Immediately after crossing the border from Turkey to Georgia I make a stop at a local supermarket. It’s always interesting what I’m going see in a supermarket in another culture. From the Balkans on, every country had something new in store for me. Today I am pleasantly surprised by large boxes with different types of cookies. From wheat to chocolate taste. It looks locally and I’ve learned that local food is often the best for my budget. If I buy a big bag of cookies with two cans of beer and two bananas and only have to pay roughly one euro, I’m very happy. Finally. Finally, I need to worry less about money. Turkey I mainly survived by hospitality and is allready too far developed to be really cheap. Georgia is different.
My last day in Turkey was accompanied by a special meeting. Through my website a Turkish person from Ankara invited me to his home. Ankara was not quite on my route so he instead connected me with his uncle at the Black Sea coast town Çayeli. I would be a guest for one hour at his ‘Bakkal’ what is a Turkish grocery shop with bread, sweets and some drinks. It was near the busstation in Çayeli and turned out to be a really pleasant meeting. After an hour I cycled further with a full belly and two packs of my favorite Turkish biscuits plus a bottle of Coke on my bike.
Georgia initially seems quite different than Turkey. The roads are a bit more bumpy, cows graze everywhere and I am surprised when I notice that girls in Georgia smile nicely from the roadsides and sometimes even flirt with me. This I missed a bit in Turkey.
After one last night camping on the Black Sea coast I cycle into the interior to take on a first class road towards Armenia. Soon I have to climb a 2,000 meter high mountain through a not so first class being road.
I bump along and wave to everyone, both in cars and at the roadsides. The Georgian people are friendly, people wave at me, honk and shout words I can not understand. I still remember the warnings of some Turkish people: “beware of Georgia, the country is poor and there is a lot of crime.” Now I know to deal with such kind of warnings. Just experience it for myself and explore and then leave an opinion about it.
With the Georgian danger it’s okay. That same evening I am invited by a couple of road workers who are smiling and asking if I drink vodka when I make clear that I am looking for a place to sleep. And that I did know! The next day I cycle with a slight hangover on to the next village and get spontaneously a large glass of red wine pushed under my nose. The provider in question turns out to be the mayor of the village. “Hollandia freedom, Hollandia no problems!” he shouts. “Hollandia, Georgia, gaumarjos!” And we cheered and emptied the glass of wine.
Another glass I turn down, what is leading to a heated debate between the village people. It is only 1:00pm and in the discussion I try to make clear that cycling on this bumpy road up a mountain with a liter of red wine is a little bit of a too much challenge. Someone understand and explains the mayor. We sing a song together and after that I get back on my bicycle to climb the 2,000 meters mountain in front of me.
Cycling in Georgia is a relief. Searching for a pitch is not necessary. The country is so beautiful and with raw nature that I can settle down almost everywhere. It seems like one big nature park. I even start thinking about a food supply if at times it takes 50 kilometers before I run into a shop again. Water? It just flows naturally clean from the mountains and I can fill me bottles everywhere.
After one last spontaneous encounter with a very nice Dutch couple on bicycles, which made me even more enthusiastic about the hospitality in Iran, I cycle after four days Georgia into Armenia.
After camping the night just outside the city of Gyumri, I realize the next day that there is virtually nothing between the major cities in Armenia. I’m starting to worry because I didn’t buy any food in Gyumri. I decide to cycle into one of the villages in search for food. There is nothing, just a bumpy road and several farms. There is a white Lada honking its horn every two minutes to me. It irritates me. Soon the Lada appears not to honk at me. It is the local greengrocer who drives around in the villages to provide the people with vegetables.
I buy three cucumbers to fill my empty stomach a little bit and hopefully that produce some energy to get me to the next town. After 30 kilometers I cycle into Talin where I have more luck, here they have a small supermarket.
As I continue my way again I’m beingstopped by two men in uniform. One of the men steps out of the car for probably a passport control. “Oh no,” I think, “my passport is somewhere in the bottom of my bags.” The man in hi uniform pry equally tough on his tie, nods to me and asked me in Armenian where I come from. “Hollandia,” I do understand, at least I think I do. He looks doubtfully at my bike and nods something in the direction of the town of Talin where I just came from. I point to my water and nod approvingly. He looks at me again thoughtfully, pry on his tie again and says “bon voyage!” Until this day I do not know what the meaning was of this stop.
The north of Armenia seems poor to me. It seems as if time has stood still after the World War II. It makes it all the more interesting and a great experience for me. The little Russian Lada where Armenians manage to cram into are hilarious. Especially when they look at me from the car, start to laugh and raise their hands.
Big dark clouds of smoke come from the cars that drive past me. I feel somewhere else, in another world.
This adventure has now really started for me.
In Yerevan I take a short break to continue in a few days to cycle to Iran. I hope that from this country it is possible to continue writing stories. It will at least be somewhat more difficult due to limited internet and probably without Facebook and Twitter.