MVW Travels: Day 04, Northeast Tbilisi

Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia—03 Mar. 2017

Today was all about getting settled into a place for the weekend. And more sleep. Lots more. I’ve also learned that some streets just don’t have names and that’s okay.

Up and out

Nana, my host, had today off work as it was Mother’s Day. Here it’s an actual holiday, not just a greeting card sales promotion event. Most retail businesses I saw were still open. I guess those who don’t work in customer facing jobs get the benefit. A retail job is a retail job, no matter it may be.

I woke up around 7:00 AM, ahead of my alarm. I slept soundly. It was better than at the Marriott only because I got more of it. Once up, Nana offered some berry preserves and local cheese. The cheese was white and mildly salty and very tasty. I also learned the internet was still out. Because of this I was offered a discount on the price, and after a polite refusal and rebuttal I paid the lower price. She had errands to run and after I packed up, we walked to the nearest main street where she pointed me at a cafe with wifi.

Now I needed to find a place to stay for the weekend.

A quick tutorial

  1. Enter reservation dates
  2. Sort the results by lowest price
  3. Book the cheapest
  4. Figure out where to go next

In the cafe, I had a tea and fruit cup with a side order of wifi. I used the time to catch up on delete a bunch of emails and follow the above instruction to find a place for the weekend.

One thing I’ve noticed is that cheaper properties tend towards missing some of the things that a more picky traveler might want. Like a (partially) English-speaking host. Or a heated bedroom.

The place Homestay On Gabashvili 43 was located a bit south of the northernmost metro station, Akhmeteli Theatre, otherwise known as “end of the line.” I decided it was walkable and headed out of the cafe.

A more pleasant Metro ride

Since it was a holiday, the metro was considerably less crowded than yesterday. I had put 5 GEL on my card, and 2 went towards the card purchase, and 2 for the previous ride. I had a pocket full of one Lari coins, so went to the booth and handed over my card and coin, to top it up enough to get a ride. I’ve decided not to preload the card, as it’s just as easy to load before riding. This way I’ll avoid having fares left over.

I was also expecting the escalator ride. Whoever designed the Tbilisi Metro wanted to make sure it was deep enough to avoid something. I’m not sure, but it might be deep enough to waken the sleepers.

This time the train popped out of the ground for a few stations just as a tease before diving back into the deeps of the last station. Once there I exited with my time-proven strategy of following the largest crowd. The metro exit emptied into a sunken plaza crowded with street vendors. The crowd was pushing towards a entrance of the under-street tunnels. I followed.

Northeast Tbilisi

From the map I knew there should be a large roundabout

nearby. Once at street level I saw it off to my right. I had the good fortune to exit the tunnel on correct side of the street to continue my journey.

I double checked the map to be sure and started walking southeast on Gobronidze Street. From yesterday I guessed a few of the streets would be unmarked, so I counted off five and continued walking.

Which was a mistake.

One of the streets was marked on the map as being a “Y” where it connects to Gobronidze St. It wasn’t. It was just a very wide side street that got drawn with two legs. I didn’t realize at the time I had an off-by-one error in my plan.

While walking I started to have second thoughts about bringing my heavy insulated boots as my footwear. But every time I stepped on uneven pavement while wearing my pack, I decided they’re worth keeping.

Also, if there are two paving stones laid level to each other in Tbilisi, I haven’t found them yet.

As I walked, what pavement there was ended. There might have been a sidewalk at one time. Now it was just a dirt track. I continued on and ran across a few stray dogs. There were a few puppies along with the mother.

Stray dog family.

Around Freedom Square I saw a few loose dogs, but they seemed to be on the way somewhere. These were just hanging out in a vacant lot which I’m guessing is their home.

Back and forth

I eventually reached what looked like a busier side street. It was unmarked on the map and in reality. The store on the corner wasn’t listed on the map, but I was using the Gulf Oil station on the other side of Gobronidze Street for reference. I was past it by what seemed the right amount, but my count was only at four.

So I back tracked up to the previous street and confirmed that it matched the map as being a dead end. I went back to the store corner and double check the map, and the arrow jumped around a bit, but it seemed close enough be worth a try. It was then I realized my count was off, and became confident I was where I needed to turn. But not before a quick stop at the store.

I needed to buy some universal currency.

After some pointing and gesturing, I left 4 GEL lighter with a pack of Marlboro Black & Golds.

As I walked down the side street, I got several curious looks from the locals. Including one old man who seemed determined to flood out his engine as he was attempting to start his car. He passed me a bit later. I guess that’s just the way that car likes to start.

Upon reaching what I hoped was the right street, I found the holy grail of navigation: a street sign. And it was in both English and Georgian.

I was in the right place. Now I needed to see which way to go. I could’ve checked the map, but I heard voices from the corner house. A quick peek over the fence and a greeting of “გამარჯობა” (hello) I got the attention of an old man. I showed him my the address I had written down before leaving the cafe.

Not much communications happened, but he when into the house to get someone that spoke a little English. After he came back out, I offered him some universal currency while we waited. He insisted I join him and offered up his lit match.

So we smoked. I quit smoking a few years back, but have been known to start up when traveling. Sometimes it’s just the polite thing to do.

After a few minutes, a woman came out. She was still wearing her dish gloves and we confirmed that I was on the right street and close. I was looking for 43 and we were at 45. The part about “which way do I go next” was lost in translation.

I had the name “Alexander” from a message from the property, but the original was written in Russian. Google Translate had flipped the gender, and I was actually looking for Alexandra. Once that was sorted out, it was a matter of “Oh, yeah, just over there!”

The old man walked me two houses south to a large aqua-colored gate with the bit red numbers “43” painted on them. Alexandra was waiting out front. I guess the first house had called her.

I also quickly found out I was the only English speaking persons in the house.

Settling in

During my walk the sun was peeking trough the clouds. It was enough for me to break into a sweat. Once I tossed my pack on the bed, I zipped the legs off my pants and joined my host on the patio. We smoked and tried to talk. I did find out she was Belarusian and not Russian. Progress.

The next order of business was to type up the notes from the day before. I had put off writing to sleep, and wanted to catch up. After a about a half hour, I was offered a meal. In accordance with my shut up and eat policy, I dug into a bowl of potato soup with a chicken leg in the middle. Then she sat down a plate of eggs with cheese on a bed of fried onions.

I couldn’t finish all of the potatoes, but the rest was demolished. Went back to writing, and starting getting cold. The thin airline slippers don’t have much insulation and the cold of the floor quickly seeped through. I might have been shivering without noticing as Alexandra draped a bathrobe over me. I went and got the fingerless typing gloves I brought and carried on.

The internet connection is a mobile phone hotspot, and after connecting I uploaded the 03 report. I made a few more notes and crawled into bed around 4:00 PM. Mostly to just get warm.

It worked.

Not long after, a knock on the door brought fig preserves and a hot tea. When I finished I translated a thank you note, and ventured out to show Alexandra. Who was nowhere to be found. Instead of waiting, I attempted to copy the Cyrillic on to paper so I could leave the note with the dishes. I think a Russian kindergartener might have better handwriting than me. But I think was readable. Then I went back to bed.

Around 2:00 AM my bladder woke me up. Since it was also afternoon back home, I check in and began to write this article.

It’s now 4:30 AM as I finish, and after uploading, I plan to sleep until my bladder says, “no more” again.

MVW updates

The iPad is still plugging along. I didn’t need to charge it until last night. Bringing the folding keyboard is one of the best decisions I made. There’s no way I could do this amount of writing with the on-screen keyboard. With limited internet, I’ve gained a new appreciation for my newsfeed reader. I can keep up with the news I normally pay attention to, but don’t need a full-time connection to do the reading.

What's next?

Now that I’m caught up on my trip reports, I just might spend Saturday laying around. A trip to the market might also happen. I’d like to get some fruit to have, and maybe a few eggs to make an omelette of my own.

It also looks like a storm might be moving in. So if I don’t go out, I’ll take the time to record some of my impression of the various things I’ve seen (and smelled) so far.

Use the MVW Travel tag to see all the posts in this series.