry them in. I say yes to her without thinking about it, because I have other pressing issues to decide; like should I scramble them or so a simple fry? Should I ask for onions to sautee them in? As I am deciding these questions in my mind, I hear the hiss of butter being melted in the hot pan. OH NOOOOO!!!!

I had forgotten a Georgian habit as instilled as putting mayonnaise on pizza. They cook everything in either a gallon of oil or a kilo of butter. I am NOT lying or exaggerating. I turn around and the butter is already covering and making waves in the bottom of the pan. My pour eggs don’t even have a chance. In the end they up being sort of fried eggs.

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Fried egg saturated in butter

 

Baby steps.

***

My host mom makes her own bread. It’s… okay. A little too dense for my liking, but she faithfully bakes it every weekend. A little while ago, it dawned on me that it tastes like focaccia bread but without the salty goodness on top. So I suggested to her that she try cooking it that way. And to my surprise she did! Well, she let me add the salty goodness after she baked it.

This could be construed as biased, but it was delicious! I think what also added to the goodness was she let me eat it still warm. She usually serves it room temperature the day after its baked and we eat it until its gone (three days later).

I asked why we don’t eat the bread when it’s warm. And she replied, “Hot bread makes your stomach hurt.” […crickets…]

***

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

 

You Won’t Even Believe

 

This weekend, I went with with some friends to visit the town of Chiatura. I had wanted to see some sites in that area for a long time. As we were traveling there, I was reminded of the beauty and diverse geography of this country. In the span of a few hours, we traveled through mountains, river planes, foothills, and valley gorges.

We got into Chiatura and had to wait for a little for a friend who we were staying with. The town is at the bottom of a valley and is split by a river. From the looks of things, back in Soviet times, it had to be a quaint and picturesque town. But now that Georgia is rolling solo, they are having obvious upkeep issues.

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Chiatura is a mining town. Or was in the Soviet times. It mined manganese out of the surrounding mountains and only recently has restarted mining. The river I mentioned earlier runs a murky dark grey. It is said to have been black at full mining production.

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To connect the town to the mines, during Stalin’s reign, a cable car system was constructed. Although these cable cars are now rusted out and all but falling apart, they are still in use. They are owned by the mining companies but are free to all passengers.

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And of course I had to ride one.

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She has operated this cable car for 31 years.

She has operated this cable car for 31 years.

 

Town of Chiatura

Town of Chiatura

***

The main reason I wanted to come to Chiatura was to visit the nearby iconic site of Katskhsi Pillar. From the way I understand things, this religious sect way back in the day used to go to these mountainous pillars to worship. Well, the story goes a modern day Georgian thought that was pretty cool. He become a monk and petitioned the Georgian Orthodoxy to allow him to build a church up top and live there.

 

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I wanted to climb up to the top, but the ladder was locked. (Which wasn’t really THAT much of a deterrent, as I could have shimmied up anyway, like another monk did. But it would have been bad form.)

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There isn’t much else to say about the Pillar. Except to say it’s flat out awe inspiring and just crazy at the same time.

***

The last site of note was back in Chiatura. There is a nunnery built into the mountainside. There was no electricity at all. So the main ‘space’ was not only dripping with mountain water, but also eerily dark. And in this cave environment they still had the ancient relics and icons of the Church. It was amazing. Because of the lighting, none of my photos came out. You will just have to see it for yourselves.

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Wedding Party

Wedding Party

Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

I didn’t want to load up this post with photos. But I do have more on the tab on the right. Enjoy.

And even greater photos are found at the following sites:

The Wall Street Journal

The Atlantic

Huffington Post

 

***

“Q: What is wrong with the world?
A: Everybody pays attention to pictures of things. Nobody pays attention to things themselves.”
“Hundred Dollar Kisses” Vonnegut (1960)