Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Georgia - It's the Little Differences, Part 2

As promised, below are some more of the not-so-little things that make Georgia different and fascinating:

The water - it's delicious, and plentiful. You can drink it out of the tap, out of a natural fountain or rivulet, or if you insist - out of a bottle. It's as clear and fresh as water ought to be. And it did wonders for my hair and face. I suppose the [mostly] unpolluted air, and the dry air, contributed to that.
As for the Georgian lemonade (which I went on about in a previous post) -- you can easily get addicted to it; I found it far tastier than stuff like Sprite and Fanta.
Can't vouch for Georgian tea (ordinary tea bags, for the most part), nor for their coffee. Both were unremarkable.

Wine & booze - Georgians are rather proud of their ancient wine-making technique, but I guess I'm too accustomed to the wooden-barrel notes in my drink, and didn't fully appreciate the clay-pots-buried-in-the-ground flavor. The local beer is fine, if you're into experimenting. If you prefer your good ol' British ale or American beer - it may be available, and it's inexpensive. If you're into something stronger, the local version is a brandy, or vodka, called chacha. Go ahead, try it and report back! Be sure to assign a designated driver!

Food warning - The baked goods, including the simplest bread, are delicious! Always super-fresh and mouth-watering. If you are trying not to gain too much weight -- beware! Also: most of the food is generously salted and often fried or cooked in plenty of oil.

Taking a bus in the city - In Tbilisi, for instance, public transport is ridiculously cheap (for tourists!), and your hotel (or Google) will tell you which bus to take. Make sure you have small change, because the driver doesn't deal with that, there's a small machine inside the bus. Don't take chances, don't try to cheat; you'll regret it when the conductor reaches you. Besides - it's pennies: a longish ride in the city, one way, cost us half a lari each. That's equivalent to  US$ 0.20; or 0.18 Euro; or 0.75 Israeli Shekel. For the sake of comparison: in Israel, a local bus ride (e.g. Tel Aviv to Rishon Lezion, where I live) costs NIS 6.- (but only 3 shekels for a pensioner.) And a propos small change...

ATM - We all take for granted ATMs and the ability to withdraw cash not just at the bank. But Georgia has taken it one step further, and has these advanced automated units which let you do a variety of financial and bureaucratic transaction. These units are located not just at the entrance to main banks, but also as stand-alone units in various spots around town:
Bank of Georgia self-service unit
If you're merely a tourist, you probably don't care much which bank's ATM you're using. But if you're interested in doing business there, opening an off-shore account, investing or the like, you'll be pleased to know that Georgia tries to make it as easy and trouble-free a process as possible.

Pharmacies, drugstores, chemist's, toiletries - Weeks before our trip, I asked on TripAdvisor whether I could easily find low-cost Western staples such as Nivea and Dove soaps and body lotions, Johnson's baby shampoo, and so forth. I was assured that Yes, no problem. Well - the situation was better than I dared to hope... You can't walk five minutes without passing an Apotheka, as it is called. And the prices are low, definitely compared to the outrageous prices in Israel for the above brands.

Nevertheless, I didn't go mad with shopping. Only what I needed... E.g. face lotion, body wash (the mug w/toothbrush just to illustrate size of bottle),
Johnson's body wash
Garnier(?) facial cleanser
Socks, because I'm a socks freak
  And cheap, lightweight sneakers, because I love anything purple (well, nearly anything.) I'm not giving you the prices, but everything was considerably cheaper than back home. And that also applies to 2 casual tops and one pair of casual pants/trousers that I bought at Mango, a brand I never buy "back home" because they're expensive. But that was sort of a last minute spending spree, at the huge East Point Mall on the way to Tbilisi airport.
Reservation re the adjective "cheap": As you know, everything's relative. What is cheap for a tourist can be expensive to a local resident.

Personal safety - Police stations are quite visible in every city or small town. I think the only consistent thing about them is the colors -- red and blue -- which are used, to varying degrees, in the construction or decor. They come is Small, Medium, Large, or Original & Dramatic. What with being used to the old, British Mandate monochromatic, squarely-uniform police stations (known as Tegart forts), I found the Georgian version refreshing and amusing. But the main thing is, that Georgia is considered a very safe country, in terms of the rate of crime and assaults. The fact that pairs of policemen were patrolling the streets practically wherever we went added to our feeling of All Quiet on the Eurasian Front.
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I've written and written, and still feel that I have totally missed the essence of Georgia and its beauty, both natural and artistic. I'll try once more, in my next post. [Update: I did it! You can just go there and see for yourselves.]

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