Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kutaisi: Brains and Snafu

Go here for Kutaisi: This Wasn't in the Brochures!
Go here for Kutaisi: Walking Down to Town

Let me just shoot straight for the cool part of this story: I had brains for lunch!

Kutaisi, Georgia - Brains

They were bubbling brains. How'd they taste? Not bad. Kinda good. Slightly crispy on the bottom.

Sandy had the tolma, which is the Georgian version of Greek dolmades.

We both had beer, as we were at a Mirzaani brewery chain restaurant/tavern.   

Kutaisi - Beer at Mirzaani

 Here's a look at the menu:

I was tempted by the hen entrails. No, that's a lie.

We tasted the mushroom and potato khinkali. We both loved the mushroom khinkali.  (Between you and me, I've had my fill of meat khinkali.)

Before we went to Mirzaani, we went to the tourist office to inquire about the caves. Ah. They probably won't be open til March or April. Yes, maybe April. This is the snafu part of the title. Part 1 of the snafu part.

We asked the tourist official what under-valued thing there is to see in or around Kutaisi, you know, the places she wishes tourists would go see, but don't know about. Her response: There's nothing to see in Kutaisi except the caves, the Gelati monastery, Motsameti Church, and the Bagrati cathedral. Sandy and I stood and blinked at her.

We planned to go to Gelati Monastery and Motsameti Church the next morning, as that'd be the best time to catch a marshrutka both ways, saving serious taxi fare. So we explored the town center.

Though the new part of Kutaisi is pretty dismal, old town is very pretty.

Kutaisi, Georgia - blueberrish berries

Kutaisi, Georgia - Old town

Kutaisi, Georgia - City center park

Kutaisi, Georgia - City center park

Kutaisi, Georgia - Opera House

Kutaisi, Georgia - Opera House

Kutaisi, Georgia - Opera House

Kutaisi, Georgia - pedestrian walkway

Kutaisi, Georgia -  Radium Building interior

Kutaisi, Georgia - Radium Building exterior

Kutaisi, Georgia

Kutaisi, Georgia

We scouted the location where to pick up our marshrutka the next morning for Gelati Monastery, then caught a taxi back to Giorgi's.

.... and got up Sunday morning to .... what the hell?!

Kutaisi - Giorgi's guest house from balcony

Kutaisi - Giorgi;s guest house view from balcony

Snow!!! Gah!!!!!

We loaded our gear onto our backs and began the walk down the bluff. That's Sandy hunkering down against the snowfall.

Kutaisi, Georgia - Chanchibadze Street

We came to the bottom of the steps next to the Rioni River.

Kutaisi, Georgia

We walked (and slipped and slid) to the marshrutka station only to be told that, no, there won't be any marshrutkas going up to Gelati Monastery due to the snow. Being flexible individuals, we turned to each other, shrugged, and said "let's go get breakfast!"

No sooner did we turn to walk up the street than we saw a marshrutka appear, stop, and from nowhere, a clutch of women prepare to board same. Wah? Not being that flexible, we decided to skip culture and stick with the breakfast instead. So ended Snafu, Part 2.

But it was too early in the morning to find breakfast in old town, even with the assistance of a police officer. (Yes, a police officer escorted us to various businesses in the hopes of finding one open.) So we again pulled out some flexibility and decide to go to McDonald's and then get on a marshrutka back home, me to Rustavi and Sandy to Gori. We slid over to another street to get a marshrutka, asking before boarding: "McDonald's"? The driver and his companions looked a little perplexed, but indicated to us to board, which we did, and the marshrutka took off. When it passed the turn-off, we knew something was awry, so began an attempt at communicating "McDonalds," "McDonalds," and "McDonalds," in various tempos, intonations, and levels of loudness that all humans endeavor to employ with the magical thinking that somehow such will result in understanding by the opposite party.

When this, of course, did not work, I mimed the act of taking a bite out of a burger, which elicited the immediate clarification and correct Georgian word for same: MACdonalds!

Oh, right. We had been saying mcDONalds. No wonder they didn't understand.

With cultural harmony now restored, the driver and his companions told us to get off the marshrutka and get on a different one, down the street. Which we did, and we arrived at MACdonald's.

Sandy really had a hankerin' for some McD's, but when we went by the drivers at the marshrutka station next to McDonald's, we asked about a marshrutka to Gori, which would be the perfect scenario for Sandy, instead of just being dropped off on the marshrutka's way to Tbilisi (which is where I'd go before finishing my last leg to Rustavi). A driver said he was about to leave for Gori in 10 minutes and that another one wouldn't leave til noon. (It was now about 10:00.) Sandy quavered a few moments between McDonald's and the promise of a direct line to Gori, then went with the Gori marshrutka.

I was in a more flexible situation, as marshrutkas to Tbilisi left hourly, so I went on in to McDonald's for coffee and breakfast, and later walked out and onto a waiting marshrutka.

Sandy was not so lucky. Her marshrutka was not a Gori marshrutka. It was a Tbilisi marshrutka and the driver just dropped her off alongside the highway in a place where she couldn't even see Gori. Sandy felt abandoned, wondering what the hell she was going to do. Fortunately, she actually saw a local marshrutka approach and all ended well. So ended Snafu, Part 3.

We'll go to Kutaisi again - in the spring when the caves are open. We'll call ahead.

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