Friday, May 4, 2012

Borjomi, Part 4: Kukushka

Borjomi to Bakuriani - Kukushka

There's a narrow-gauge train between Borjomi and Bakuriani. Georgians call it "Kukushka." Every time I say this to Georgians (and til recently, I mispronounced it as Gugushka), they laugh with affection about this little train.

Our plan for the day was to take Kukushka to Bakuriani. So Sandy, Kate, and I made our way out of bed and went in search of something breakfasty. Not a lot of choice in Borjomi on a Sunday morning, but we found fresh-baked, warm bread and pastries out by the marhsrutka and taxi area.

Borjomi actually has two train stations; don't know if the one at Little Park is operational, but we had to go to the one at the edge of town. We took a taxi there.

A woman on the road in a 2nd or 3rd world country is always mindful of the toilet situation. Is there a toilet at the take-off point (i.e. train station, marshrutka area, bus station)? Will there be pit stops along the way to the destination? How long is the trip? Can I have the morning cup of coffee or no? That's one of the things I miss about the U.S. -- when I go out, I go out. No worries about facilities because there's always something available. And if I have to stop the car, then I stop the car.

So anyway, we got to the train station. The actual train depot was locked, and we didn't know if it would open when the train arrived or what. There was a very large, gray Soviet building across the parking lot; it looked vacant, but I saw people wander into the front door.

Borjomi - Kukushka train station market

I took a look and discovered a giant vendor market inside - produce, honey, chacha, wine, cheeses, meats, and clothing and plasticware. I indicated a desire for a toilet and a woman escorted me outside the building and around back to a squat toilet. Cost = 30 or 40 tetri.

Fast forward. Kukushka chug-chugged into the station. Ah, we pay the train employees directly while on the train. There are two cars: One for the proles and one for the bourgeoisie.  One lari for the former and two lari for the latter. Comparison: The bourgeois car has immense windows that are clean. A WC. Comfortable and spacious seats. The prole car has smaller and grim windows. The seats seem more packed together. I couldn't tell if there's a WC.

Kukushka toilet proudly empties directly onto track.

Finding no particular nobility in experiencing the 3-hour ride through the mountains next to grimy windows, I persuaded my comrades (not that it took much persuasion) to pop for the privileged car. I estimated we'd be virtually alone in this car and sure enough, that was the case for the most part. (I'll leave philosophical questions such as why the one-lari car can't also have clean windows to those more erudite than I.)

Borjomi, Georgia. Kukushka. Red car 2 lari. Green car 1 lari.

It was a grand ride to Bakuriani.  Sandy, Kate, and I sprawled wantonly all over "our" car, sitting here and there and moving about as we pleased. How quickly power corrupts.

Secret agent on the Kukushka. Borjomi, Georgia.

Some scenes from our trip:

And live action:

We saw a lot of brown swathes in the forest and wondered why. Logging? A fire? A disease? Insects? I later learned that the Russians peppered the forest with incendiary bombs to destroy the forest.

A lovely trip. Incredible to experience such beauty on a train for so little money.  Thank you, Georgia!  

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