When we mentioned to our friends that our next travel destination was Georgia, it was received with distinctly different reactions. One friend just stared at me for a while, weakly asked “why” but decided to give up completely and shrugged. Another friend I realised later had actually assumed we were going to Georgia state in US! And a third friend went from disbelieve to amusement so fast that I could hardly say anything to him except just grin at his lack of worldly view! My young niece however went ‘awww man, I want to go there!’.
Considering all the reactions and my own sort of mid life crisis where I feel somehow I belong to a generation younger than the generation I was born into, I did start to harbour some doubts. But I thankfully didn’t have too much time to think about it as I had had my plate full till the day we were travelling.
The flights from Bangalore to Georgia was very expensive. In fact we had almost decided not to come because of how expensive it was but did it anyway. So this is a bit of downer for me but I am not sure if the flights are cheaper from Delhi and Mumbai. And also if the season escalated the prices that much.
Anyway we took the Qatar airways to Tbilisi. Upon arrival we walked out of the airport and took a cab. I was vaguely aware of cheaters and fraudsters, but somehow, reading everywhere that Georgia as gateway to Europe and also hearing about how actively Georgian government is trying to promote tourism etc., I presumed that things were not going to be that bad. We found a guy, asked him to switch on the meter and made our way to the hotel. The guy essentially fleeced is by running some false meter. What should have costed us 30 GEL, we paid 150GEL. This left and still leaves a very sour taste for us and this was our introduction to Georgia.
Now, of course I am going to take the bigger part of the responsibility here and say, yes I should have done my research, yes I should have known and used my common sense. Heck, I even knew I was being fleeced because I knew it should gave costed us at any rate not more than 50 GEL having read some things about travel cost at a high level. But I didn’t want to create a scene in a country I knew nothing about, having just landed and not knowing the language and the people and the culture here. So I left it.
But at the same time, I think for a country that is looking to promote tourism these things ought to be more well regulated. There was no regulated pre paid taxi counters like in India, a country which used to be and still can be notorious for transport frauds. Of course they do have an app based taxi system but at the airport they are notorious for giving you a false number, especially since they know you have just set foot in the country and thats your first ride!
Anyway having landed and rested in a lovely boutique hotel but still a bit annoyed with the taxi cheat, we went out to the old city for a regular touristy walk. If I am being very honest, I didn’t think much of the town. I am not saying this to be mean. But my honest opinion is that there are many other cities that are a lot more charming and exciting than Tbilisi. On its own Tbilisi is a decently charming city. But let’s say as a tourist destination it wouldn’t be high on my list.
The best thing that I can say about it is that it is whilst it tries vaguely to be a Istanbul meets a European city (perhaps say a Prague or something), it does manage to have its own uniqueness to it. I think it’s this uniqueness that brings in the charm as you get more used to it and spend more time in it.
Whilst food in Georgia is very highly spoken of (and rightly so) and a very integral part of the culture, our very first dinner in Tbilisi was not the best. I mean it was a popular, highly rated restaurant in the old town, the food was strictly ok, the wine was not great at all and the service was poor. Overall for some reason, our opening experience of Tbilisi and through it, Georgia, was not the best.
But, but, hang in there for the rest of my Week in Georgia, for it definitely is a country that has a lot to offer, even if at times, it leaves you feeling a little conflicted.