A Travellerspoint blog

Balcony of Europe


View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

A long route, 127 kilometres and the first one with height metres after the flat coastal roads. Georgia is called the "Balcony of Europe" and today we have a good view the snow-covered summits of what is really only the foothills of the High Caucasus.
We are now in a different time zone with two hours ahead of Turkish (and in fact Finnish, but only one after start of daylight saving time) time which should give us longer evenings. But getting started in the morning is still difficult - Earth`s rotation! So I failed to visit the Gelati monastery near Kutaissi which plays an important role in Georgian religious and cultural history.
As a compensation for the missed monastery we got a foretaste of Georgian hospitality, where wine is served not from bottles but from huge canisters!

Posted by Lent 06:55 Archived in Georgia Comments (0)

From Turkey to Georgia

sunny 16 °C
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Last day on the Black Sea Coast. We had to spend quite a bit of time at the border checkpoint because after 31 days in Turkey the border guards didn`t let people out who bought a one-month visa upon entry (it turned to be valid for only 30 days) without a hefty fine for one extra day. The non-visa people (including me) didn`t have a problem.
The first impressions of Georgia are certainly mixed. On the one hand we entered a country that shares so much European heritage (besides the churches I mention especially the pigs on the street that are processed into so much more tasty sausage than any Turkish sausage...) but on the other hand is so much poorer. While in Turkey Internet Cafes were simply everywhere, in Georgia they are hard to find. A lot of this backwardness has of course to do with the Soviet past of this country, but neither do present Russian-Georgian relationships do much to improve the situation and Georgians are desperately looking to Europe for help. In Georgia we see UN vehicles reminding us of the unsolved questions in Souh Ossetia and Abchasia and people often mention the name Shakashvili, though rarely in a positive context.
Finally a chance to apply my little knowledge of Russian which proves extremely useful in the face of the Georgian script that tells us in its own way how far away from home we already are.
Nightstay in the railway station of Kobuleti - last Black Sea town on our route. We don`t make a fuzz of where we sleep - see entry on Diogenes.

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Border crossing from Turkey to Georgia in Sarpi

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Final view of the Black Sea

Posted by Lent 06:33 Archived in Georgia Comments (0)

Final day in Turkey

overcast 12 °C
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The way from Rize towards Hopa near the Georgian border is a strange but pleasant experience being a cyclist on a six-lane motorway (near the towns with the parallel feeder roads even eight lanes!) with very little traffic. One would think that only EU-subsidized infrastructure projects are capable of producing such overcapacities, but more likely we're looking at an attempt to create new communication lines to circumvent Russian controlled markets. Anyway: track of the day (http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=16451) highly recommended for cycling; attributes: flat, fast and scenic. Minus only for the unilluminated tunnels!
Most of the international traffic is truck traffic and the town of Hopa caters for the truckers' needs with its hotels, shops, exchange offices etc.
I haven't got the detailed mileage, height and other statistics of the trip worked out yet - I will do that after I have finished my part of the journey (whenever that might be) - but my clock shows now 2,185 km of cycling since start in Olympia on Feb 20. Because of my days off in Turkey most other people have about 300 km more, so officially it's now 2,500 km in 36 days.

Posted by Lent 09:32 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Tea and hazelnuts

Something about food and drink

sunny 25 °C
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The entire Turkish Black Sea coast is is the land of hazelnut plantations. Despite the problems they cause to allergy-susceptible people like me in spring time (recently some other people around me started sneezing, too) hazelnuts are of course the main ingredient in this:
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I know that it somewhat politically incorrect to call this food, but we are consuming just huge quantities of it every day.
The other thing impossible to avoid is this:
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- and I really have stopped counting even the daily portions of çay that we are offered everywhere, very often for free. East of Trabzon one enters the land of tea, the plantations of which cover the hills in green terraces tea processing employs people in the towns.
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And then there is Ayran, the Turkish equivalent of piimä or Buttermilch. (Sorry, I never found out the English term for it.) The warmer it gets, the more refreshing it is. And the weather has been quite pleasant recently...
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Alcoholic beverages don't feature greatly in Turkey; there is really only one beer (Efes) and it is quite expensive. Neither is wine a part of the Turkish cuisine. These things will change when we enter Georgia.

For track of the day: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=16395

Posted by Lent 09:20 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Rest day Trabzon

Visit to Sümela Monastery

semi-overcast 22 °C
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From our nightstay we chartered a bus to visit the Sümela monastery, 'glued' to a very high cliff in the Pontic Mountains 60 km south of Trabzon. Its origins go back to the 4th century AD and was abandoned only with the 'exchange' of the Black Sea Greeks after the founding of the Turkish Republic. The remaining ruins (despite the poor shape of the surviving frescoes) still serve as some kind of identification symbol for many Pontic Greeks and their descendants (including our two Greek BC members, who served as excellent guides on the site) now living in Greece.

Posted by Lent 08:16 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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