Day 48, 20th May, Marneuli, Georgia

A fascinating day. We were driving out of Borzhomi, regretting that we had been unable to have a mineral water bath, when we drove through the small village of Rveli and saw a sign saying “serye bani” which means “grey baths” and indicated that a mineral water bath could be enjoyed. For 15 lari (about £5) we had a bath for an hour in warm water from the ground in a high-sided bath. I don’t normally rate baths, thinking life is too short to waste on such things, but lying in warm water up to the neck was a delight.
We then went to Gori where there had been until recently a statue to its favourite son, Iosef Dzhurgashvili (Joe Stalin). In the centre of the town we saw a huge building in Stalinesque style, which looked like an administrative building, and a man walking past told me that the statue had been removed. Can’t think why.
Rejoining the road to Tbilisi we saw a magnificent-looking castle on a hill. So I walked up a path past a guard dog, which cast a cursory glance in my direction and went back to sleep, and passed through a gate with the intention of taking a photo. A deranged looking retard sitting by a wall roared at me and jerked a thumb towards the gate. I thought it best not to try and engage him in intellectually stimulating conversation, and hoofed it back to the van.
Nearing Tbilisi, we saw a brown sign advertising an ancient church which was built in 636 but has been rebuilt many times, especially after Georgia was invaded by the Avars in 1730 and after an earthquake in 1941. Some time later we saw a sign for St Nino’s Church and passed a large gathering of perhaps 200 people watching a wrestling tournament. The church was very small and we didnt go near because there seemed to be a Whit Sunday service in progress.
Major mistake by me! There was a sign showing the by-pass round Tbilisi but I thought we might go through the town. It has more than 1 million people and runs from north to south along the banks of the River Msktvari for perhaps 30 miles and our road took us from north to south. Istanbul all over again. The nicest (or least worst) bit was the southern suburb of Rastaveli which was probably a separate town before it got gobbled up by Tbilisi. Beautiful old buildings and, following a mini-bus which seemed to be going in our direction, we passed along narrow winding back streets past beautiful old houses in an extreme state of dilapidation.
We eventually found the road to Marneuli (on the way to Armenia) and stopped at a sign advertising a restaurant. Two men from the adjacent Rompetrol filling station came up to us and said “Don’t go there, nasty place” and recommended the “Tash Restoran” 5 kms out of town. So we went there and a jolly man came up to us and said “We are just opening, no menu, you are our guests, eat for free” So we did and had platefuls of delicious Turkish kebabs and salad with Georgian fizzy fruit juice. An extended family of Turks and Kurds have set up this venture. Lovely people and we hope that they do well.

Ancient church
Georgian landscape
Castle I got thrown out of by lunatic
Place where Joe Stalin statue stood
Defensive tower at village near Tbilisi
Wrestling match
St Nino’s Church
Statue of King David, Tbilisi
Lovely people at Tashi restaurant
Youngest member of staff at restaurant

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