Pick a place to go to on your holiday and bravely fly there on your own. This is my 2 cents advise for the ageing single populace who are too bored and can’t help but feel stuck in a cubicle of dreams and a life unlived.
Get out there, pick a destination, book a flight and discover a world of possibilities and learn from it, really learn and be all geeky about your destination. I cannot stress research enough. We have the internet at our disposal so use it or be all ignorant and get yourself mugged in a city where people speak zero English. Goodluck on finding your hotel, kiddo. Well, everything is easier now, we have Trip Advisor.
A few years ago I had an idle time of my life that I set out on a journey to discovering an entirely new country called Georgia. If you ask me, the geographically challenged mutt, I would probably be wondering if Georgia is in the States but lo and behold this country is in Eastern Europe just below Russia and shares borders with Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran which to me gives a taste of what Georgia has to offer with it’s Europe meets Asia, diversity on steroids feel. I was right on all counts after a brief 5 day visit and flew back to visit again after 2 years and planning to go again this year. It was diversity on steroids like reading the brief history of the world through it’s museums, caves, monasteries, churches and just adoring the mere features of a typical Georgian. You will never be able to place their accent nor their nationality just by looking at them.
Flying budget air via Fly Dubai and landing in a very quiet Tbilisi Airport and exchanging currencies on a window with a sleepy middle aged man already gave me an impression of a sleepy laid back Georgia but they have an open feel towards tourists. I did not get the special treatment but everyone seems open like a hundredfold of Filipinos have visited this man’s counter before and the same is true for the immigration officer who eyed me and ask how long do I plan to stay and stamped my passport easy breezy.
I opted to discover Georgia on a budget that I booked an old rustic historical looking ancestral hostel called Tiflis Lux in the central spot in Rustaveli, just near McDonald’s where I often get my meals. The Hostel not only helped me in my lodging but they also picked me up at the airport and toured me on a fee. The hostel was a good size that it’s occupants did not get through my nerves as we rarely see each other with our own busy itineraries except for one occasion when I had a short debate with this Italian tourist about where the shroud of Turin is kept. Wiki has led me to believe that the seamless robe that Jesus wore before crucifixion is kept in a Cathedral somewhere in Georgia. This was a tunic and should not be mistaken to the shroud of Turin which is kept in Italy. No one won the debate as we are both ignorant to this trivial subject and I sped off doing my city tour solo.
Rustaveli is central that it’s easy to hail a cab and be out and about in no less than 10 minutes along Freedom Square to walk through museums after museums of the deep historical great finds of Georgia and their contemporary artists depicting life under the Soviet occupation. Its like sinking deep to what it’s like living the oppressed nation of Russia but at the same time looking at their finds and historical artifacts with a sense of awe and wonder. Does Greek mythology have a historical significance? Is the Golden Fleece really in Georgia? It’s a clever way to use mysticism, meld it with history and promote a culture steeped in religion as a way of life.
I found my way through Holy Trinity Cathedral after painstakingly explaining as best broken english as I could which Church I want to visit. What better way to describe Holy Trinity by doing a sign of the cross to the unsuspecting cabbie. For a while I thought I would have to find a translator but thank God he understood where I want him to take me.
Holy Trinity Cathedral is huge and grand, reminiscent to the old Byzantine Cathedrals of the 14th Century. Its endless flight of stairs begging you to compliment its architect for a historically sound, true to its purpose construction of a traditional Georgian Cathedral which was only built in 2004. The view is breathtaking; the hilly expanse of Tbilisi giving you a sneak peek of more things to see as you venture outside its rugged zigzag roads to Kutaisi, to Mtskheta, Kaszbegi and to whichever world you wish to see for now.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
A couple of kilometers away you will find Narikala Fortress via a short cable car ride to see Mother Georgia standing tall and proud like a Greek God boasting its stature for the world to see. I was terrified on my way up and my fear of heights really did not help once I am up there walking around the 1500 meter trail on top of the ridge where mother Georgia stands.
Georgia in July is hot and humid and I found myself hiding in the shade at the foot of Mother Georgia after exchanging my impressions of Tbilisi to an elderly Aussi gentleman who happens to teach and advises Filipino exchange students at his Uni. It was the first time on this trip that I get to speak English and to converse with someone freely that I felt a tinge of sepanx when we parted ways.
The next day I joined my Ukrainian and French Hostelmates to go up the zigzag mountains of Kutaisi to visit Gelati Monastery and Prometheus Cave. It was a 2 hour long ride or it could be shorter but it was gruelling for my sickly-short built. I had a migraine attack on my way back to the city but thanks to my Ukrainian hostelmate, she gave me meds to lull off my screaming brain.
Gelati Monastery is like an old museum of religious artifacts to which a great dig to find clay pots is exposed for tourists to see. No one speaks English and I did not dare ask what it’s for so I went my own way to take pictures and drink through the spring water of the monastery.
On our way down and through the small zigzag roads leading to the Prometheus Cave, our driver almost got us lost but we found the huge gate to the Cave, got our tickets and booked a Guide but unfortunately he only speaks Russian. Thank God Ms. Ukraine can speak both English (for me) and French (for her companion) so I went through the maze of the cave feeling lost in translation but English thrown here and there saved me from getting sidestepped from enjoying the grand shopping mall of a cave this Prometheus Cave is. That cave was huge, so huge it took a long time to finish the tour with a boat ride out of the cave and me almost hitting my head on it’s pointy rocky interior. Thanks to Ms. Ukraine who pushed my head down avoiding an unpleasant head injury for not understanding the Russian Guide when he signaled all of us to dock down while the boat exits the mouth of the cave via its small opening.
Georgia is like a dream, a pleasant one at that and it’s not lacking in expletives and wild imaginings of a child caught in a journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth-esque experience to describe this trip. It was a 5 day trip that seemed forever, not because it was a bore and I did not do anything special but i have done so much at a small space of time and I did not travel as far as two hours from Tbilisi to experience history dating from prehistory, middleages and beyond and I even had an extra day to find souvenirs and get lost at a Chinese Restaurant serving Vermicelli with Spinach and a Japanese Restaurant to get fed rice.
I did came back after a few years and see myself going back for more this year.
See you soon, Georgia!