I went on another trip/adventure! Hooray! I went to three different countries this time: Georgia, Turkey, and Ukraine. My sister Dub told me to take a lot of pictures because she'll probably never make it to that part of the world. She got me thinking that I should probably do better at describing these trips. I decided that I have too much to say about it for one post to sufficiently report, so this one is just about Georgia.
For my trip my friend Roxanne had arranged to meet up with her parents who are missionaries right now in Eastern Europe. She was taking more time off than I was going to, so I arranged to meet them in Georgia, since they were going to be in Armenia while I was coming over. Getting to Armenia proved to be too difficult/time consuming for a vacation with what time I had allotted myself.
So, I flew by myself, and they arranged to meet me Monday morning in Tbilisi, Georgia. Roxanne emailed me from Tbilisi advising me to stay somewhere different than when they had been staying, since I was by myself and their hotel was a little bit difficult to find. She sent me some recommendations, and I ended up choosing The Courtyard by Marriott on Freedom Square. If you are ever going to Tbilisi, I can give this hotel my recommendations. Things I liked about it:
1. Taxis there from the airport are like $35, but there is this yellow city bus that has a route to/from the airport, and one of the stops is at Freedom Square (not sure which one, maybe like the 15th stop or so). It costs the equivalent of about $.50 to ride it, AND you get to ride the bus with the locals. It's the only bus that goes to/from the airport. I didn't actually have luggage that I was carrying (it didn't make the transfer in Istanbul, I guess), so I didn't worry about that, but even if I had, it would have been fine for me to put on the bus. The bus driver was really nice (he didn't speak English, but he smiled at me) and let me know when to get off. Even if he hadn't, I would have known because it's pretty obvious. The hotel is like RIGHT THERE when you get to the stop. Very convenient.
2. There is a metro stop just around the corner on the same block. So convenient.
3. They have a pool. I didn't get to use it since my suit was in my luggage, but they had one.
4. They serve a breakfast buffet at the hotel. It costs extra, like $15 a day, which I think is steep since I usually don't eat too much, but it's so nice because I think it's kind of inconvenient to go find breakfast somewhere else when I have arranged to leave at 7:30 a.m. It helps save time.
5. They had wifi. You have to pay for it, but it actually came free if you paid for breakfast, which I did. I don't know why hotels don't just provide wifi for free. It boggles my mind and will until everyone just naturally provides it for guests. They provide TVs, and to me wifi is like TV. Every room should have it, unless you're in the middle of nowhere.
6.The staff was very friendly. I had the luggage mishap, and I also had troubles with my credit card (yes, I did let them know that I was going on this trip); they were friendly and helped me resolve my concerns.
7. There is a monument of St. George and the Dragon in the middle of Freedom Square (some places called it Liberty Square). St. George and the Dragon is practically everywhere in Europe especially, and it's like Trip Bingo for me to see St. George and the Dragon stuff, so I think it was meant to be.
I arrived Saturday evening, and after I got checked in, I asked the people at the hotel for a recommendation of a place to eat. I said that I wanted to eat typical Georgian food, so they sent me down a street to a place called Machackela. I wandered on the street and found Mother Georgia, and a church, where some people who were speaking Spanish were filming.
I'm not really sure I ever found the right place because their signs are in a different language, but the place I ended up eating was kind of fast foody. They had signs up that showed you what the dish looks like, as well as menus, but I can't actually read Georgian, so... yeah. I pointed. One of the menus was in Russian, and I did take a beginning class of Russian in college, so I was able to read that. This is what I got:
The dumplings tasted pretty much like pelmeni (it's probably what they were since Georgia used to be a part of the USSR), and the sauce was kind of like a vinegary yogurt sauce. They were good. I ordered the square one because it looked like bougatsa or tyropita. It was more like tyropita, only the layers weren't flaky like a pastry. They were more like a noodle but not quite. It was different than what I've ever had, and I liked them both. It was a lot to eat, though.
When I left the restaurant, I was walking right behind the Spanish speakers, so I started talking to them, since I was feeling like I couldn't really communicate with any other people very well. They were filming a trip from Spain to Mongolia, so that's pretty cool. Maybe I've met a famous TV person from Spain? Who knows?
I then decided to just wander aimlessly around on various streets and maybe go down to the river since it was getting dark soon. I found a park:
and then I found this:
It's a casino! I forget that places have casinos besides reservations or Nevada.
I then noticed that I had stumbled upon an excellent place where the locals go to hang out across the river. There is the Bridge of Peace, which lights up.
It was really very pretty. Across the Bridge of Peace was a park. It was very big and had a bunch of different concrete shapes where people could sit. It had playground equipment in one area, and it had a big, concrete piano. There is some guy in the photo for perspective.
There were also some street vendors selling things like glow-in-the-dark toys or food, like cotton candy. It was also close to a wormy-looking theater,
as well as close to the tram to take you up on the hill to see Mother Georgia. I decided to go up in the tram. It was only a couple of bucks, and since it was getting pretty dark, I figured it was okay to be out, as long as all of those families and kids were, too. So I went up to see the view
and to see Mother Georgia.
Yeah, my camera was on the wrong setting. I fixed the setting, and here are some lovely/blurry views in the dark of Tbilisi from up on the hill:
The bluish bridge on the right is the Bridge of Peace.
I'm pretty sure that those bright buildings are Freedom Square where my hotel was. After I took the tram back down, I decided that both my feet and me in general were very tired from my travels. I walked back to the hotel and slept.
The next morning I showered and went down to the lobby to see if my luggage had arrived, but it hadn't, so I just ate breakfast. I was still really tired, so I went back up to my room and slept until I needed to get up to go to church. I love going to church in other countries. It's cool to experience the exact same church but in different congregations. There are only two branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all of Georgia. I went to the one in Tbilisi, which was only one metro stop away from my hotel at the 300 Aragveli stop. Roxanne had given me great directions to get there.
The metro was really far underground.
It was a small branch. I'd say that there were only about 40 or 50 people total who were there, with about 8 of them being missionaries. The church branch president and his wife are missionaries from St. George, Utah. They were so awesome. I loved visiting with them. There were about 12 visitors or so, including me, although I was the only visiting church member. There were some Nigerians, someone from Iran, and someone from Sri Lanka that the missionaries had been teaching. One of the elders translated into English, and we all wore headsets.
They had the hymns listed in Georgian, Russian, and English. Because the church is so small there, there aren't the same materials that we have in English. It's difficult because they don't have a lot of church materials in Georgian, and it's kind of politically/socially unacceptable to do so much in Russian. That's a tough thing about missionary work there.
Mzia is one woman there who helps with translation of things like conference talks into Georgian. She was really nice, and she ended up arranging a driver for me to take me around to see sights after church.
Nodar was my driver, and he brought his niece Tini who spoke English since he doesn't really speak it. They took me to Mtskheta, which is a very old city in Georgia.
Before we got to the city we went to a church on the hill where there were a bunch of weddings.
I also ran into a guy from Denmark who was on my flight. We had both lost our luggage, so we had commiserated together. He was wearing the same outfit, so he was easy to recognize. I had changed my clothes (always take extra in your carry on!), so it took him a minute to recognize me.
After that we went down to some churches in the old city. Most people in Georgia are Orthodox. The churches there were mostly very, very old. They were built in like the 4th or 5th Century or rebuilt in the 15th - 17th centuries (I'm estimating here), so that part of it was really cool. They were just really old.
After going to the churches they were ready to take me back to my hotel. I asked them if they would just drop me off at a good restaurant since I was hungry. They asked me if I had eaten any Georgian food, and I said yes. I showed them what I had eaten, and they were like, no. You need to have real Georgian food. So they took me to a restaurant on the way back from Mtskheta where we had mtsvadi, which is like barbecue on a skewer and khinkali, which are Georgian dumplings. They were both very good, but I have to say that I was totally loving the khinkali the most. I need to send Tini a message to remind her to get me a good recipe. I can find some online, but I want to make sure they're a really good recipe. I trust her opinion because her uncle Nodar is both a driver and a chef. The filling was very delicious. I need to make it.
They dropped me off back at my hotel in Tbilisi, and Nodar said he would see me in the morning because he was coming to pick me up with Mzia so that we could meet Roxanne and her parents. I was still a bit jet-lagged, so I decided to just call my parents (we always talk on Sundays) and go to bed.
The next morning Mzia and Nodar came to pick me up from the hotel. We drove around and finally found the hotel where Roxanne and her parents were staying, met another driver (Jon, who is also a chef/driver), and we ended up visiting Tamka. It's like the Stonehenge of Georgia (only much taller).
It's on a hill, and each of the sides has a different panel depicting something from biblical or Georgian history.
Can you guess what that one is depicting? It's really neat, even though it's really a work in progress.
There are also statues of the 13 Assyrian Fathers at Tamka. It was very cool. The view was cool, too. I think I have a thing with cool views.
We spent a bit of time there, and then we drove to the airport. And thus ended the trip to Georgia. If I ever get to go there again, I would really enjoy that. They have other places in the country that I would love to see, like going closer to the Black Sea or spending more time in their nature and exploring the countryside. I had a great time, and it was cool to go and experience the culture there. It was beautiful, and if you ever get to go, I hope you have a great time!