September 13: Tbilisi, Georgia
10:00. The walking tour has been delayed until Helen returns from the hospital. The swelling in her hand was even worse than yesterday when she was treated by the city’s team of roving paramedics so she took a cab to the nearest emergency department.
11:00. Helen calls to say that she is having blood tests and will likely be delayed for a few more hours. We start the walking tour without her.
11:40. Our Georgian guide leaves a lot to be desired and I get the sense that I could do better on my own or on one of the double-decker tourist buses that you see in most big cities. I break away from the group and have breakfast at a cafe while I wait for the next bus tour.
13:00. Rodney, Jess and I board the same bus for a 2-1/2 hour guided tour. The commentary is a bit dry but the guide obviously knows her stuff.
13:30. After about 30 minutes on the bus we stop for five minutes at a riverside park where a Sunday afternoon market is in full swing. I decide to check it out and take my chances with a taxi or a long walk back to the hotel.
I ended up buying a patch from this guy. It’s easy to find souvenir patches and embroidered flags in most countries but not in Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan or Grorgia. Here, as I did in Uzbekistan, I resort to a vintage army patch.
There are very few reproductions or fakes (in stark contrast to the markets in China). Here the vendors are a mix of professional dealers, part time pickers, and senior citizens who are simply selling off stuff they no longer need to raise a little cash. Pensions are meagre in the former Soviet republics.
I was tempted to buy this Donny Osmond album for the simple reason that it’s a Russian version of the first album I ever owned. My sister gave me the English version when I was about 12. At the time I wondered how she knew that I liked Donny Osmond! For the record, the first album that I bought with my own money was Terry Jacks’ Seasons In the Sun.
15:00. I walk through a few non-touristy neighbourhoods on my way back to the hotel. If you like peeling paint, rust, rot and decay, there’s plenty of it in Tbilisi. This place is ‘Buenos Aires’ cool if you ask me.
19:00. Jess and Jasmine will be leaving us in the morning so we head to a very nice restaurant for our farewell dinner. The service was uneven (at best) but the food was acceptable, with the exception off Jess’ steak. He ordered ‘medium rare’ and was served a ‘well done’ sirloin. When he complained he was told that it would take another 40 minutes to prepare a new one. Jess was too polite to question why a ‘rare’ steak would take more than a few minutes to prepare and decided to skip the main course altogether. I would not have been so accepting of mediocrity, especially in a place charging Toronto prices.