July 23, 2017
I’d heard and read a lot about Georgia, the country on the Black Sea, but somehow I never visited … that is, until about a month ago. Sometimes it just needs to be the right time.
Georgia with its four million-plus citizens is a so-many-hour flight from Western Europe and fortunately nowadays reachable by budget carrier. In my case, I flew in from Holland via Krakow, Poland where I had a stopover. Total ticket costs: USD 90 (one way).
As a nomad, I “hop hop” a lot; I need to explore places that could potentially make my existence more bearable. Georgia happens to be one of the few countries that offers long-term, visa-free access to most passport holders. And on top of that … it’s not the most expensive place on the planet either. Really awesome.
It all started well with a “warm welcome card” at immigration (see photo, above). It was tucked in my passport with half a smile. Most definitely a far cry from loads of other countries that rather see you leave than enter. At least that’s my take on it. I also got a one-year-entry stamp, free of charge. So nice.
Exchanging my euros for the local currency, (lari), a few feet from the “officers in uniform,” was pleasant too. The guy didn’t say a word, but the rate was great. They only took out a percent or so. Not sure if I’ve ever seen it like that.
On the bus to the coast, (I’d landed right smack in the middle of Georgia, in a city called Kutaisi), the driver was clearly “on” something. He did nothing but break the law; he swerved and weaved down the road like it was his own little playground. Other road users? Well, f*ck them.
My plane had arrived in the early morning hours so I was clearly exhausted. Sleeping, however, was a big no-no. It was 4:30 AM when the shuttle departed. Not only were there at least ten passengers too many, (I was pressed against the cold window with my knees denting into the seat in front of me), his extraordinary cell phone behavior also kept my eyes wide open.
During the two-hour ride to the Black Sea he was glued to his device. The roads were dark and winding. He used one hand for the phone and the other to steer, and every so many seconds, to shift up and down. All a bit surreal to “fly” from A to B like that with, at times, no hands on the wheel.
At one point an oncoming truck nearly hit us full on; all because we were on the wrong side of the double yellow lines. Luckily, by the grace of God, he managed to jerk the wheel back to the right. With the sunrise in my window, I heard him laugh and mumble something in Russian or Georgian which sounded apologetic. I laughed too. “WTF!” I thought. “I am getting too old for this …”
To be continued.
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