Today I took a walk in my new hometown of Kutaisi. I wanted to get to know my neighborhood – especially the things within walking distance – and I find walking is generally the best way to do this. Oh, boy did I learn a lot.
Yesterday, Tea and I took the night train from Tbilisi. We had about fourteen items of luggage, which took up most of a sleeper compartment, and we paid 15 lari extra in addition to our two sleeper tickets (ten lari each). 10 lari for a porter at Vagzlis Moedani (didn’t know they had porters, but – cool!) and 7 for a cab in Kutaisi rounded out the cost of moving across the country – all told, just over 50 lari.
The train was awesome. As TLG blogger Nathan describes, the sleeper car is fascinating and novel. It comes with mats and pillows and fresh sheets; at night it’s not very full so we got our own compartment. We watched some of West Side Story and got some sleep. The conductor was very helpful. We couldn’t see much of the countryside in the dark, but it was much more comfortable than a marshutka or bus.
During the cab ride to Tea’s apartment, I noticed an intersection that looked very familiar. It turns out I was right.
I took a walk today with the intention of seeing for myself what the walk to McDonald’s was like, and then trying to find the building where my orientation was, way back in my first week in Georgia. I live on the south side of town, a few kilometers south of Chavchacadze Avenue; after the turn onto Chav it’s only another kilometer to McDonald’s. I used the nice bathroom but didn’t buy anything – McDonald’s, yuck – and then turned around and walked back to that intersection I had seen last night. Based on some research (conducted by matching facebook pictures with Google Maps satellite imagery) I had formed an opinion of where the orientation building might be; the research was spot on, because I turned the right way, and before I knew it I was at the little khinkali restaurant where the people in my group went to get wasted and cause trouble. It was exactly how I remembered it – shabby and unwelcoming – and I crossed the road to the school. The school, oddly enough, was smaller than I remembered it.
Onward to a restaurant called Dzveli Imereti, which hasn’t changed at all in two years; it’s still picturesque and empty during the day. I’d like to go back there and recap my first Georgian restaurant meal not seen to by TLG, now that I know how to actually evaluate a Georgian restaurant; plus there are private cabin rooms which means I can go and be away from smokers.
The trip from Dzveli Imereti to my apartment cemented in my head why we have the expression “as the crow flies”. My theory was that the walk would take about fifteen minutes, given that I can actually see my apartment building from outside the restaurant. Unfortunately, I stumbled across a series of obstacles that extended the journey to nearly an hour.
First, I saw a large field with some trees in the background, and behind all that towered my apartment building. I thought that crossing the field would be easy; I followed what looked like tire tracks until it became a small walking path until the path entered a random field with cows grazing in it. I thought I could just bypass the cows – I mean, cows are basically everywhere in Georgia, right? – but then one of the cows took some interest in my progress and stepped directly into my path. I know nothing of cows – this one had short horns; does that make it a bull? – except that they are far, far bigger than I am. Okay, I also know that they are delicious, but that knowledge did not seem practical when I was trying to figure out how to get around one in a field. I mulled over my situation for a while – was this a bull? was it angry? did it know that some of my ancestors were from Spain? – and decided to find a new path. I backtracked a little and found a new sort-of path that took me between the nosy cow and another cow that was making a lot of noise.
As I skirted the tall grass, with two very large, potentially ornery creatures, one nosy, the other noisy, each no more than fifty yards away, I had the following thought:
“I don’t think cattle are known to be territorial.”
This thought, as ridiculous as it sounds, actually gave me comfort, and indeed, not one piece of livestock charged me and I was not gored or stampeded or tossed around like a rag doll.
Finally I bypassed the cow field, and then another field that was mercifully cowless, and then a row of trees…
…only to find a large fence containing a large cornfield. I followed the fence north and it dead-ended, but there was a gate that was more symbolic than anything, and at that point, my choices were to either face the cows again, see what awaited me to the south, or just cut through this farm with the shoddy gate. I elected to tresspass. I thought to myself: please don’t let there be dogs.
No sooner did I make my entrance than I caught sight of a farmhand watering some dirt with a hose; he was facing away from me and I considered calling out to ask for help, but instead I snuck past him. I passed several sheds and a bunch of farming equipment and a patch of very soft earth and finally I saw a gate and a road and some houses. I was in the clear – assuming this gate was not locked; it would be rather awkward trying to explain to the residents in my broken Georgian why I was trying to get off their property. Fortunately, as I neared the gate, it seemed to just be hanging open. What is it with these people and gates? It’s almost like they wanted me to cut across their fields.
The final stretch: a gravel yard, the sound of Georgian chatter coming from the house, a gate hanging open. Would I get caught? Would I make it out?
A dog barked. My life flashed before my eyes.
The dog was on a leash. A very short leash. No one cared that the dog was barking, and I slipped out of the gate and no one was even around to see.
I am a ninja.
The road I came out on ran north-south, and I, again, needed to go west. In front of me was another cornfield. I elected to go around this one. About a hundred yards north, I found a dirt road running east-west. I imagine this road was the road I should have taken instead of trying to cut through random fields. Well, this is why we explore; now I know, lesson learned. The dirt road was filthy and covered in puddles and reminded me of Gldani, but it went where I needed to go.
I made it home just in time for dinner: ghomi and sulguni and saperavi. Life is good.