Monday, April 18, 2016

Roadtrip Back to Kutaisi.

Posing with my blue slipper with Mount Ushba in the background.

Today we returned to Kutaisi. But, before leaving Mestia, Salome wanted to take us to see the town's small ethnographic museum.  First, we had to say goodbye to our lovely hosts at Hotel Chubu.  They've been very friendly and accommodating.  Next, I had to say goodbye to our friendly guard dog - I did a quick run with him down the length of the chain he's tethered to.  Little did I realize my lens cap fell off during the run.  I would come back later to retrieve it.  Lastly, we had to pile our luggage into the trunk of the car.  Thankfully, Pat and I travel light so even with four people travelling, we'e been able to get everything into the trunk....with space to spare!

Hotel Chubu.  It's been nice staying here.  Very friendly family who treated us like family.

Shalva drove us the short distance to the road that leads up the hill to the museum.

Main street run through Mestia.  It's a small village.

We all started walking on the cobblestone streets. It was another lovely day in Mestia.



You can see the mountains from pretty anywhere in the village.

We had gone quite a distance up the steep hill and when I saw no end in sight, I decided I would not go further. I really didn't want to strain my left ankle. So, I told the others to go ahead without me; I would meet them back at the car.

While they went to the museum, I walked about the neighborhood and took some photos. Then it was back to the car where I sat and waited for the others to return.

It was interesting to see the neighborhood area.  The houses here are all constructed of stone and wood - very sturdy.  The place feels a bit like a European alpine village.


I got a bit obsessed with taking photos of the tower homes.










Shalva had parked our car alongside the river.  By the time I got to the car, the others had yet to return so I found a spot to sit down on and soaked in the atmosphere around me.

Sometimes, just a peek is all you need to know that something beautiful lies beyond.

On our long drive back to Zugdidi, enroute to Kutaisi, we stopped at several points for photo ops.  First stop was as we approached Mount Ushba which is easily recognizable because of its spire shaped double summit, hence its nickname - the  Matterhorn of the Caucasus.


Mount Ushba.


Since it was our last day in the mountains, I felt a special need to look up at the snowy peaks.  I don't know what it is about mountains but I definitely have an affinity for them though I have feel no need to climb them!


We stopped for one last view of the Enguri River which starts near Shkhara, and winds through the mountain valleys to the northwest before turning southwest to empty into the Black Sea.  With all the snow melt, the river was running high and hard.


Water streamed down the hillside to feed the river.

Salome enjoying a bit of sun.  The first time she's been without her jacket


Fun loving Salome.  I will never forget her shock of red hair and infectious smile.

Our guide and driver.  It's wonderful traveling with young folks - they keep you energized!

Salome is a fun loving girl but also a very serious guide.  She pretty much educates us non-stop when we're in the car!

Attempting to march like a Georgian soldier.  Pass or fail?

We had a running  joke about how Salome seemed to, at every intersection, point the way to Abkhazaia.  So, standing at this intersection, she decided to yet again....this time jokingly, show us which way to go to Abkhazia.

That-a-way to Abkhazia.  Seriously. :-)


We made it back into Zugdidi in time for a late lunch. We ate at The Host restaurant as we had done a couple of days ago.


Try parking your car like this in DC.  You'll have a ticket on your windshield in no time!

For today's lunch, Pat and I each ordered pork shashlik and shared some eggplant rolls with walnuts. The pork was overlooked and dry but flavorful and the eggplant with walnuts was well, eggplant with walnuts. Someday, I will make this at home but not for some time - I've had more than my share on this trip!

More eggplant rolls.

We arrived into Kutaisi in the late afternoon. Salome took us all on a walk through the city's bazaar.  We started with the used books section. I had received a posting from one of my Guatemala tour group members - Byron, asking me to find him a book on Almasty.  Had no clue what that was.  Leave it to Byron to know about the most obscure of things :-)


I thought this was as good a place to find such a book. I wasn't hopeful and as it turned out, I was right.  To begin with, it was a challenge to just explain to Salome what Big Foot is.  Then, she had to explain it to the vendor.  We struck out.  Sorry, Bryon!




Like so many bazaars aka markets, this one sells all sorts of goods as well as fresh produce, fruits, meat, dried goods, and cheese.  I was particularly intrigued by the bags of colored powder, in varying shades of red, that were being sold. These are for coloring Easter eggs.  Orthodox Easter Sunday falls on Sunday, May 1st this year.





The smoked meat vendor got my attention.  Hams, bacon....all things pig!



She also was a very friendly lady, handing me a rose stem from her vase.  So sweet of her.


A little bit of this, a little bit of that.  Notice how the plastic water bottles are repurposed.

Spices.

Have no idea what these veggies were.  They look like something foraged.


Beans.

Cow hearts and livers.  Not something you would see in my US supermarket which is a shame.  I love offal!

Have no clue what either of these veggies are either.  I love it when I come across something I've never seen before!

More Easter egg dye powders.

Fruits.

Cheese!

After the market, we crossed the street and took a short stroll through the city's Central Park. Pleasant place for a stroll or it just sit and watch the world go by.

Salome and Shalva.  We bonded with them quickly.  It's been like traveling with family these past few days.


Shalva, the young father, got a kick watching the kids tool around in the toy cars.


Ok.  The balloon vendors here need to take a lesson from those in Puebla, Mexico.

Here's how they do it in Puebla!! :-)

Our walk through the park led us back out to a lovely fountain that we had driven past two days ago. Today, we got to get a closer look at it. The fountain  stands in the middle of a very busy roundabout.  None of us was in the mood to fight the traffic to get over so I just took a couple of photos from where were standing.

This is the Colchis fountain, created by David Gogichaishvili in 2011.  The fountain has 30 gold plated statues of animals that are copies of those found during archaeological excavations of the ancient kingdom of Colchis that was established on the shores of the Black around the 13th century BC.


The center pair of horses are a large scale reproduction of Colchis earrings (circa 400 BC) that are on display at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.


On our walk, we also passed by some kiosks that Pat and I had noticed several off in Tbilisi. According to Salome, these kiosks are like general payment kiosks. You can use them to pay your bills, extend time on your cellphone and in the case of the one we passed today, even have a Skype session! They can be found EVERYWHERE and to me, they are incredibly useful.

Salome at the Pay Box topping off her phone card.

We made it back to the Argo Palace Hotel by early evening.  There was hubbub of activity taking place at the hotel when we walked in.  There were new chairs and side tables stacked up everywhere and men scurrying around moving it.  The hotel was getting ready for tourist season.

This time, Pat and I asked for and got a room on the 2nd floor so we didn't have to climb up so many stairs.  As Pat and I made our way to our room, we crossed paths with a Chinese man.  A Chinese man in Kutaisi?  Well, that most certainly caught my attention.  It was obvious he was involved with getting the new furniture in place but I was curious how he ended up in Georgia.  So, as he neared me, I stopped to ask him that exact question.  Turns out he lives here and either owns and or runs a furniture manufacturing business that supplies furniture to hotels.  He moved from China several years back to do this.  Chinese.  They're everywhere these days.  Even in the small Georgian city of Kutaisi. :-)

Dinner was at 7p and as always, the table was set out with more food than 4 people could be reasonably expected to eat unless you were four giants!

Sharing a good laugh over dinner.

After dinner, it was a quick shower before relaxing and going to sleep. Tomorrow, we are continuing our journey back to Tbilisi. I cannot believe that our time in Georgia is quickly coming to and end. I feel like I've just arrived!

Goodnight from Kutaisi!