Cycling in Caucasus. There, where it all began – but only in the second trial.
Black Sea beach.
29. June 2016. Driving culture in Georgia is quite different from
Turkey, much more wild, with lot of horn blowing and driving on the opposite
side. Total chaos, there are even cows on the road in the middle of the city.
But it is true that the roads are in a poor state and slalom between the holes
is necessary to master. My cycling buddies from Hungary will probably be
satisfied. Regarding their concerns about Indian visas, the state of the roads
here, the general hygienic appearance and cows on the road, they won't need to
go to India – they have it here in Georgia.
Next morning I said goodbye to the Black Sea and
started a climb towards the Goderdzi pass at 2025 m. About 35 km from the
summit the sky darkens, thunder begins and to my luck just before the rain a
small hotel with a restaurant appears. My lucky star or a rational decision not
to push into the unknown.
Cows on the road in Georgia.
They say that people drive in traffic like they live.
For Georgians I initially thought this was not true: motorists seemed like
savages, but outside cars they were quiet and friendly. Here in the hotel
restaurant however, they started to riot, probably encouraged by a couple of
beers. Luckily, or because of it, the tables are separated by wooden walls. It
seems that the booths have to be devised so that people got a chance to enjoy some
peace in privacy and not to fall in quarrels after a few glasses of beer, while
seated on a common bench. Thus, there is none ofthose common collective festivities so
indicative of the Alpine region. The most laud of all was the bar's housewife.
The torrent of words flew out of her, as if she was possessed by the demon of
the Elm Street. Thankfully, I did not understand anything. If I understood,
what a torture it would have been! That's the charm of travelling, indeed the
greatest charm: understanding nothing is the greatest possible disconnection
from everyday trivialities.
It has to be mercedes.
Otherwise, I have to report an inconvenience. My
lateral ligaments in the knees began to ache. In the first two days, I again
made a beginner's mistake and pushed too hard. Or maybe I'm just too old for
these things. I now have to ride very slowly, to finish in the early afternoon,
then sit down, raise my legs and rest. Well, that is not so uncomfortable.
Asphalt finished already 100 meters behind the hotel
and in the next 30 km to the summit of the pass, I struggled with stones and
mud. Not to mention the 20 km descent which, on such a surface, is more tedious
than the ascent. I have to admit that the road bike is not the best choice for
this situation. But you have to suffer for elegance, my mother already said
that when she had to endure various hairdressing harassments because the
fashion of her time requested it. I came to the town of Akhaltsikhe in the
afternoon, just in time for rest and dinner. I bought bread and mayonnaise at
the market. Some mayonnaise was left in the tube and it showed to be a good
lubricant for my sore back side.
The next day I went to Vardzia. It was a pleasant
ride, slowly up and down on a - curiously enough - very smooth road along the
river Mtkvari. At the halfway to Vardzia I stopped for a breakfast, bread and
tomato salad. What an amazing delicacy it was! I don't envy Georgians the
quality of their roads or the general standard of living, but because of the
delicious salads I will consider again whether I would apply for Georgian
citizenship. I can not remember such a strong flavor of parsley even from the
times of my childhood, let alone of modern times, when we feed from
supermarkets. Even the bread is good and in Georgia it has particularly lovely
form, it looks like a big baguette, run over by a tractor.
Vardzia. Church cut into the stone.
Vardzia is a monastery beehive, hollowed and carved in
the bedrock in which in the 12th century about 500 monks meditated
in their holes. An impressive thing, especially the few 100-meter long tunnel,
which connects several floors in the interior of the mountain and in which you
get the claustrophobic panic. The entire complex is not much different from
modern homes. The logic is the same, today the residential blocks are made on
the basis of a honeycomb, just geometrically simplified. However, even this is
changing, architects look for new aesthetic solutions and in them they
unconsciously return millennia back.
Monk cells in Vardzia.
After seeing the sights I take a long rest. My mood
about this travel is changing from hot to cold and back again. Few days ago I
was moaning about the pain in the legs and cursing bad roads, but currently,
for example, it seems to me that touring around the world in such a leisure
pace would be quite enjoyable. You only don't have to be too upset and not to
fall for unreasonably high goals or performances. You should go around the
world with tolerance of the circumstances and people, grin and bear it, and
with lot of will, which is still to be learned. And in the meantime sing a
In Vardzia I stayed at a hotel, in the dormitory which
I had for myself for 4 Euros. In the morning the housekeeper was sleeping,
having locked the hotel, so I had to discover the hidden side exit and to climb
the locked fence. Due to pain in the knees I cancelled the way to Tbilisi and
took a shortcut to Armenia. Before the border I stopped in Ninotsminda, a
village which undoubtedly holds the world record for the number of pharmacies
per capita and in absolute terms it is also close to the top.
Vardzia. Monastery beehive.
Slalom between potholes has to be mastered in Georgia.