From America to Tbilisi and then back to Baku

Tbilisi Travel Blog

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My flight got into Tbilisi at 3am.  I was tired and still not sure about how I was going to get back to Baku.  The Azerbaijani travel agency didn’t open until much later, so I had to sit around till then.  There were no flights out of Tbilisi that day into Baku, so I asked the lady at the travel agency what time the train to Baku left.  She told me that it left at 8:50.  At that point it was 8:00.

I got my things ready and I rushed outside to grab a taxi.

We got to the train station with enough time for me to run up and buy a ticket.  At first, I had no trouble carrying my suitcases.  I ran up the hill, passing several people who wanted to help me carry my bags (for a fee, of course) and got to the first ticket station.  I asked about Baku, they waved me on to the next platform.  Of course, the next platform was down one flight of stairs and up another three, and by this point I was already exhausted.

I flew through a crowd of people trying to get into a train, went down a flight of stairs and up one more.  I went up another flight of stairs and stopped to rest.  I literally could not move up another flight of steps.

Time was running out and luckily there were some nice policemen around who were willing to watch my bags.  I flew up the remaining stairs, came into the ticket building and made it to the nice lady selling tickets to Baku.  I bought my ticket, started down the steps and looked at the departure time on the ticket.

The train to Baku was leaving at 15:45.  It was barely 9:00.  I was almost 7 hours early.  The lady at the agency gave me the wrong time.

I was hungry, thirsty and exhausted and I had a 7 hour wait for the train to arrive and at this point I was too tired to move my bags anywhere.  My only option was to find a place, put my bags down and camp out for the day in the Tbilisi train station.  I hadn’t eaten anything all day, felt like I needed to vomit and just needed to rest for a while.

So, about the men who were trying to help me with my bags before, I think they were homeless and lived around the train station.  A lot of people around here will travel with a huge amount of goods to sell in different cities and it isn’t uncommon to see a lady with ten or more bags full of vegetables or dishes trying to get on a bus or a train.  These folks were around the Tbilisi airport mainly helping those vendors who were transporting goods back and forth between the different destinations.

One of these transporters approached me and offered his help, but I tried to explain to him that my train didn’t leave for 5 hours and that I didn’t need his help.  I didn’t need his help to move my things, but I did offer to pay him some money if he could get me some water.

Now realize, this conversation was mostly pantomime and the man could not understand the concept of water.  He kept on offering fanta or cola, and I kept on trying to ask for water in every language that I possibly could.  Suffice it to say I couldn’t get the concept of water across to him, but I gave him $5 and he went off to get me some fanta (which was better than nothing, for sure).

30 minutes pass, then an hour.  I wasn’t bothered, but I figured that he just took the money and ran.  It was worth it to try and get some water.  I saw him once, saw him twice across the train tracks, and he kept on indicating that he was going to return with things.  I just smiled and nodded.

Then, an hour and a half later, the man shows up again with a large fanta, a bottle of vodka and some kachipuri.

I was dehydrated, vodka was the last thing I needed.  I kept on looking at the bottle and thinking that it was going to kill me, but that there was no way of politely declining the alcohol.  I drank a bunch of fanta, ate some food, and then started drinking.

Realize that this is the SECOND time that I have gotten drunk with a bum in the street in Tbilisi.

Of course, I was vulnerable, in the middle of a train station and I really made it a point to pretend like I was drinking a lot more than I actually was.  Just like last time, the bum drank significantly more than I did, and I was ok with that.  Still, I was feeling really good and I wasn’t thirsty at all anymore.

One interesting thing about this was that he was very proud of the vodka he brought.  It was pure Georgian vodka he kept on telling me and that it was better than Russian vodka, and certainly better than Azerbaijani vodka.  The truth was that it wasn’t too bad going down.

I gave him a bit more money and he came back with another bottle and a bunch of food for the road.  He never did help me with my bags later, but he was very much an example of Georgian hospitality.  I enjoyed the experience a lot.

By some act of fate, a few hours later I found some Georgians who were taking a bunch of bottled water to Baku to sell and I bought myself enough water to last me the rest of the trip.  The drunken feeling had been gone for a long time and I was dying to get some water in me.

7 hours of waiting wasn’t a bad experience at all.  The train came and I started the 15 hour train ride back to Baku.  My vacation at this point was sadly over.

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photo by: herman_munster