Today’s exploration involved buying a Metrocash Card and riding the rails. First up was purchasing the cashless ticket called MetroMoney. After reading a blog how-to the process was painless – all I had to do was hand over 10 GEL say card and in response to the inquiring look of the ticket seller indicate 8 – this was 2 for the plastic card and 8 for the amount to be loaded onto the card – enough for 16 trips.
The descent down to the platform was interesting. 45 degree escalator going down what seemed like 100 metres. Trains ran every 5 minutes. The station was built in 1965 and looks like it has not had anything done to it since – even though overall a lot of it seemed pretty good condition. I guess overall a testament to Russian engineering?
The train itself looked like it might have been built at the same time, old, noisy and oddly, fast. Evidently there are 117 Metro vehicles 50 of which are still the original style. It it not surprising that such a convenient transport system carries over 100 million passengers a year (noting the population of Tbilisi is just over 1.2 million). It begs the question if so many are riding the Metro why are there so many cars clogging the streets!
First stop was Didube where many mini buses called marshruktas that go to all destinations north, south and west depart. I had a wander in the rain amidst the throng with drivers urging me to get on their bus (note to self… write out destination name in Georgian as almost none had destinations in English) so had I been traveling, I could have ended up anywhere!
There was also a large bustling market with a ramshackle plastic sheeting roof that hardly provided shelter, plus a more substantial undercover market where cheeses were sold.
Eventually, after much searching and raised anxiety levels, I found metro entrance again and traveled to the end of the line, Akhmeteli Theatre. I suppose there is a theatre there. As it was still raining hard I searched the market (does every metro stop have a market? – have to find out) and eventually after wandering amongst the rivers of water flowing between the stalls found a place that sold umbrellas. (Paying what I guess was an overly priced 20 GEL – A$12.50 despite saying Dizviri (expensive).)
Noticing on the map the station was near an artist friend I caught a taxi to his place (again the ‘tourist aspect came in and he wanted to charge me twice as much) for lunch and an afternoon toasting and drinking cha cha. (Think vodka but 30% higher alcohol and home distilled .. so I am lucky I can even write this…).
He drove me back to the Metro entrance and luckily I found the right platform. The metro ride back was easy and the walk up the steep hill to the guesthouse manageable, just.
Forecast for tomorrow… sore head …. (post script – I have never had any after effect from cha cha, even after having some more of this potent home brew posted to me in Australia).