Off and Away
Tbilisi Travel Blog› entry 6 of 9 › view all entries
In the end, it was a bit of an anticlimax, as we slid slowly and very neatly into the small port of Poti. Small the port maybe, but it is a hive of activity, with a miscellany of the world’s tramp steamers here loading and unloading a cornucopia of loads.
Ships from Antigua, Majuro in the Marshall Islands, Panama and more were being emptied by a forest of rusty cranes onto a crumbling dockside; were I not in a hurry to move on, I would have loved to explore this scene of intimate internationalism. Each of these ships spend weeks and even months at sea, seeking cargoes, shifting cargoes and then seeking new ones, and only rarely come together for few brief hours in port.
And to them Poti’s inefficiency must have been glorious; actually time to get off the ship, head to eh seaman’s mission and chat to a wider audience than their own crew of ten or so. I have heard it said that seamen grumble about the inefficiencies of modern ports where they can be in and out in a few hours, and the historic, and possibly romantic, vision of seeing the world is now limited to expanses of water, and no longer the delights of exotic ports
We, on the other hand, felt bewildered at this inefficiency, and while I should have been used to endless and apparently pointless waiting, I certainly wasn’t. We docked and waited; Waited some more, retired to our cabins and waited. After about three hours of intermittent waiting and shuffling we congregated by the reception area and waited a little more. Finally, a Georgian officer started calling names at random handing back passports; one after the other and the “Johnson” came the cry. As mine was one of only two non-regional documents it stood out and as he handed it to me he paused, smiled and said “Welcome to Georgia, Mr. Johnson”. A completely unnecessary but generous comment and it made me smile.
So now we were free; we, the Tbilisians Archi and Tony, had arranged for a ride from friends that we had made, but after disembarking and waiting for a couple of hours, and there being no sign of any vehicles disembarking we decided to get a bus or a taxi.
From the ship to the harbour gate is about a kilometre across a rough, wet and grimy path, but fortunately there was a shuttle; at the dock gates Tony negotiated a taxi for the three of us, $120 for the five hour ride to the capital; a bus might have been $15 each, but it was late, we were hungry and anxious to move, so we climbed into a geriatric, red Opel and clunked off along the most appalling road that I have seen in my life.
First, however would be dinner, and we pulled up outside a non-descript that the driver knew and went into to a smoky, dark, cavern-like and utterly wonderful restaurant. This region of the country is not wealthy, and it shows, but at each table groups were eating, drinking and toasting with abandon, and so we followed suit.
Georgian cuisine is not exactly light-weight of possibly uber-nutritious, but is it delicious, and an hour later, after a splendid meal of kebabs, katchapouri (a sort of stuffed cheese pie) and khinkale (like perogies, but large filled with meat and a broth, to be eaten with care), a flagon of wine, and toasts to our families, countries (even Russia), peace, long-life, our new friendship and the wisdom of voters we headed out into the night, and headed East.
At about 2,00am, we slid into Tbilisi, still surprisingly awake, and drove through the old town, utterly gorgeous in pastel lights highlighting its absorbing architecture and to the Marriott where I now sit in a degree of comfort well removed from the Greifswald. An East German ship will remain an East German ship regardless of falling walls or reunified countries. Until she heads to the knackers’ yard, she will remain resolutely East German.
And so Baku is back on the agenda. I shall fly there this afternoon, cheating, I know, and be at the Caspian shore for my dinner tonight. I can hardly wait.