Georgia 3 – 6/2014
Certainly one of the more pleasant things about driving into Georgia was that it is a Christian nation. Not that we have anything against the Islamic faith. Some of our good friends are Muslim, but it was nice not to be woken up before sunrise by amplified loudspeakers throughout town calling us to prayer. In fact, driving by villages, there were often one or more church steeples, and as we noted before, the dress of mostly young women was as modern as San Francisco or London.
We learned that Nino, later Sainte Nino, at the age of 14, experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary telling her that her destiny was to convert the Iverians to Christianity. Coming to Iveria, (Eastern Georgia), in the 320s, Nino won a royal convert when her prayers saved Queen Nana from a serious illness. Then, King Mirana was struck blind while hunting, only for his sight to be miraculously restored after he prayed to the Christian God. King Mirana made Christianity Iveria’s official religion in about 327. It was the second nation in Asia to become Christian after Armenia.
We stopped to visit a few religious sites, among them Musket and Bodbe. Being Sunday in Mtskheta, several wedding ceremonies in the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral were happening simultaneously and continuously, giving us an interesting experience of a Georgian Orthodox wedding.
But now it was time to head to Tbilisi to collect our Chinese visa. Getting closer to the capitol also meant that the intensity of Georgian crazy drivers and road conditions multiplied.
Humps, bumps and potholes were enough to keep our speed to a max 40-mph. Unmarked 5” speed bumps would suddenly appear for no apparent reason and had to be crossed at 2-mph in our truck to avoid breaking something or getting air. Since no one obeys any posted or unposted speed limit, the bumps were somewhat effective. They reminded us of crossing Brazil where the speed bumps are twice as high. If they tried that here, the BMWs would get high centered.
Should we mention parking? Joke! On a 4-lane road, the lane on the right is not a lane. If that fills up, you just double or triple-park wherever you please. Parking on both sides of a narrow side street quickly turns it into a zero-clearance alley unless you’re driving a mini car. Sidewalks were perfect parking areas as long as you could get half your vehicle off the road, and even that was not too important.
Arriving in the capital city of Tbilisi, the drivers and traffic were nearly humorous. Interchanges were something like a scary ride at an amusement park that had somehow gone wrong. We ended up hiring a taxi to find the Chinese Embassy. It was closed for the three-day long Dragon Boat Festival. After a long two days and two nights parked half on the sidewalk of a side street near the Chinese Embassy, UN Headquarters and the Round Garden, we were informed that they do not issue visas to foreigners unless they are living or working in Georgia. We were shocked. Plan B??
We escaped the madding traffic of Tbilisi with only a couple U-turns and more grey hairs and found a quiet camp in a meadow overlooking a pleasant valley. It was time to take a deep breath.