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From Ukraine to Georgia over the Black Sea

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11 October 2015

This post is dedicated to Igor, Arwyn and Kathy. Love you guys!

Since I meet mostly English speaking people during this one year long trip of mine, I decided to write this post in English. When you travel solo as I do, you meet so many cool people. Some of them you take to your heart more than others. But either way I will remember them all. They all contribute and add flavor to my journey.

When you end up traveling together with someone, no matter how short the period, you get so much closer than you would in the same amount of time back home. I think it has to do with the fact that you are starting off on a totally blank page. You know nothing about the other person, so you therefore don’t have any preconceptions about each other.

You kind of have to trust each other because this absolute stranger is the one person you can rely on for the moment

It’s also about trust. You kind of have to trust each other because this absolute stranger is the one person you can rely on for the moment. Of course, apart from yourself, whom in the end is the only person you can truly rely on.

The most recent people that I, with pleasure, can add to my growing travel family are Igor, Arwyn and Kathy. Three people who I in the relatively short time of two weeks, have been through a lot with. There have been many interesting conversations, a lot of laughter but even some tears.

As we have traveled in two countries together, crossed the Black sea on a ferry, been on crazy bumpy marshutka rides, shared an apartment, milked a cow, drank wine, beer and chacha together with the locals (some of us ending up more shit faced than others) we have gotten really close. As Kathy put it, we are like a small dysfunctional family.

We are all very different but at the same time very much alike. Through our ups and downs I have come to like them very much and they will always have a place in my heart. Thank you Kathy, Igor and Arwyn for making my time so much more interesting!

When it comes to traveling, goodbyes are inevitable

So how did it all begin?

In the middle of August I met Arwyn and Kathy in Sarajevo as we stayed at the same hostel. We had a few great days together until I ended up leaving for Budapest and the bitter sweet goodbye had to take place. Bitter because I think it sucks to say goodbye. Sweet because there is always a chance of meeting each other again. When it comes to traveling, goodbyes are inevitable, even though I like to see them as a ”see you” instead.

They had just decided to cross the Black Sea with a ferry from Odessa to Batumi

Almost two months later, it just happened to be that Arwyn and I were in Kiev at the same time, so of course we met up. She then had plans to go to Poland and I to Moldova. But then we heard from Kathy who was in Lviv and there she had met Igor. They had just decided to go to Georgia with a ferry from Odessa. And just like that, in the spur of the moment, we both decided to join them.

Arwyn and Kathy are both Americans. Igor is from Lithuania, but Russian, he has a Lithuanian passport but has never been to Russia. That obviously makes him a little confused. But we still like him.

Anyhow, when traveling in Ukraine and Georgia, having someone in the group who speaks Russian is a huge help. Poor guy though: ”Igor what did he say?”, ”Igor, Igor!”, ”Translate”, ”Igor, what?”, ”I don’t understand!”
He has been very patient with us, even though I sometimes wonder how much he is censuring, from both sides…

One thing I love about traveling is that age is not an issue. In our little family there is an age span of 16 years, which has only made it more interesting. Interesting, by the way, being the word we have all ended up using a lot. I don’t think I can ever hear that word without thinking of you guys 🙂

With Igor’s help we somehow ended up getting on to the ferry that would take us over the Black sea to Batumi in Georgia. Georgia, the country which Arwyn likes so much, and now I do as well.

On the ferry it was basically us and a bunch of truck drivers

On the ferry it was basically us and a bunch of truck drivers. The first night we ended up in a cabin drinking vodka, eating sausage and cheese and talking about life. Our hosts were like two grandpas with very warm hearts, and they made us all feel very welcome. They were both Georgian and they gave me a hint of what was waiting for us in Georgia.

Arwyn played the panduri, a traditional Georgian instrument. She does it really well considering she hasn’t played it for very long. I’m proud of you Arwyn!

Chicka chicka chicka… haha, if you know you know. And hey, if you don’t, life goes on anyway.

The boat ride took us three days

The boat ride took us three days and we were served breakfast, lunch and dinner. The second day we woke up early and watched an amazing sunrise. And we saw dolphins.

Sunrise over the Black Sea
Sunrise over the Black Sea

In Batumi we rented an apartment. Since it was raining most of the time we spent most of our days there. The first night though, we went for dinner. We once again got to experience the lovely hospitality of the Georgian people, and were treated with home made wine and a bottle of vodka. The wine here by the way is amazingly good.

When Kathy and Arwyn went home, Igor and I stayed. We found a new friend in Gio, an older man who was somehow related to the owner I think. After finishing the first bottle of vodka a second one was brought in, plus some more food!

When you drink with Georgian people there is always a lot of toasting going on

When you drink with Georgian people there is always a lot of toasting going on, it’s as if you take turns in holding a small (or sometimes very long) speech before you drink. You don’t mix the vodka with anything and your glass is never empty. Drinking is a very social thing here.

I was pretty sure we were gonna drink Igor under the table, me being a viking 🙂 and Gio being, well, Georgian. But he was stronger than I thought, I give him that, maybe he is Russian after all.

The dinner ended up with us coming home at around 4 am. Good times.

From Batumi we took a marshutka to Tbilisi, the capital

From Batumi we took a marshutka to Tbilisi, the capital. It was a seriously bumpy 7+ hour ride. They drive like maniacs here. Totally crazy! The driver was constantly on his phone and at one point we had to take a detour through half-finished construction zones due to the rain that had destroyed parts of the road. 

I managed to bump my head on the ceiling, scratch my arm on the broken armrest, get a big bruise on my thigh, and as if that wasn’t enough I ended up being stung by a bee, very painful, I almost cried. Not.

What I saw of Batumi I immediately loved. Tbilisi is totally different given that it is the capital and all. I still felt the same love as soon as we arrived.

If you ever end up in Tbilisi, make sure you stay at Hostel Vake Garden

If you ever end up in Tbilisi, make sure you stay at Hostel Vake Garden, I promise you’ll have the best of times. Though I can’t promise you will not end up drunk with Vasili, the owner of the place. Trust me, the people in Georgia are very giving and it’s hard to say no.

The four of us went for dinner. I have a thing for Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread, kind of like pizza), it is so good and you can find it everywhere. Sometimes the menus are a bit confusing (I’ll blame it on that) and I ended up ordering something I thought was Khachapuri with meat. It wasn’t. I had totally mixed up the names and instead ordered Chakapuli, which by the way I can not recommend…

I really tried to keep a poker face when the food was brought in

I really tried to keep a poker face when the food was brought in, it was difficult, even more so when I tasted it. It was some kind of grayish soup with strange meat floating inside. I could see that Arwyn was surprised that I had ordered that. When I finally explained that I thought I had ordered Khachapuri, we all started laughing like a bunch of crazy people.

The next night Igor and I were invited to a rooftop at some fancy restaurant, the view over the city up there was just stunning. We didn’t have to pay for anything and we drank a lot.

We also managed to see a lot of the city

But let me also say that it has not all been about drinking. We also managed to see a lot of the city. For example we climbed up to the city fortress, Narikala, and enjoyed the amazing view. Yes, I do have a thing for views! I can never get enough. I think it has something to do with the feeling of freedom.

One thing she really wanted to do before she left Europe was to milk a cow

Since Kathy had her birthday about a week ago and also had to head back home we decided to give her a birthday/see you again soon present. One thing she really wanted to do before she left Europe was to milk a cow. Yes I know, kind of a weird wish to have, but that is Kathy 🙂

Early the next morning Vasili took us to a family who lived just outside Tbilisi so that she could do what needed to be done. 

After milking the cow we were invited into there home where we got to taste the milk. We were also treated with homemade yogurt and cheese. I assumed that Vasili knew this people but that was not the case. He had just driven around and randomly knocked on someone’s door and asked if we could milk their cow. Again I was blown away by the hospitality people show here.

Vasili then took us for breakfast. He ordered so much food that it was more like a big dinner. A glass of something that looked like water was put in front of me. It turned out it was vodka. Well, beer, vodka and tons of food at 10 am, why not?

Then came the day when it ones again was time to say goodbye. Kathy was flying back home and Arwyn was taking the train to Mestia. Igor and I both wanted to see Sighnaghi, so we decided to go there first and then catch a train to Mestia for some hiking. 

I felt sad to split up our little family

I felt sad to split up our little family. As I mentioned before we have very different personalities but we have all been able to cope with it and maybe even learn a thing or two about ourselves. I know I have: both things I’m proud of and also things I need to work on.

Over and out

P.S. More pictures are on the way. It’s just that wifi and I are not friends right now!

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