Kars to Tbilisi, I started out with just a long sleeve shirt on, no jacket, temp was 19c and I expected it to warm up as the day progressed, guess again, altitude rose to over 2,000 metres and it got colder down to 16c and after 30 minutes of freezing I stopped and put my jacket on hahaha, the 4 lane road was replaced by a bumpy 2 lane road winding through the mountains great ride, no time to fall asleep. Arrived at the border and there were only a few buildings with immigration just a shack and there was no one else there so I got my passport stamped straight away, rode to Customs and one guy ahead of me, again my papers were checked and I was through to Georgia in 15 minutes, what a change from the last border crossing. Georgia took slightly longer, immigration 5 minutes and then the Customs guys were standing right there out in the open and asked me if I had any drugs hahaha. I opened up my panniers and top box and they looked at what was on the top without touching anything or rummaging around and said Go. Next stop was the Insurance shack at the LUK Oil Service station about 500m up the road, visible from the Border crossing to buy Insurance for a month, cost 35 Lari, 15 days is the minimum, all up I was on the road again after about 45 minutes.
From here the road is 2 lanes and follows a river until about 130 km from Tbilisi when it becomes a new 4 lane concrete freeway.
Tbilisi – a city of contrasts, an old town, modern buildings and buildings left over from the communist era. The Metro feels like you are back in Moscow buried deep underground with escalators going 90 mph. Taxis are very cheap here (no meters) about 2 lari per kilometre so you can travel anywhere in the tourist area for less than 10 lari or 2 euro (usually only 5 lari). The metro and busses cost 0.50 lari a ride. Get a Metromoney card from any Metro station for 2 lari and load it with some credit. You will need it for the cable car ride (2.5 lari) to the castle on the hill other wise you will have to wait in a long queue to buy a ticket, with the card you walk straight through the gate. Wifi is provided by the city in most tourist areas and is free, most restaurants have wifi as well.
I visited the Georgian National Museum and it was very well laid out. A short walk away is Liberty Square and the Galleria Shopping Mall. From there I took the Metro to Avlabari station and walked up the hill to the Sameba Cathedral.
I went on a wine tour which turned out to be more of a sightseeing tour, cost 60 lari. There was 6 of us in a mini van and we travelled as far as Sighnaghi starting at 1025 and returning to Tblisi at 2130, a distance of 280 km. It was supposed to be an English tour but the driver only spoke 3 words of English.
First stop Kakhetian wine factory, where a big group was taken around the stainless steel vats and given a taste of raw wine from them. Next a village cheese and bread stop where bread was made in a Naan like oven, very interesting and they also had home made cheese. Then on to St.Nino’s monastery for 30 min, had a Georgian coffee there, church closed for renovation good views then back to Sighnaghi to have a look at the castle walls, its up on a hill. Also stopped there for lunch and had chicken with a garlic sauce, very good, left there for a short wander around the town square. Then we drove to Tsinandali where a Prince in the past had vineyards and a winery still making famous Georgian wines, big house and gardens, paid 7 lira for a museum tour and access to the park and a glass of white wine, The museum was a tour of the house. Next to Telavi to see the 900 year old Plane tree and then headed for home over the mountains. A long day.
Today I went for a ride on the cable car to the top of the hill overlooking Tbilisi and walked back down. If you don’t want to wait in a long queue go there at 10 am with a Mertomoney card.