Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Georgia



Crossing the Border

The Georgian immigration lady literally put a diamond loupe on my driver's license and passport and went over every square millimeter trying to decide if they were frauds or not. Once satisfied she demanded that I buy insurance. “I already have”. I showed her the contract on my phone that I had bought the day before. She stared at the phone and then transferred her deadeye look to me. Realizing she had no screws to turn, she took a very long pause and after a sad inhale announced; “your paperwork is in order” It felt very Soviet.



Kobuleti

Driving in Batumi was stressful and our first camping spot didn’t work out. We aborted the plan (this would become a recurring event) and headed to a campsite just north of Kobuleti on the beach. Every License plate in the campground had “RUS” on it. That’s the first time I’d ever seen a Russian Plate. We immediately befriended a Russian family who used the word “escape” in reference to their exodus from Russia multiple times. Tatiana, Adgin, Ivan and Igor - I introduced myself as Bob. They loved that. The 13-year-old kid said “you look so American!”, I guess we were all living up to our stereotypes. The father would later explain to us that after 2 years out of Mother Russia that going back for him meant “War or prison. Can’t go back until Putin is dead.”

My new friend helps me seal a window

Our drink of choice

They do have a nice boardwalk and coastline

A Little History

We found a great restaurant and never ate at another for our whole stay in Kobuleti. Delicious and inexpensive. I learned a lot from the Russian owner who had also fled his homeland a couple years before. This war has affected everyone. Did you know that before Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014 and again in 2022, he invaded Georgia? In 2008 he launched a war against this country and is currently occupying 20%. 


 Do you see the shaded areas? That’s Russian occupied and came with the deaths of about 850 people, 2000 wounded and 100,000 displaced. The guy who passed out maps at the tourist office told me to be very careful when driving close to the occupied zones that I don’t take a wrong turn or else the Russian soldiers would kidnap me. I asked what would happen. His pensive heavily lidded gaze was broken only when he mumbled “Mild torture and ransom”


Aleja made this video as we were driving by it at our closest point

When we drove the E-60 to Tbilisi we were under a kilometer from the Russian line. 

You can be sure I was wideawake and driving my best.

The Roads Of Georgia

Cows in the street, dogs in the street, & people in the street. All living things seem to congregate in the streets of Georgia. Dogs and cows – ok, they are sleepy animals who have never read Newton, but the humans of Georgia… very odd. There doesn’t seem to be any understanding of the laws of physics. They don't close their doors and they stand there blocking traffic without flinching. The Soviets were first in putting a man into space – they obviously know the mechanics of motion. What is this cultural anomaly? 



They’ve Taken The Crown

I drove the entire length of Peru and it’s not a small country. The Peruvians held the crown for the world’s worst drivers until I went to Albania. What the Peruvians had going for them was absolute abject poverty and the audacity to “go for it” on a blind mountain curve with a jalopy running on a weed wacker engine. The Albanians had the horse power to make stupid decisions - since they were all driving stolen Mercedes from Europe – and they did, every chance they could. They won on simple incompetence of not having enough experience with combustion engines since they had only recently moved from horse and buggy.  What won first place for the Georgians was something new. It was a combination of Slavic machismo, poverty, drunkenness, and hardened malice. They drive with a mean streak. They will make you pay for their small desperate lives. You will feel their frustration and fear (no one has insurance). They will visit it upon you through the medium of transport. You will learn. They will teach you. 

Driving psychosis will eventually affect a whole country. It just becomes the culture. 

When you learn cruel driving techniques from your defeated dad and his vinegary brothers the problem stands little chance of being eradicated before it falls upon your children. Your friends drive like you do and that’s that. It is what it is and it’s accepted. It won’t get better unless it's actively controlled and these people are making no attempt. 

What Did You Expect?

I’m a man who lives in a vehicle and my world is centered around driving. Why would you be surprised that I spent 400 words on transport?

Kutaisi

We found a great restaurant. I’m beginning to think that’s the best thing one can say about this country.


Then we found a bar. There are 2 things you should know about me: 1) I'm losing my hair. 2) Almost no one can do more pushups than me. I love winning bets off body builders

Tbilisi

We drove all the way there. Pouring rain and multiple near misses. When the spot we had been promised turned out to be fraud (someone’s tiny backyard instead of a campground) we aborted the plan and drove back to where we woke up in some farmers field. 5 hours of danger driving and I was emotionally spent and in the same place. 

This was indicative of the approach to most of our campsites


What’s With All The Smoking?

Is there a corollary between desperation and smoking rates? Everybody in Georgia smokes, which means they’re continually sick, and when you are continually sick you stay poor, which means you stay sick. It’s really easy to break the cycle – quit smoking. That’s about as likely as driving with a smile. 

This kid was 9, and a very accomplished smoker.
Now he's dead and this is the photo his loved ones chose for his tombstone

The Language & Alphabet

Sure they have their own language, that's not unique, but they have their own alphabet. And are you ready for this.....Here's what it looks like:


And this is Laotian.....



What the hell is going on ?

Georgia - The Country

I didn’t hate Georgia. I obviously didn’t love it either. I rate it a very low C, and that’s me being very generous. There aren’t any marquee attractions and the infrastructure isn’t quite ready for prime time. When the board of tourism lists picnics and bird watching as high value events it’s not an easy country to market. If you have a 4-wheel drive death proof Unimog and love getting out in the green mountains then this might be your calling but I’m older now and my moxy is on the downswing. I want a bit more comfort and safety than I did 20 years ago. 



Georgia for us, was just a dining destination and a chance to rub elbows with Russians. I will say that their data plan was the best we’ve ever found. It was super cheap for unlimited gigabytes. I suppose if you are a digital nomad who loves dumplings this is the place for you. The Georgian food is wonderful and the people were nice enough. I’ll focus on that during my reminisces. Would I go back? Not a chance. Not worth the miles when Turkey is so good. 

Your man on point,

Blacktop Bobby

Great looking castle in Gori. Stalin's home town






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Georgia

Crossing the Border The Georgian immigration lady literally put a diamond loupe on my driver's license and passport and went over every ...