Monthly Archives: May 2016

Day of the Saucer

One of the great things about Georgia is the modern and innovative architecture. There was one place I wanted to capture, the Emergency Services Centre, also known as the 112 Building. (112 is the 000 of Georgia.)

As with any travel in Georgia, anything  outside a simple metro ride is never easy.

The Metro ride from Rustaveli Metro Station to Station Square was simple, but Station Square, being a hub with several entrances, getting the right one to exit the building to the right place is a fun thing. Next is finding where the bus stop is for the required bus.

Station Square is also a hub for mini-buses and city buses but there is little apparent logic so after 40 minutes circulating and asking where bus 65 departed, with a language or lack of interest barrier I finally found it.

And I waited, and waited, and waited. That evening was a concert so I felt under a little time pressure so I grabbed a Lexus taxi that had circulated three times already and offered 10 Lari to take me there (more than he would have asked…but it was a newish Lexus 🙂 .

After the driver not understanding what the 112 building was,  I quickly pulled up a pic of it on my phone and a smile a nod and a quick U-turn and we were on out way. Goodness knows where we were going before that!

He took be to the top entry, which is a good thing . The building itself is a flying saucer – like structure perched on a slope overlooking the city.

telephone tower
Telephone tower, Georgia style

I was able to get a few good shots as I walking around the side and to the lower car park where I was about to get a shot of the zigzag stairs when I heard a load and gruff ARA! ARA! (NO! NO!) from an older police officer who formed part of the guard detail. Pointing at the camera he gave an extended arms cross indicating not allowed (or handcuffs?) and ushered me away.

Unique, daring and totally amazing
ET - returns?
ET – returns?

I wandered down the road aways before taking a few more shots from far enough away that they might not see me (yeah right!).

Sorry, one more from a distance!
Sorry, one more from a distance!

Then onto Google Maps to work out my exit route, which ended up being a dodgy dirt road leading off into some grassed area, passing by some nice old church gates before heading off down a hill.

No service today
No service today

After a few wrong turns and dead ends I worked out to follow the excuse for street light poles and the dirt turned to a rough concrete surface, a real need as this must be one of the steepest streets in Tbilisi, if not Georgia, if not the world!

Hmm, not that way after a dead end around the corner
Hmm, not that way after a dead end around the corner
A corner of Tbilisi where time stands still
A corner of Tbilisi where time stands still

I indicated as much to two women chatting, one who held up her bags of shopping and inclined her head as if to say “I have to walk up there all the time!”

The street finally starts to flatten out
The street finally starts to flatten out

Thank goodness I had not caught the bus as originally planned and had to go walk up.

Finally I found my way to the university district (a different feel with lots of young people) and salvation – the Metro!

The metro station are nothing if not subtle.
The metro station are nothing if not subtle.


A trip to Stalinsville (AKA Gori)

With a desire to get out of Tbilisi for a day I decided a trip to the nearby city of Gori, birthplace of Stalin, would be an opportunity to test my skills at negotiating the world of Marshruktas (mini-buses).

I had of course already reconnoitered Didube station and bus terminal and soon was doing my best to fend off assertive taxi drivers saying the name of towns to which the adjacent mini-buses travelled.  It was with some exploration that I found the area where the vehicles for Gori departed. These were down the street a little way.

Fortunately I had studied the Georgian alphabet and Gori was quite easy to decipher. I clambered into the three quarters full marshrukta only to be beckoned f ten minutes later to get off to pay (some buses you pay at a window, others you pay the driver).

Mini buses - up to 50 on board
Mini buses – up to 50 on board

As the clock neared the hour the final rush squeezed on ( you can get 20 people on 12 seater bus  even more on the bigger ones) and we were off.

Gori is a bit like the outer suburbs of Tbilisi and the marshrukta  pulled up outside the city government building.

Government Building - Gori
Government Building – Gori

Having seen Stalin’s armoured train carriage from the marshrukta  on the way in, I had a rough idea of where to head but used offline Google maps and the GPS on my phone to navigate my way to the Stalin Museum.

Stalin Museum arches
Stalin Museum arches

Set in an impressive building I entered the grand entry where some staff lolled about. No-one  paid me any attention so I headed up the grand staircase red carpeted stairs to the statue of Stalin.

I managed to see one room and on entering the main section I was asked for a ticket. So back down the stairs to a small window tucked away in in a corner. Ticket price is 15 GEL.

The rest of the museum was made up mainly of photos and all explanation was in Georgian and Russian. Again my attention was diverted to the building itself.

Part of the museum, distracted by the interior
Part of the museum, distracted by the interior
Never mind the displays, the building is great!
Never mind the displays, the building is great!
The grand stairway, Stalin statue to my left

The only other item of significance was in a room with subdued light, a circle of stone pillars and in the middle was the death mask of Stalin.

Stalin's death mask
Stalin’s death mask

Outside is a plain looking green train carriage – which was Stalin’s personal rail transport. Normally closed I was lucky enough to enter on the tail end of a tour group.  Luckily I had some time to myself to peer in the various compartments including Stalin’s bathroom and sleeping compartment.

Roof vent
Train carriage fittings
Train carriage light fittings – very cool
Train carriage fittings
Train carriage fittings
The bathroom
His bathroom
Train carriage door handle to sleeping compartment
Train carriage door handle to sleeping compartment

After a short walk around the surrounding area I headed back towards Gori fortress when the temperature fell rapidly and it started to rain. For the next 45 minutes I took shelter under the awning of a petrol station, wondering why I had not bought a jacket, but thankful for my recently bought umbrella.

Trinket seller
Seller of small Stalin trinkets such as matchboxes

An easing in the rain prompted a move and after wandering the streets I eventually found my way up to the fort. A young couple were canoodling and the girl could not withhold a outburst of laughter at this crazy tourist arriving carrying an umbrella when most sane people would be somewhere drinking wine or coffee (as I would have had I found anywhere I could have!)

The fortress itself was the outer walls only and the rest was grass except for a security box where two uniformed guards (one asleep on a makeshift bed) where guarding the place (from?) Guards are a common sight in Georgia, sometimes in the oddest places like this!

Just as I reached the bus area the rain finally stopped and the nearby street markets  (these are everywhere, most metro stations and any other transport hub) sprang back into life as plastic sheeting was removed from displays and activity returned once again to the streets.

If I thought the marshrukta  on the inbound journey was crowded I was in for a surprise, this was packed with every seat and fold-down isle seats as well meaning 50 people were crammed in. Luckily, despite being on one of the undersized isle seats, I managed to doze much of the way back to Tbilisi.