Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fw: Georgia

Monday 23rd October

The Discovery arrived at Batumi, the main port of Georgia, around 7am so we were able to go up on deck to watch the docking. This ship is a floating eating factory and since my waistline is beginning to feel the effect, I decided that this day must be the start of a food intake reduction programme. Well sort of. Fruit for breakfast.

Georgia is the 43rd country I have visited (and the 7th former Soviet Republic). The first visit of the day was to the Botanical Gardens which dated back to the Tsarist times. In the intervening 90 odd years some of the trees have grown so well in the sub tropical climate that they are now much bigger than what they would have been if they were grown in their native conditions - the garden contains trees native to the other continents.

I wasn't sure why we went to the next location: the border with Turkey. We saw a customs office and highlight of the visit was a lorry heading into Turkey. Perhaps the point the tour people were making without saying it or alluding to it was that this was the frontline of the cold war 16 years ago and is now relatively open. Or perhaps they were just filling in time.

Next was a visit to the Roman shore fort of Gonio which has a remarkably intact outer wall though the buildings inside were long gone. The walls themselves were about 6 metres high. The tour guide suggested that "the young people" may want to climb to the top of them up the extremely steep and narrow steps with no barrier to stop us falling over the edge. Sounded perfect to me so I headed up there only to find David was not in the mood for experiencing vertigo. Meanwhile a stream of "older people" followed me up though I had to lead one down a little later - I think I was there in case she needed a soft landing!

Lunchtime saw a temporary abandonment of the eating go slow. A Georgian meal which included a large amount of walnuts and aubergines was provided which ran to about six or seven courses. Actually very enjoyable. The meal was then followed by "folk dancing". Normally I can be a bit cynical about how genuine this sort of thing is when I see a "folk" show. This one however was bloody amazing! So I am pleased I went.

Final call was to a market - not a tourist one but one used by the locals. This is the sort of place I really love visiting abroad. They make for fantastic photos though the women serving on the fish stalls were rather amused that I should want to take photos of their goods. Nevertheless,there was a succession of mini sharks, sword fish and flat fish paraded for me to photograph. (They make good pictures to hang up in kitchens which will be on sale - ready framed - at forthcoming Lib Dem fayres and coffee mornings!)

Back to the ship after that. The Discovery left at 7pm and headed north to Sochi in Russia.

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