The first changes were already evident at the border crossing. The Turkish border post, officially open 24 hours a day, was manned when we arrived at 8 am, but no one was allowed to cross before 9 am. Finally, at 9:30 am, we could queue for the passport control at the counter 🙂 The apparently uncoordinated large construction site at the Turkish border post as well as the chaotically piloted Iranian trucks made the waiting highly amusing. In contrast, the entry to Georgia was straightforward. Within a few minutes we were processed by the border guard under a probing look and without any words.

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In Georgia, we encountered narrow roads with countless short but steep descents and ascents. No matter how busy the roads are, cows are everywhere standing or lying calmly on the asphalt and even the freight trucks have to circle around them. It is remarkable that approximately every tenth car is without a fender or else badly damaged. We don’t know if this is due to the cows, to neck-breaking overtaking maneuvers, to the numerous gravel roads or to the 0.0‰ alcohol tolerance, which is not taken very seriously. Already in the first store, we could not miss the large (2.5-liter bottles) beer assortment.

We were very pleased with the variety of food like the flat breads filled with e.g. cheese (Kachapuri in local variations), spicy bean paste (Lobiani), meat (Kubdari) or potatoes/mushrooms. Also delicious are churchkhela (nuts strung on a string covered in a coat of thickened fruit juice), pear-flavored lemonade and peach compote. Sweet raisin bread (nazuki) flavored with cinnamon also tastes great! The bakeries are usually housed in nondescript small houses and the goods are handed out through a small sales window. Thankfully, as cyclists, we can find the bakeries using our noses :-). Since they don’t have a fixed assortment anyway and they bake continuously, we always try what comes fresh out of the oven.

Another thing we could see and feel immediately in Georgia is the more liberal society. It is normal here for women to wear short hair and pants. In Turkey, I kept entering the women’s restroom under protest from the restroom attendant. On one occasion, a mother and her son fled the ladies’ room in fear when she caught sight of me… this no longer happens in Georgia. However, the fact that we experience people here as more liberal is not reflected in their facial expressions. Usually we look into serious, grumpy facial expressions. Therefore, we set ourselves the goal of making cashiers in the store or saleswomen at small stands to smile (by smiling at them in a friendly way). Our success rate is about 50% 🙂

These impressions we gathered on our journey through the beautiful country in the Caucasus so far. After crossing the border from Turkey, we visited the impressive ancient cave town and monastery of Vardzia. Up to 50,000 people lived in the rock city until the 13th century, before an earthquake destroyed large parts. On gravel serpentines from Vardzia we reached the highlands around Ninozminda, which are similar in landscape to the east of Turkey. So, we reached Tbilisi for the first time through the rural south. A steep downhill ride brought us directly to the city center, from where we made our last report.