Adventures on adventures! One of my friends asked a few weeks ago if I wanted to go to Georgia for a weekend, and of course I said yes! That’s Georgia the country, to be clear. It only takes about 5 hours (theoretically) to get to the capital, Tbilisi, by car from Yerevan, and most people go there when they need to renew their passport stamps because it’s the easiest open border to get to.

Here are some random Tbilisi views for your enjoyment. This is from one of the hills that overlooks the city.

Someone knew a driver and got in touch with him to organize rides to Tbilisi on Friday after work and back to Yerevan Sunday night. He asked if we could also take a woman to a village along the way, we agreed, and he subtracted her fare from our total. The drive started out okay. I mean, traffic was terrible getting out of Yerevan, but what do you expect when you leave at rush hour?

A Tbilisi street

This also was my first experience getting a gas refill in a car that runs on natural gas. I guess I never had to think about it before because I rarely even go to gas stations here. In hindsight, I realize that I’ve been in taxis with huge gas tanks in the trunk, and while I didn’t think twice about it at the time, those were probably natural gas-powered cars as well.

Armenia is apparently one of the biggest users in the world of natural gas-powered vehicles. I think it’s mostly just because it’s cheaper than gasoline, but it’s also kind of a pain. When you stop to fill the car, everyone has to get out and wait in a “safe zone” in case the car blows up. No big deal. As they say, as long as everything is installed correctly, it’s not dangerous… which is exactly my concern. I had a conversation with someone about this who said, “Oh they’re very safe. I’ve only seen a car blow up once.” Oh, well then! You’re right. No big deal. Know how many times I’ve seen a car blow up? Zero, and it would be nice to keep it that way.

I don’t know if the picture properly communicates the feeling, but this place looked like something out of a movie with elves in it. Something about the styles of the buildings and the colors and the way they’re all arranged on the hill… I don’t know. It was like something out of a fantasy movie.

Anyway, the stops to get gas took a bit longer than anticipated, and then, just as we dropped the extra woman off, we got a flat tire. Wonderful. As the woman is hopping out of the car (knowing full well that we have a flat), she gives a jolly, “Bari djanapar!” (have a good journey) and shuts the door behind her. My jaw dropped, and I literally gave a laugh of disbelief and a “she’s joking, right???” Who does that? “Oh, that’s too bad that you all have a flat, but here I am at my destination! How wonderful! Have a great journey!” Thanks a lot, lady.

These balconies used to be popular in Armenia as well, but they’re kind of a dying breed here (mostly because of the destruction of historic Yerevan and a lack of maintenance).

The joke was on her though because in classic Armenia fashion, despite the fact that it was the middle of the night, we were invited to wait inside her friend’s house until the tire was changed. I guess it was someone’s birthday because cake was involved, plus the usual offers of coffee, tea, water, or anything else you could possibly want.

Finally, we set off again on the final stretch before the border. There’s nothing more fun than an 11PM border crossing! First, we got to the Armenian border. We all had to pile out of the car and walk through passport control while the driver went across with the car. Then, we piled back in, drove through what I assume is some sort of no-man’s land, and piled back out again at the Georgia border. We walked through passport control with our bags and met the driver again on the other side. Now I have passport stamps galore! From there, it was maybe an hour before we got to Tbilisi.

You know how long the whole thing took us? SEVEN HOURS. Instead of five. SEVEN. We got in after midnight, and I immediately passed out. I figured the sooner I slept, the earlier I could wake up and start exploring!

I think this is going to turn into a little Georgia weekend mini-series… I’m cutting part one off here because I don’t want to make your head explode. We’ll take it in small pieces instead, so stay tuned for a mini-Georgian/Armenian parallel history lesson.