The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.

I’ve been sick for more than a couple weeks now. Not terribly sick, just a cough, mildly soar throat and runny nose, and the occasional minor headache. Pretty annoying, and my “red eye” flight to Tbilisi didn’t exactly help. I left at 9:45pm, had to change in Riga, and arrived in Tbilisi at 4:25am which included a 2-hour time zone change. Not exactly a good night’s sleep, and then I was too early to check in (even after waiting at the airport until 9am) so I had to leave my bag and wander around the streets of Tbilisi for a few hours.

So I wandered and wandered. They’ve been doing a lot of cool building renovation and space-age construction in the main part of the city here, I suspect to try to attract tourists and put Tbilisi on the map internationally. So I resent that a little bit, especially because buildings and homes are literally in ruins on side-streets from the main road and one block away (and in some cases, just on the main road). Not a strategy I really like when the people are poor and the homes are falling apart, but it’s a risk for long-term economic benefits I suppose.

There are a lot of old men just wandering and loitering around. Kind of like Greece. I find it weird. What are they doing? If you’re unemployed or bored, sit at home like normal people. I find it unnerving. It’s just poorer in general than I thought it would be – much more comparable to a large city in Central America or the Balkans than the Baltics (not sure why I would think differently).

Everyone smokes here, and cigarettes are less than $2/pack. Yuck.

That said, it has grown on my the last couple weeks. Here are some pictures of things, starting with the Peace Bridge.

It's a bridge for space
What is this, space?
Cool bridge in Tbilisi
I guess it makes me feel peaceful
Mtkvari River in tbilisi
Mtkvari River in tbilisi

One weekend I was wandering around and stumbled upon this Cheese festival. They love their cheese here. And bread. I’ve eaten my fair share of Khachapuri, which is just cheese baked into bread. It’s pretty delicious, and as unhealthy as it sounds.

Public festival in Georgia
Cheese festival in Georgia

As is always the case, my journey begins with a search for coffee shops. Coffeesta is a great choice to start with:

Coffeesta Cafe
Pretty legit cafe with coffee and fancy croissants

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – This is my late night choice since it’s open until 11 and they are right across from my hostel. They also let me eat an orange from their counter, even though they are purely decorative. It was the first fruit I’d had in like a week, so I’ll be forever grateful.

Book Corner Cafe – A cool dimly-lit interior with coffee and food. I only went here once, but it probably deserves a second visit.

Not sure if you’ve heard of it before, but there’s a lovely Dunkin’ Donuts here. Even some table space to work. The best part is they still use the “America Runs on Dunkin” tagline here.

Georgia runs on cigarette smoke
Georgia runs on cigarette smoke

So there are enough coffee places to fill the day. They have a McDonald’s and it looks awesome… probably challenges the one in Antigua for the coolest looking McDonald’s. But it’s always busy, so I actually haven’t been to “the embassy” once yet.

McDonald's in Tbilisi
You’re lovin’ it, as long as “it” isn’t breakfast

The reason I initially hated Tbilisi, which I still think is fair, is none of these places serve breakfast. Not even McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts. They just don’t eat breakfast here. What kind of civilization is this?

Ok, back to wandering around the city. There’s an overlook over the old town area, so I started there.

View of Tbilisi
View of Tbilisi from the Narikala Fortress
Kartlis Deda
Lady with a sword
Narikala Fortress
This is the Narikala Fortress. I assume Narikala was someone without much worth protecting.
View of Tbilisi
The panorama feature makes the shuttle look like a magical cocoon
View of Tbilisi
Old Town Tbilisi and the dirty river
View of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress
Narikala Fortress cathedral and some Tbilisi
Narikala Fortress
Another fortress  pic guess
Weird Bike in Tbilisi
Ironically the only bike I’ve seen in Tbilisi

After a couple nights in a guesthouse and a couple nights in a hostel, I wasn’t getting any better so I decided to grab my own space. I stayed in a small AirBnb for about 10 days, wherever I (slowly) recuperated. It was lovely though, full kitchen, bedroom, wifi, living room with TV, all for $16/night.

I had to walk up a hill to get there though, and this was the view walking down to the town area.

Juxtaposition in Tbilisi
Old vs New in Tbilisi

One weekend I walked up to Turtle Lake. It looks a little “meh” this time of year with the water levels down and a lot of the summer activity gone, but it’s still a nice little area to escape. There were a few people running around it too, which is the first exercise I had seen here. But there were lots of fall colors and crunchy leaves, so that was nice.

View from Turtle Lake (Kus Tba)
View of Tbilisi from Turtle Lake
Turtle Lake in Tbilisi
As you would expect, I didn’t see a single turtle
View from Turtle Lake (Kus Tba)
More nature and city or whatever from Turtle Lake

The National Museum of Georgia had a few different parts in it. One was a bunch of skulls from prehistoric humans, since this was the region people went to first after leaving Africa.

Another room was the Treasury, displaying a lot of really old gold and silver coins, since mining that was a thing here too.

Lastly, the top floor included the museum of soviet occupation. From 1921-1991 or so I believe, covering all the uprising, fighting, and oppression from that time. Pretty interesting. Also interesting how you could just wander around and no one else was up there.

Museum of Soviet Occupation
More like museum with no occupation

Finally feeling better, I decided it was time to get out of this smog-filled city and see some of the countryside this place is supposed to be famous for. It’s a little more difficult to find transportation since it’s not the main tourism season, but I made it work.

My taxi driver made me stop and take these two pictures because he really liked it I guess.

Random Field
They don’t really have trees, but they have mountains and grey skies
Random Field
They should plant something there

I was dropped off at the lovely village of Udabno. Which is just a bunch of homes dropped in the middle of nowhere, for no apparent reason. It had a kind of post-apocalyptic look to it, like how I imagine parts of The Road being. Yes, there are just pigs and cows and sheep and chickens just sort of wandering around the town.

Random Pig
These were actually cute ones. Most of them were giant, ugly pigs.
Empty Building in Udabno
This huge empty buildings are just hay storage

The actual hostel was actually really cool in a hippie sort of way. I got a “cottage” to myself, which is essentially a bedroom and a bathroom overlooking the nothingness, along with free breakfast for $16/night. The food was delicious and the owner was very nice.

The next morning I started the 12km walk to David Gareja monastery that is the “thing to see” out near this town.

Road from Udabno
A weird kind of scenic road
David Gareja monastery
Some more grassy mountain countryside

About 7km into the trek, a group picked me up that was headed to the monastery, which was nice of them. Here was the actual monastery.

David Gareja monastery
Monks are hidden in the rooms
David Gareja monastery
Pros: Nice view. Cons: You’re a monk.
David Gareja monastery
A chapel and a square guy
David Gareja monastery
It took a while to get here so I felt compelled to take extra pictures

But after that long walk, there really wasn’t much inside the monastery. I mean, it was cool, but exploring it took all of about 20 minutes, and it was supposed to talk 2-3 hours. But we found a hiking trail and took it around.

David Gareja monastery
Monastery from a bit higher
View from the Clouds
Getting up in the mists
Hiking up David Gareja
Beautiful view from the top. Thanks, fog

We walked on the path on the other side of the mountain, and according to my GPS we were officially in Azerbaijan. So technically I’ve been in that country too. This was soft of confirmed by the Georgian Border Guards we met hanging out by this cave in camouflage and guns. Technically they said it was a “neutral zone” so they didn’t shoot us.

Art walls close to Azerbaijan
Art walls close to Azerbaijan

The group I met was actually stopping at my hostel/guesthouse for dinner, so rather than stay another night and try to make my way back in the morning, I decided just to jump in their van and go back to Tbilisi (much easier than hitchhiking, then taxi, then marshrutka, then Metro). They were from the Czech Republic and a couple of them spoke pretty good English, so it was pleasant enough.

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