I needed 2 passport pictures wearing a head scarf, smiling forbidden. Somehow I didn’t feel like laughing. I felt uncomfortable and it was at that moment when I realized that I have to wear this headscarf for the entire time while I am in Iran. It popped into my mind that I am visiting a country where I am told what to wear. In some way crazy. But the dress code is part of the culture, so I have to accept it. I guess there are worse things and that’s why I swept the thought aside.
I went nearly every day to the post office, but every effort to speed up the delivery process failed. At the end I waited 16 days in Erzurum and the parcel had taken 30 days in total. On the delivery day I got a ride with the post van to the storage hall and searched for the parcel together with an employee. To my surprise they even gave me a ride back to Mehmets home.
Like clockwork it rained on the first day. Super. It was hard to be back in the saddle, to fight against the rain and the cold and also against the thoughts, why am I doing this?
The first night I spent again in a side room of a mosque. Early in the morning when I was still lying in my sleeping bag, lots of women came in to have there Koran lesson. It was a funny meeting. They watched me and I watched them.
The fall colours where pretty much over, but even so the landscape was getting more dramatic and it was getting much more remote.
It is already getting dark by 4pm and because it is so cold I don’t start before 10 am so it is a short day. I had to cross a few mountains and valleys before I asked for a place to stay in a small town. A man invited me home and brought me to his women. We had a funny evening together. To my big surprise they asked me to arm wrestle. 3:0 for Germany. In between they unrolled there carpets and while they were praying they laughed about themselves.
I felt sick. After I had something to eat in a small restaurant I fell asleep on my plate. A man woke me and took me to some sort of hostel. The walls where totally mouldy, but that didn’t bother me at that time, I just wanted to sleep. At 10.30 pm the police knocked at the door. They asked for my mothers and my fathers name. I couldn’t believe it, but I got dressed, opened the door, filled out the form and just said guele guele, which means bye bye. With blue light they drove away.
I came through an area where there where suddenly a lot of women on the street. It also was a lot easier for me by myself. Travelling as a woman alone I found people much more approachable. Both women and men were more open. In hindsight, I think it would have been easier to be by myself all the time. I also enjoyed to be able to go at my own pace again.
It still rained. So I knew, sooner or later I would be confronted with snow. Shortly before the last pass on my way to Georgia it was white.
It was nearly dark when I arrived at the border, so I stayed in the basement of a restaurant. My last night in Turkey. It was a relief.
Funnily the border police man asked me if my pushbike has got a number plate. I gave him a big smile and he gave me a stamp. Permission to stay for 365 days. I turned the clock 2 hours ahead.
Georgia is totally different. The first impression I got was the strong east block character. Poverty, ruined houses and many really old cars. Other faces, different fonts, churches and crosses. The many sweets in the markets, same as in the Ukraine and the slide rules which they use in every little grocery store. A lot reminded me of the Ukraine as well as the former GDR, which I visited when I was a child.
I took my time. I cycled only a few km a day and I spoilt myself checking into a guesthouse every night. 10 Lari which is about 4.50 Euro a night. Sadly there were no heaters anywhere. Outside it was wet and cold and inside wasn’t a lot better. In Turkey it was always really hot inside of the rooms and here it is freezing cold, so I needed my sleeping bag to get warm again. Luckily, now and than there was a shower with hot water.
I cycled along muddy roads, exciting tracks, through partly destroyed villages heading to the east. The area is called the little Caucasus. It was superb. The mountains were already covered with snow and the landscape belonged just to myself. The one way road into the Vardzia Valley goes along a wonderful canyon. The sun came back and I was happy about the few extra degress to warm me up a bit.
Vardzia is a cave monastery, which lies dramatically in a big rock face above the river.
I found this short encounter pretty amusing and also really nice.
The food is delicious. Khinkali is a sort of dumpling which is cheap and available everywhere. Khachapuri is bread with scalloped cheese and egg.
In Ahalkalaki I was invited by the mother and daughter. They heat the house with a single plate of the oven. The daughter lived for a few years in Germany, so we could talk for a bit. She complained about the circumstances she has to live in now. There is no work and if so than the salary is really bad. Her kids are living in Russia, because they should have it better than her. She hasn’t seen them for more than 4 years.
The highlands came next. Small villages, lakes, snow covered mountains and many sheep. A wonderful and endless vastness. No traffic, silence, loneliness. Superb. But it was cold, freezing cold.
But after the pass it was downhill. Endless curves and lots of villages later I arrived in near darkness in Manglisi. A village which gives the impression that time here has stood still for the last 50 years.
A lot of drunken men, heaps of barking dogs and just ruined houses. A picture I will not forget for a long while. I asked at the police for a hotel. They said there isn’t one. But other people said there is one. In total I found two. A drunken fella helped me to contact the owner of the first hotel. We stayed in front of it, which was next to the forest. It was dark. No soul in sight, no light, nothing.
There is no heater, no water, no electricity, no toilet, but it still cost 25 Euros. The other hotel was closed. I went back to the police and asked if I could pitch my tent next to the building, because it felt to be the safest place in this town. No. But they started calling and short while later a man came into the police building. I should follow him. It was pitching dark outside. No street lamps, no lights in any house. I followed this man through the dark night.
The road was getting smaller and the paths were getting more and more muddy. We passed heaps of ruined houses and it was getting more and more scary. At the end we came into a freezing cold, but pretty house. No family, just him and me. No lights in the neighbour houses. Super. So I convinced myself the first 30 minutes that the police arranged that so it will be safe for me. He turned on the oven, cooked potatoes and cay, showed me where I will sleep and at the end he was a really nice guy. He is a hair dresser and a client came to him through the darkness.
The next morning we had breakfast together and he accompanied me to the main road.