London to Trabzon
|Hotel Horon view|
Many men in leather jackets surround us at the border exit, “want Taxi?.” We eventually find a man with a badge so hopefully he is a taxi driver. Yes he is a taxi driver and is a very nice man. His family come from North London so we have to talk about Arsenal, Totten Ham Spurs and Cameroon (I think he meant Prime Minister Cameron) Off to the Hotel Divan we go, which is our home for the next three nights. Spotted a few Thai massage parlours so I shall try to leave Sue behind!! Wandered around a few cobbled streets.
Sightseeing Batumi, Georgia
Eventually found a ‘pub museum’ which sold real ales or sort of, and then we went to a very nice restaurant, El Canapé, Batumi for dinner. Entertained by male singer or was he just doing a bit of karaoke? I just wish I knew what the bill comprised of. Even Google Translate cant help me on this one!
Duchess for Sale!
FOR SALE The Duchess! Very good condition, 63K, own teeth, been around the block a few times hence dodgy undercarriage, test drive available. No reasonable offer refused. Buyer collects from Georgia.
Why! I hear you cry, well quite simply her eyesight is going. She likes to have a weekly shower and today, besides being domestic violence Friday, is also Big Sue shower day. She had only been in there about 30 seconds when the phone rang, it was hotel reception asking me if everything was ok. It seems that there is a shower cord in the shower cubicle (My shower day being Sunday I hadn’t seen it) which apart from being red, with a big red knob on the end marked ’emergency assist cord’ was not noticeable at all. The Duchess thought it was to turn the shower on. Whoops.
I did point out to the receptionist that my Grandmother was getting olde, and should have gone to Spec Savers. They didn’t get my joke!
Tree Hugging food
Her Highness, being a tree hugging veggie, ordered a plate of vegetables which helpfully came with beef, I told her it was from the ‘beef plant’ similar to the ‘egg plant.’ She didn’t believe me, and another plate of food for me. No wonder she is skinny.
Railway Station, Batumi,
Zedazeni Georgian Beer
Beer here, Zedazeni Georgian Beer is lovely, proper lager. It’s about 6% proof and very, very, nice.
Sightseeing in Batumi, Georgia
|Cable Car Batumi Argo Mountain|
Not the best view in the world but hey ho! Decide to walk back passing some charismatic cemetery plots en route.
Back in town we find a very nice square and manage to have our first people watching experience whilst drinking beer and coke. Wonderful. Thai massage later. She certainly managed to get a few things clicked back into place! Quick meal and off to bed.
In the morning we travel to Tbilisi, Georgia.
Rolling hills, green fields, a few cows and goats made up the scenery. All topped off by a fast flowing river which we seemed to follow for the duration. Many of the stations we passed reminded me of the Trans-Siberia train journey.
By taxi to Hotel Renaissance,Viktor Gabiskiria Street 5, Tbilisi, Georgia . As the crow flies it’s very close to the few sights but up hill.
|View from Hotel Renaissance Tbilisi|
Hotel Renaissance, Tbilisi
View from Tbilisi Fortress Tbilisi
Potatoes, onions, mushrooms and bread make up a very late lunch. We stay for a sunset drink and get taxi back up the hill as the route by foot is not the most direct or well lit! Lots of traffic and police greet us and we have to leave the taxi as the road has been closed. Don’t know why. Into hotel via local corner shop for essential supplies of beer, wine and crisps.
Today’s view. Well at least we can see the aerial. Where do we find these hotel Views!
View from Hotel Renaissance Tbilisi
Today the Bird took me up the ‘Funicular’.Ooh Matron!Me being scared of heights I could have more fun at a FUNeral than a Tbilisi FUNicular. It was terrible. Apparently great views, I don’t know I had my eyes shut!
|Hotel Hereti Lagodekhi|
Hotel Hereti would have been wonderful many years ago but now it is in need of a lot of care and money. Oh dear what a toilet!
|Hereti Hotel Lagodekhi|
The top floors do not have any windows and we are the only guests. The wind blows through the corridor. Most of the rooms appear to be undergoing some refurbishment, long overdue. For example, the balcony on the top floor has weeds and small bushes growing, window panes are broken, doors are open to the outside elements. However our room is clean, quite big really with a sofa and two arm chairs, fridge – a little suite in fact. There are some nuts and weird stuff for us as a welcome gift.
The wallpaper is peeling off the walls and the TV Is the size of a postage stamp.
Living in a Tower Block
It is a bit like living in a council tower block, I might throw the sofa out the window. Oh I forgot, the heating doesn’t work so I went to bed in my coat. Seriously there are radiators but they are off. It seems the old lady and old man that run the place only speak Russian, no Georgian or English. We have google translate and off we go. A short stroll confirms our thoughts that there is not a lot going on but the restaurant we find does come up trumps later in the day. Sue has weird fish and salad, I have some kebab type thing with chips. Beer and pear lemonade help to wash it down.Everything shuts around 7pm. Including the single restaurant in the town. By 8.30 we’re back at the hotel. We are the only people on the streets, the person in the restaurant was nice enough but I think she just wondered why we were there! So did we! We were to be here for 2 nights but will leave tomorrow and cross the border into Azerbaijan. The rationale for deciding to move onto Azerbaijan in the morning is the hotel is slightly better, we hope.
Whilst walking around the town/village/hamlet yesterday, and getting looked at weirdly (As though, why are there visitors to our town/village/hamlet?) we bump into a funeral possession. As the car drove past we noticed the open coffin which was carrying an elderly lady sporting a mauve head scarf
on her way to be planted. Sue did say how nice the dead woman’s scarf was. It put me off my food.
TV is culturally different, Perhaps I should just embrace the culture more.
Hotel Qubek Balaken
I would have been happy with the standard room but this is lovely with a clear view of the snow capped mountains (Russian Border).
|Hotel Qubek Balaken|
Checked in early.The only person that speaks any English here is the hotel manager. That is it. Not that I expect anyone to talk my language. But it does get fun when you get the menu with no pictures, in Azerbaijan, and I am with a tree hugging vegetarian. I think someone has turned on the summer button as we have sunshine, blue sky and warmth. We walk along the high street and discover supermarkets, wine shops, atm’s, cafes and diner type restaurants.
Lost in translation
As the menu is all in squiggles, for lunch Sue opts for chy (black tea) I ask for a kofte and instead a meatball soup arrives with my beer.I did ask Sue not to order her ‘normal’ skinny latte, with low fat soya milk and judogi berries, as this may cause a difficulty. She did though mention she was gluten free and we had a few strange looks. The waiter got a screwdriver out, I think that one got lost in translation.
Sightseeing Balaken Azerbaijan
All of this whilst we watch the antics of the local drivers – just like wacky races! Majority of the taxis resemble Ladas’. Quite a few olive green trucks and jeeps. Sue bought a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce for her lunch back at the hotel. The hotel does have a large pool which is currently being tarted up for their summer season, I guess. Not sure if we are the only guests at the hotel or not. Before we leave the high street we spot a pizza menu of sorts so we decide to go there for supper. No English language tv on the box but plenty of football to watch. Tonight is Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at 2300 our time.
Back out onto the high street for the pizza. Obviously that doesn’t happen, it was shut! Very limited choice of pictures to point at in other restaurants. Google Translate off line does not work here. What fun we had! The hotel manager wrote a note in foreign, “This lady is a vegetarian and does not eat meat”. What can possibly go wrong!
I have a doner kebab and Sue has a lentil soup, more by luck than judgement. We leave there for another cafe – more tea and beer. These premises don’t seem to sell anything other than beer, tea and possibly Coca Cola. White wine can be purchased in the supermarket. Looking at the vodka shelf noticed very pretty bottles and the contents was described as ‘strong drink’!
Back to the hotel for footie. Real Madrid win 2-1, first leg of two match semi final UEFA champions cup.Leisurely get up process and up to the 5th floor for breakfast.
I think we are the only people again, in this luxury 100 bed hotel. To be fair why would anyone come here? As nice as Balaken is it is miles from anywhere.
Hotel Qubek Balaken
At breakfast we had the whole restaurant, and it didn’t go unnoticed that when we went for breakfast the cleaners moved into our room.
|Breakfast Hotel Qubek Balakan Azerbaijan|
The staff seem to be surprised to see us but we are very soon presented with bread, Greek cheese, a boiled egg, a couple of dollops of thick yogurt and honey with the inevitable cup of black tea. It hits the spot. Shame that the staple of their diet appears to be bread, but when in Rome ……. the restaurant is huge and we are the only visitors.
|Heydor Park Balakan|
Have a very gentle stroll through Haydor Park for our daily constitutional and then back to the hotel early afternoon by way of a couple of beer and tea stops.
|Hayder Park Balakan|
At first bar presented with a couple of cold pancakes for tapas! Recommended to go to nearby fish restaurant for supper by the hotel manager who speaks excellent English. Taxi to aforementioned restaurant. It is a collection of garden sheds where you have your own private party! Very nice but we wanted to people watch as opposed to looking at each other and the golden table cloth.
Having been shown the ‘This woman does not eat meat’ note, the restaurant owner took the Duchess into the kitchen and took half a chicken out of the freezer and ‘asked,’ well indicated, if she’d eat it. Obviously veggies in Azerbaijan eat chicken. He then took us to a pond, Sue vigorously nods her head, does a thumbs up and the man promptly
No Doner Kebab
We got upgraded on the first day, I still think there was a cctv camera in the bedroom. I did ask big sue to do some of her best ‘bedroom moves’ for her camera, you can imagine her response!
Oh did I mention that the Baku hotel has one of it’s highlights on booking,com as ‘toilet paper.’ Can’t wait for that part of the adventure. Short walk through town. Long queues at the ATM’s (there are only 2). Walk down to river, have a mooch, then back to hotel.
Tomorrow we make our way to Baku.
Trip To Baku
Last boiled egg and yogurt breakfast at Qubek hotel. Well we have been here in the border town of Balakan for past 3 nights.
So now we are off on a 6 hour, 250 mile road trip to Baku in a 1973, Lada, for about £40.
We get collected by Igor, who speaks no English. Off we go, but after 2 minutes we go to the local police station, and Igor gets out. He kisses and shakes hands with various uniform police officers. Goes in, comes out after about a minute. Off we go again. No I am not sure why either!
Igor has 2 mobile phones which both constantly ring, which he answers whilst waving at the policemen and driving a manual car. After about 2 minutes he answers a phone, then hands it to me. An English speaking lady asks if ‘The brother’ can come along. Ok this should be cosy, We drive to a pig farm and in gets Dimitri, no English spoken. I sit in the back with the Duchess, Dimitri in the front with Igor. We have bags everywhere, he also has bags plus 2 more mobile phones that constantly rung. All we are missing at this point is the live chickens.
After about 10 minutes, the passenger, Dimitri (keep up), plugs his Iphone into the radio and plays a video of him singing at a wedding. Music at full blast. Igor is driving at speed, talking now on both of his mobiles, singing, sending a text, and watching the video whilst in the lane of oncoming traffic.. I think he has seen the cars coming towards us. Perhaps not. They start flashing their lights, then sounding their horns, but somehow we miss several cars on several occasions. The song wasn’t even that good. I was going to ask to put Neil Sedaka on. Anyway the viewing of the video, the answering of the mobiles and cars about to hit us front on, carried on for about 2 or 3 of my bowel movements. Eventually the music stopped and we went for some lunch , and me to the toilet.
After an eternity we pulled up outside our stable/hostel/pigsty where are to stay for 3 nights. Being F1 weekend the price went up from £14 a night (Expensive in Baku before you ask. I know how to treat a bird.) to £60 a night. But we did get as advertised, toilet paper in the room. We also got Garlic enriched shampoo. That should get me pulling the local birds when they have a whiff of my hair, what there is left of it.
|Garlic enriched Shampoo|
Oh dear. How the nightly have fallen over 2 years. The Duchess met the real Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi bit now I have left Formula 1 we have been relegated to a cardboard cut out.
|Fernando Alonso Baku|
|Fernando Alonso Abu Dhabi|
I see Azerbaijan TV is up to its normal high standards. This may replace Hotel views!
We didn’t see too much of the race, but never mind, we did have a walk around the following day. Seeing some old ruins (Not the Duchess) and drinking beer, so all was good.
|Castle Ruins Baku|
Today we have egg flavour shampoo. Wow.
|Egg flavour Shampoo|
We fly to Kiev on Tuesday, there for 2 nights and Londinium on Thursday. This was cheaper than flying back to London after race weekend.
I ho I ho its off to Chicken (Chicken Kiev, gettit? They don’t get any better) for 2 nights.
Well we got here, in Chicken, the home of cabbage, via Buta Airlines after a 3 hour flight. Great place, all very friendly, but everything is written in foreign. Mostly without interpretation (Not that I expect it). So this is fun. The dogs here wear shoes
|Dog shoes, Baku|
and the cabbages are huge.
Big Cabbage Kiev
Oh yes and they do sell Chicken Kiev here!
To be fair I haven’t a clue of most of what went on, what was said, or what we ate for the entire trip.
Fly back to UK manana, it has been a laugh.