Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Welcome to Tbilisi, Georgia

The very first thing you will see of Georgia is - nothing. Your plane is very likely to arrive sometime around 4 AM since most international carriers who fly to Tbilisi International Airport only use night-time slots. (Maybe that's because they want to minimize the risk of being shot at by Georgia's numerous and diverse rebels - from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the North or Adjara in the South.) Until a few seconds before the touchdown, you will see nothing outside. Although Tbilisi is a city with about 1 Million citizens, there simply are no lights. What an amazing sight - pitch black nothingness.

Tbilisi seen from the arriving airplane (Please mind: the picture is fake but accurate)

If you are in the lucky position (that might actually be a matter of discussion) to be a special guest of Georgia's Minister of Defense, you will be picked up on the runway by a battered Ford Transit, reminding you of your adventurous trips to Beirut when it was still exciting. An obscure figure standing outside will ask you to surrender your passport and baggage tag. And immediately thereafter the minibus's driver will start the engine, hit the accelerator and speed up to about 80 mph - just to abruptly stop after about 5o meters. It is then that you will have arrived at the country's VIP terminal. There you'll find the next sight to behold: An empty room with two brown sofas, the main decoration being a TV playing the Georgian version of MTV and a picture of President Saakashvili (the amount of -vilis you are about to encounter in the following days is very likely to blow your mind real fast). Very probably a security person will be sitting in front of an electrical radiator. I saw him at arrival and departure and have been confidentially told by well informed sources that the man is always sitting there.

Tbilisi International Airport, VIP Terminal

After a short but nerve-wrecking period of waiting for your passport and
luggage you'll board yet another Ford Transit and race to downtown Tbilisi at around 160 mph - or so it seems. All the while you will pass by nothing at all. At least that's what you'll think, until you'll recognize that you've been passing by blocks and blocks of flats for minutes - without any light on at all.

That will depress you - until you see how the main road from Tbilisi International Airport to downtown Tbilisi is called. From that moment on, you will really feel at home in this strangely great country that is Georgia.

Tbilisi, February 19, 2006


Blogger Franklin D. Rosenfeld said...

Holy Moly, that is so incredibly cool...

12:22 AM  

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