Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Black Sea, Part 1: Ureki

Ureki, Georgia. Black Sea.

A three-day weekend! Sandy and I made plans to go to the Black Sea.

First up, Ureki. This village is known for its black sand, which allegedly has magnetic properties. In fact, the village's other name is Magnetiti. Georgians bring their children here to promote healthy bones. The elderly believe the sand is helpful for their arthritis.

A TLG colleague who's based in Ureki laid out our options to get from Tbilisi to Ureki. We chose to take the train from Tbilisi to Poti, then a marshrutka from Poti to Ureki. Sandy bought the rail tickets the day before we left; 15 lari for each of us.

Train from Tbilisi to Poti, Georgia.

Five-hour trip; not bad. We'd brought a picnic breakfast and lunch: Georgian sausage, sulguni cheese, carrot sticks, orange slices, fresh bread, and the ubiquitous bag o' snacking bruschetta. I also brought a thermos of coffee.

Decent WC on train. Tbilisi to Poti, Georgia.

There were two WCs in our car. One was better than the other. It wasn't bad at all. The other, when I got a glimpse of it, was a little grim.

Poti, Georgia.

We arrived in Poti without any mishap other than to wonder where to find a marshrutka. But some helpful police set us in the right direction.

WC at Wissol gas station outside Ureki, Georgia

About half an hour later - not even that, really - we got off the marshrutka (cost = 1.5 lari, but this likely inflated for our benefit) at a clearing in the road. We'd gone past the entrance to Ureki awhile back, so we'd need to walk back a little ways. Fortunately, we got off in front of a Wissol gas station, which had a cheery apple-green WC. And two cheery Wissol employees who smiled and waved and asked where we were headed.

After taking care of business, we crossed the street and began walking to Ureki on the narrow road that paralleled the arterial road. To our right, between the two roads, we heard extremely loud squawking and chirping and even a third sound. What could they be? Ducks and small birds and ...... they were frogs. Sandy and I picked our way through a treacherous bit of grass and mud - that suck-your-shoes-off kind of mud - to get to the shallow, seasonal ponds, covered with water plants and agog with frogs on the make.

It was the coolest thing.

We continued our walk and saw on our left a pretty tree with vermilion buds. A man across the lane, gardening, came over and told us in basic English that the buds would soon open. He mentioned our TLG colleague's name (the one who helped us plan our transport here), saying he was a "good boy" (kargi bichi). Then he went to another tree with large red blooms and cut us a large bouquet.

We walked and walked and walked.

Presently, we arrived at the beach of black sand. I am sad to report it was filled with the litter of past visitors, but I'm assuming this will be picked up before the tourist season begins. Most of the markets and cafe were still closed for the winter.
Ureki, Georgia.

There was a very pretty wooded lane.

Ureki, Georgia.

 There were many large guesthouses.

We took of our shoes and walked in the Black Sea. It was deliciously cold. It felt so good. We gathered black sand in plastic bags to take home with us. They were heavy.

So. Now on to Kobuleti. We flagged down what we thought was a marshrutka, only to discover it was a private vehicle. Never mind. The driver took us back up to the Wissol gas station, where our friendly buddies there greeted us with smiles. In short order, we picked up a real marshrutka to Kobuleti. Our Wissol guys waved and blew us a kiss goodbye.


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