Monday, March 5, 2012

Kutaisi: This Wasn't in the Brochures!

Sandy, Jennifer, and I were to go to Kutaisi together, but Jennifer was the victim of a fall on ice. She twisted her knee badly enough to ground her in Dmanisi. Both Sandy and I have also fallen on the snow or ice, but we were lucky not to have injured ourselves.

Saturday morning, I took a marshrutka from Rustavi to the Didube station in Tbilisi. Didube is a public transportation hub with a metro stop and local and regional marshrutkas, buses, and taxis.

Didube also has a large bazaar with produce, meat, cheese, spices, clothing, and small household items. Here's a funky little video of the market interior.

A local marshrutka driver kindly escorted me to the line of Kutaisi-bound marshrutkas. I bought two tickets - one for me and one for Sandy, who we'd scoop up alongside the road as we drove by Gori, where she is based. Cost per ticket = 10 lari.

With the help of her hostess, Sandy got a taxi to the locally-known usual spot along the highway to catch marshrutkas, buses, and shared taxis barreling to other Georgian destinations. The pick-up was choreographed via intense (and several) phone conversations between my marshrutka driver's assistant and Sandy's taxi driver. It was slightly stressful for Sandy, as her taxi driver seemed a little obtuse, but it worked out OK, and we plucked her off the road and we were on our way in earnest to Kutaisi.

.... where we got off in a Soviet-style part of the city at a stretch of the muddy, be-rubbled road next to the McDonald's.

We'd denied ourselves our morning coffee or tea to prepare for our marshurtka ride, and we really didn't have a clue how to get to our guesthouse, so we popped into the McDonald's for hot liquid, a bathroom, and some direction. Ran into two TLGers, one placed in Kutaisi and the other visiting from her placement in Svaneti. They gave us the scoop on the bus (#1) to city center, where we'd call the guesthouse for further instructions.

After a relaxing chat and drink, they took off and so did we. Sandy and I made our way across the perilous street and onto the muddy, icy, rubble-filled, flooded street and non-sidewalk. Men appeared at our sides wanting to taxi us to Batumi or other destination. One man in particular kept hanging next to my elbow beseeching me to go somewhere til finally I said, in exasperation, "Ra ginda?" [What do you want?] He put his arms up and backed away. Finally.

When Sandy and I travel together, we can't help but laugh at how reality and our expectations are so off the mark, and this was no exception. As we walked through melt water and icy sludge through a shattered pavement, we could only laugh at how different this scene was from our imaginings of Georgia.

Kutaisi, Georgia - This wasn't in the brochure!

 But we found the right bus and successfully reached the city center.

Next: Walking Down to Town


Anonymous said...

Kutaisi has been one of the most neglected cities in Georgia for at least decades and I doubt the government efforts to revitalize will have any effect until years after. I'm just glad that the road looks like this because of a sidewalk construction; there are some places that look like this all the time.

Mzuri said...

The old part of town is very pretty, and I imagine it's going to look even better when the renovation around the central plaza is complete. There's that cafe, with glass on two sides, looking out onto the central park - lovely at dusk when the lights came on.