I took a night bus to Trabzon to see the incredible Macahel Monastry. But I didn’t (see title). Instead I sat in a coffee place where they played a five song compilation of Celine Dion and Lionel Richi on repeat. After three hours of severe melancholia I took a bus to Batumi where I missed the last train to Tibillsieslsilii.
Orthodox paradox (which technically isn’t really a paradox)
On the bus to Batumi I met Tamara. She was very keen to get me out of here as soon as possible, because as long as I was with her she felt responsible for my fate. By every church we passed Tamara touched her head, her chest and her left and right shoulder (in the name of the father, the son and so on). It’s easily a full time job, with all the churches and images of Jesus and Maria around. She had a good heart, it just wasn’t on the right place. I don’t care if he dies, but please Lord, not here, she thought. She was trying to be such a good Christian, that even God was saying she should loosen up a little. She had no family. Because she was living according to the bible. I couldn’t remember that part in the bible.
As we rushed to the train station to get in time for the last train to Tblislisii, a hummer cut us off and stopped with squeaking tires. A priest in his thirties got out from the passenger’s seat. He had a long golden necklace with a big cross, a full black beard and a round belly. Tamara and people around her were going crazy. He was an Orthodox Superstar. When Tamara was all alone in her empty apartment, where only God could see her, she would secretly fantasize about the priest. He would knock on her door. He came from a crusade and was looking for shelter. He was hurt badly and was only wearing his black cape and his big golden cross would rest in his round belly. She would heal his wounds, put him to bed, make him some tea. When he would feel better he promised her a family and a front seat in church as he pushed his holy cross inside her.
You could easily picture the priest in a Guy Richie movie. It was just a matter of time before he would take out his machine gun and walk up to a Rabbi to shoot his brains out. Later I noticed that all the priest look like this. Someone told me that during a gay pride parade, the priests were the first to hit the friendly protesters with sticks and chairs. The comparison with a Guy Richie character was not even that unfounded.
Because of the Orthodox Superstar I missed the last train to Tblbislissii. Fortunately there was an uncomfortable Mashutka (mini van) that would drive me and four others to the capital. Along the whole route people were trying to sell their wooden merchandises to one of the five cars that were driving on that road around 3 in the morning. Next to me were two young, shaved guys, of which one was wearing a military uniform and the other was called Irakli. Irakli didn’t say much and the other didn’t say anything at all. After a break Irakli bought a two liter bottle of beer. In the car he took a gulp and shove the bottle in front of my face: “Drink!” and after my surprised face: “Good!” The beginning of a good conversation. Every time he had no idea what I was talking about, he said: “Yes, I can speak English, I understand you!” He looked shifty and grumpy. He told me he had to go to Tibililisisli for some business. He couldn’t say what exactly. Pretty dodgy, I assumed, and didn’t ask any further.
At 5 in the morning the driver kicked us out at a place inhabited by worn out prostitutes, taxi drivers and criminals. The Brazilian business man who I didn’t mention earlier vanished in a taxi. Irakli was on the phone and looked at me. He hung up. “Come” he said. We went to a little wooden shed that resembled a coffee place. A grey lady stared at us from the counter with vacant eyes. As she gave us our coffee she cried with dry eyes. She probably had used all her tears to make this coffee. The most miserable cup of coffee I ever had. I asked Irakli if we could go to the metro. He said no. Wait just a little bit longer. And he made another phone call. He looked outside. He looked at me. And hung up. It sounded like he only delivered short messages. I finished my second cup of coffee with ignorant perseverance. Irakli called again. Said something, looked at me, looked at the door, waited, replied and hung up. Two big guys appeared in front of the coffee shop, they looked inside. They were discussing how they would put me in the trunk of my car, steal my passport and record a ransom video where they cut my tongue out. I had some heroic scenarios, but they vanished pretty fast as anxiety took over. They entered the coffee shop and sat at a table next to us. They just stared at me and continue their plan of abducting me. They made a small talk with Irakli ( a small talk in Georgian is genuinely small, about three words) and then looked at me again. I told him I really wanted to leave. He looked at his watch: “5 more minutes.” I predicted my future in the grounds left in my cup. It was as gloomy as the coffee.
‘OK.’ Irakli said finally, ‘We go Metro.’ It was dawn now. The creepy parking place had transformed into a crowded day market. The cracked up prostitutes went home with the taxi drivers. Irakli bought me a metro ticket and brought me to a supermarket with free Wifi in the city center. We used Google Translate so we could finally talk. He told me he came from the North of Georgia. He was just visiting Tblblisilisi to register at the municipality. His family got in trouble when the Russians invaded his area, and he moved south to Batumi. He had no hatred against Russians: “it’s not the people, it’s just politics.” If you had to draw a stereotypical crook from a cartoon, you most likely picture a guy that looks a bit like the ordinary Georgian. Bold, big and grumpy. But as soon as you start a conversation this makes place for a very friendly and hospitable nature. Something to keep in mind when you visit Georgia.