Day 58 - Mon 12 May 08
An interesting day - awoken by the guard at 06:00, at 06:30 we stop at the border, passports are collected and we wait for about 40 minutes. Passports are returned by the guard and we move off towards the Georgian border. The train stops and passports are collected again, and lots of forms are handed out. I fill in mine, and George helps the geologist fill his out. These are then collected and bags and carriage are inspected.
George then comes in with 'good news and bad news' The bad news is that train is going to be stuck in customs for three or four hours as they take it apart. The good news is that a taxi will get us into Tiblisi for about $20. We can divide that by three if we fill the taxi. So taxi man heads off to get passports and off we head.
The drive is uneventful and only takes about an hour, but as we drive into Tiblisi is shows that the taxi driver doesn't know the city! George's dad takes over the navigation and directs him to a hotel that George has told me about. As we get out of the taxi George says that it's also a refugee hotel. Hmm! The owner wants $50 for a room, I don't even bother to look at it.
At this point I part company with the taxi - I think I'll do better on my own. I'd spotted a metro sign not too far from the hotel so I head in that direction. I get a token for less than 1l and head into the centre of the city. I see a McD's (the first since Shimla?), and stop off at the english bookshop. I was hoping they might have an LP Turkey, but no such luck.
I try a number of hotels but they are all full or changing over $100. Eventually I find my first choice hotel, but that too is full. The owner directs me to another hotel but I can't locate it. So I head back for better instructions only to find that a room is now magically free! For $70 I have a huge double room with my own bathroom and a beautiful parquet floor. What's more breakfast is included!
Catch the metro up to the station to checkout trains to Yeravan - the lady at the station thinks I have to have a visa before I go. Hmmm. So then I head off to find the Aremenian embassy, I think I found the road that it was supposed to be on, but I couldn't find it and none of the people I asked had a clue either. I think that might be God telling me something! I did manage to find an ATM that gave me some cash, so I'm less worried about running out of cash now.
Back to the hotel to plan the last third of this trip and used the hotel's Internet connection to book some accommodation in Budapest, Sofia and Bucharest. Then it was back out on the metro to the station to get my sleeper train ticket to Batumi. The metro here is pure soviet, it can take longer to travel the escalator up and down than it can to get between stations. It's very deep.
While out I met the two Americans who are also staying at the hotel, spent the afternoon chatting to them and a Mexican gentlemen.