Dateline: Gori, Georgia—15 Mar. 2017
(Note: I'm writing this the following morning. I was too tired to write last evening.)
I woke up to another slow drizzle this morning. It may have rained most of the night, as the puddles were much bigger. I did most of my packing the night before. Upon waking up, it was just a matter of getting dressed and loading my cubes into the pack. Having spent four nights in the same room I had spread out my stuff a bit more than usual, but the cubes have earned their keep.
I was up at 6:30 a.m. and out of the room a bit after seven. The main door to the hotel was locked, and I had to knock on the manager's door to get him to let me out. I had planned to walk to the train station, but with the rain I decided to look for a taxi. The corner close to the hotel usually has one or two hanging out waiting for fares. But it was too early and wet for the locals.
After crossing the street, I found a cab just past the gas station. He didn't speak much English, and I didn't know how to say train station in either Russian or Georgian. So I just pointed across the bridge and repeated "station" at few times. We agreed on a price of 2 GEL and I hopped in. Once over the bridge and approaching the roundabout, he started to veer left, and made some screeching noises and wildly pointed at the train station to the right. He understood and took me right to the door. It was worth the two Lari, since I hadn't put on my rain shell before leaving the hotel and the rain was a bit heavier than I expected.
I was also one of the first passengers at the station. Being early is better than late, as I found out in Kutaisi.
As we boarded, the usual lack of any sort of line or queue came into play and I fell in with the crowd near the train car door. I did step away from the group when I saw the conductors checking ID. In Tbilisi there was no ID check when getting on the train. I guess in Poti, they want to make sure the name on the ticket matches. So I fished out my passport, and was able to board the train.
Once on board I found out how the trains signal the upcoming stations. There are TV monitors hanging from the ceiling, and they show a map of where the train is, along with the upcoming station.
On the train from Tbilisi to Kutaisi, our little compartment had a screen but it was blank. I guess since the train car on the Kutaisi run gets transferred to a new locomotive at the Rioni station everyone in that car goes to Kutaisi. The regular cars are the ones that will take on or let off passengers at the intermediate stops.
This time I had the window seat and didn't have to trade.
The ride was pleasant in the nice car, and the heater vents are where the bulkhead meets the floor—right near my feet. From the TV screen I was able to see the upcoming stations and learn the word for train station, სადგური. I did manage to sneak in a short nap, because once the train started the long climb over the central mountain range it was a smooth ride with no stops.
As we approached Gori I gathered my stuff and headed to the nearest door. From seeing how the other stops worked, I knew the train would be pulling away as soon as I had both feet on the ground. The entire process is without ceremony. The train pulls into a station, and if you're not ready to exit, you're not getting off. The conductor opened the door and held out a red flag letting the engineer know to hold up for a minute. I got off and the train was moving again before I even turned around. It's very much a self-service operation.
I took a seat in the Gori station and called the place where I'd be staying. That was mostly a waste of a call. Between the overall crappiness of my Chinese card phone and a lack of understanding, I didn't accomplish much other than letting the host know I was at the house. Which I wasn't, but that's what I think he got out of it.
On the map it didn't look like that far of a walk so I set out.
In the wrong direction.
After realizing my mistake, I went back to the station to reorient myself. South of the Gori station is a little pocket of town that's grown around it. It's cut off from the rest of the town by the river and train tracks. Overall, it seems like a nice quiet area with a minimum of traffic.
But I needed to get over the river into the main part of Gori.
From the map I saw a small line indicating a footpath that led to a bridge. I also saw an old man with a sack of groceries heading that direction. When in doubt, follow the locals.
I found the stairs to the bridge just west of the station. I could've walked directly there without taking a detour through the streets surrounding the station. Live and learn, all the while making sure you're reading the map correctly.
Once over the tracks and river, I saw the main road that runs through Gori, Stalin Avenue. It's also a full four lanes. Something I haven't seen since I left Tbilisi.
Walking north, I eventually came upon Stalin Park and knew I was close to where I was staying. I picked this particular booking as it was just a tad north of the Stalin Museum, and would minimize the walking I'd have to do in town.
Once I made it to the north end of the park and turned the corner, a car pulled up. It was my host. He had been looking for me since he realized I was at the station and not the house. That's twice on this trip that happened. I guess the pale blonde with a backpack is an easy spot on the streets of a Georgian town.
I was about a half-block away, but I was happy for the ride. On the walk there, the blisters that I thought were well behaved decided to get angry again.
The rest of the evening consisted of me gimping my way to the corner store for dinner, and cursing the bedsheets for rubbing at my feet as I tried to find a position that was both comfortable and didn't rub on a blister.
The bed though, was wonderful. It was the softest mattress I've slept on yet. I also turned in early, as the rain in Poti followed me to Gori. My rain shell came in handy during the search for dinner, but my pants were a little damp. This left me feeling a little chill, so I turned in early. The last thing I want for my final week here is a cold.
After a quick FaceTime home, I was out like a light.
I'll go see the Stalin Museum and then see if I can find some insoles for my boots. Other than that, I'll see what my feet can take and plan accordingly.
Use the MVW Travel tag to see all the posts in this series.