Following our Winter excursion to Shahdag, the other students and I had one more week of classes, tests, and meetings with language partners before we could go on our New Years break. This week went by at an abnormal speed, because we had to meet with our language partners and complete our hours with them before we could go on our trip. Nonetheless I was able to complete my hours and finish preparing for our trip to Georgia.
Georgia is a small country that borders Russia to the North and Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia in the South. Georgia is the world’s oldest Christian practicing country. To many it is the Switzerland of the Balkans, because it stays out of its neighboring countries conflicts, yet welcomes everyone. Georgia has been working to align itself with NATO and the European Union. Georgian Passport holders were recently granted visa free access into the European Union. Kudos to Georgia.
The other students and I thought it would be an interesting experience to take a night train from Baku to Tbilisi and it sure was. Every night at 9pm a train leaves from the 28 May train station to Tbilisi. Finding our way to the train station was easy, but once we got there it was chaotic. The platform was crowded, there animals in cages, and it was very cold. Our train tickets were typed in Russian, so after we figured out which cart to get on the experience was less stressful. The inside of the train was nicer than I had expected. My friend and I shared a cabin with an elderly couple.
The train ride was about 14 hours including our stops at border control on each side. Overall not a bad experience, but next time I think I will take the bus. When I first arrived at the city center I was just blown away at how different the capital was from Baku. The architecture, the people, and just everything, it was a nice change of pace. Once we checked into our hostel, my friends and I decided to walk around the city a bit. We saw quite a few sites and one of the many cool things about Tbilisi is the free city-wide wifi!
I was able to meet up with two friends from the summer I spent in Ankara, doing CLS. It was really nice seeing familiar faces. We toured the city and took the cable cart to the top of hill that had an amazing view of the city and a statue of Mother Georgia and Church at the top. The thing about Georgia is that there are spectacular churches everywhere. There’s is no point at all in taking pictures of them. My friends and I had New Years dinner and then we headed to streets and awaited the count down with the crowds of people. At this time the streets of Tbilisi were like a war zone as every one was lighting fireworks and shooting them off in every direction. It was quite the experience.
The following day I went with a few of the others to a district of Tbilisi that is on the outskirts of the city and is classified as a UNESCO site. The town was beautiful and there was a monastery at the top of the hill. We hired a driver to take us to the top, where you could see the small town and the turquoise river that flowed through it.
Tbilisi had a very interesting counter culture. It was comforting to see young people wearing all black clothing, ripped jeans, and colorful hair. This is something that is not so common in Baku, which I found the presence of it in neighboring Tbilisi to be very interesting. I would definitely like to be more descriptive of my experiences, but I am not in a position to do so at the moment, so for now I’ll just write about the good things.