Through the Green
28 June, 2012
Through the Green

A bike Travel trough Beautiful Georgia

Annika  Wachter

(Co-founder of the social project Tasting Travels. Currently she is traveling the world by bike)

So there we were at the border, willing to cross from Turkey towards Georgia. Roberto, my Mexican partner unpacked the passports that were stored safely somewhere in the bike panniers. It was a rainy day and there was not too much traffic. I must admit that I did not know a lot about the country and its people. I

thought about Georgia as a small country full of mountains and Soviet buildings. Entering the futuristic border checkpoint I learned that I was mistaken. Everything seemed to be new and very modern. The knobbly building was finished in January 2011 by J. Mayer H and since then welcomes visitors to Georgia, representing the progressive upsurge of the country. I was impressed – not for the first time on this day. 

 

We were allowed to cycle through the building and came out to the road. Our first impression was a very good one: it was green. Cycling the entire country, we followed clear water rivers, passed wetlands and fields, were surrounded by green hills and by rich green forests. The air smelled like cut grass, green ponds and flowers. Bugs and birds hummed, children laughed and calves lowed for their mothers. It was easy to find some beautiful spots to pitch the tent for a night.

In Batumi we visited the Botanical Garden which, situated in a semi-tropical climate, was full of trees that I had never seen in my life. There were palm trees growing next to needle trees and I was especially impressed by the giant Eucalyptus trees and roses. Walking from the Himalayan to the Mexican section, we ran into some young men who were having a picnic in a resting space. They invited us to join them and before we even knew we held each a glass of beer in the one and a glass of vodka in the other hand. The toastmaster kept rising his glass and so did the rest of us. “I am tonight’s Tamada”, he explained to us “and I am the one responsible for the toasts.”

He made all the men stand up, raised his glass, watched over to me and drank a toast to the women. I felt very touched. We drank to guests, hosts, being together and making friends. When we got up to cycle back to Batumi, we felt pretty tipsy.

What I needed now was some heavy food. The Ajara Khachapuri was just perfect. We shared a big one and felt much better immediately. For that moment I just forgot about the enormous amount of calories that I have eaten and just enjoyed the taste.

Cycling around the flat parts of the country was easy. But every now and then we had to avoid some cows that did not care for the traffic. We stopped several times at fruit stands and small stores on the way. When we filled our water bottles and bought food, some people came closer. Usually the children were the first ones to come over and talk to us. Some of them came for their own curiosity, others because their grandparents sent them to find out who we are.

When we cycled into Kutaisi, the first thing I saw were large and grey Soviet buildings. I was a little disappointed but it did not take long until we arrived to the center. All the modern buildings overawed me. Our friend Archili explained: “Every couple of days you can see an opening ceremony of a newly constructed or renovated building here. Just look at this”, he pointed towards the golden fountain in the middle of a roundabout, “this square has just been restored in May.”

We kept cycling and were just climbing a large hill when a car stopped and a man came running towards us. “Welcome to Georgia!” he said, smiled and handed me a giant basket of strawberries. I was completely taken aback, took the basket and grinned stupidly. “Thank you” I answered, too baffled to think about anything else to say. The man was in a big hurry and ran back to his car soon after. So there we stood, in the middle of six other fruit stands on the street with a basket that could feed us for a week.

We made friends quickly. We shared strawberries with the family who allowed us to camp on their field for a night. The children were curious and when Roberto joined their football match, they all wanted to be in his team.

The Georgians that we met on the way, have always been very helpful. They asked if we were lost, needed help or ran out of water in the heat. Even a police car stopped us just to ask if we were alright.

When we asked for a place to camp, a woman was eager to help us but she did not know any English, Spanish or German. She smiled while she got angry with herself: “All these years they taught me Russian at school and now I finally get to meet some tourists and they do not speak it!” Her daughters Nino and Maria spoke English and showed us the village’s football field, where we camped for a night.

After several days of cycling on main roads we decided to get to know the countryside and move to a side road. We enjoyed some kilometers of good pavement, no traffic, no blowing horns and thousands of colorful flowers to both sides of the way. Asking for the way to Gori we were sent back to the main road – just in time! This was where the freeway towards Tbilisi started. The last 80 kilometers we cycled in high speed. There was a big shoulder just for ourselves and we did not have to avoid cows, pigs, chicken and pedestrians anymore.

We spent nearly two weeks getting to know the capital city. We watched the Georgian Rugby team Lelos win against Ukraine, ate kilos of Khinkali (Roberto still looses half his juice but I learned to eat them), bought bicycle parts at the Dry Bridge market and still we did not see all that we wanted to in this beautiful country. But we have made many friends along the way. Both are good reasons to come and visit Georgia again.

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