2010 Road trip: 4500 km to Georgia

Places Italy, Greece, Turkey, Georgia
Time & length October/November 2010, 3 weeks
Partners Eva-Maria Kubin
In fall 2010 I bought a car in Germany and drove to Georgia in order to visit some friends in Tbilisi, where I finally sold the vehicle. Together with Eva I said hello to people I met years ago in Italy, stepped into the famous Meteora Monasteries, relaxed on the beach in Greece and spent a week in Istanbul.
Because of some special circumstances I was able to take three weeks off from university in October and November and thought about what to do. I remembered an interesting way of make money in Georgia: some fly to Germany, buy a German car, drive it back home and sell it over there with some profit. I thought that could be a nice way to finance a road trip to the country I had just visited a few months before and to make a long story short: I bought an Opel Astra in good shape, 2000 model and asked my friend Eva if she wanted to join me on this little side trip – she agreed to two weeks instead of three, so while I booked my flight back to Vienna from Tbilisi, she booked hers from Istanbul. And not much later I picked her up in Salzburg on my way south.

First stop was Lake Garda where I visited friends I made on a bike trip through the Alps and Italy back when I was 17. We pitched our tent on the same vineyard close to the town Lazise as I had done six years earlier, I was getting nostalgic. Then we continued our way to Verona and spent a night at Diego’s place – I met Diego and his family on the same bike trip and was very happy to see them again.

From Venice we took the ferry to Igoumenitsa (Greece) instead of driving all the way around the Adriatic Sea which would have cost much more time and money. 26 hours on a ship can be pretty boring I have to say, so we both were very happy to be on the road again later driving eastwards searching for a good spot to spend the night. We camped right on a little hill close to the road and enjoyed a nice sundown, although we woke up under a sky covered in deep clouds the next morning.

We continued our journey with a visit to the Meteora Monasteries in Thessaly which are built on natural rock pillars. Later we reached the peninsular Sithonia where we jumped into the Mediterranean Sea, ate some good food and camped in a little bay right at the beach.
Before spending the night somewhere close the Turkish border we stopped in Alexandroupoli for dinner and a walk – it didn’t look like this place had much more to offer.

Then we reached Istanbul and stayed for a week in one of the inner districts called Sultan Ahmet. Driving through this huge and chaotic city wasn’t the easiest thing I had ever done: they are all honking, nobody seems to pay attention to traffic rules, people are crossing the streets wherever and whenever they want to. But somehow we arrived safely and without killing anybody at the hostel we had booked in advance.
In Istanbul we did just what other tourists do: walking along main and side streets, strolling through the countless bazars, enjoying a traditional Turkish bath (“Hamam”), looking at dancing dervishes, stepping into old mosques, eating local food, drinking Chai and Raki as well as many other things…

While Eva flew back to Austria I continued from Istanbul eastwards all the way to Georgia. Picking up hitchhikers on the way was a nice experience – usually it’s me who stands on the road hoping for a ride. On the border they inspected my car rigorously; fortunately I had all the necessary documents for the car transfer with me. From Batumi I took the wrong turnoff and ended up sliding on a snowy mountain road until I came to a point where I had to turn around – eight hours and quite a few liters of fuel were gone when I was back in Batumi and continued driving to the capital on the main road.
I reached Tbilisi in euphoria, happy to see Paul, his family and other friends again. Naturally I got invited to a big dinner with lots of beer first, later we talked about how to best sell my car. It needed a good wash, that was for sure.

After that was done I drove to the car bazar the next Saturday where potential buyers inspected it and asked a thousand questions I couldn’t answer, fortunately my friend Paul helped me with negotiating. There are no fixed prices: people try everything to get the best deal. The ones who were most seriously interested wanted a mechanic to test the engine quickly so we drove to a car service station which finally convinced them. After we were done negotiating and signing the associated papers everybody was happy – the car now belongs to the president’s hairdresser who on that occasion gave a little party at night. Of course I was invited. And of course everybody was drunk when I got there.

The last day in Tbilisi I spent with my good friend Father Mamuka, the orthodox priest I met in July. Since he didn’t have much time the only way to meet him was joining a church wedding which he performed in the afternoon. Besides talking to him I also congratulated the bridal couple which instantly invited me to the wedding party at night. So just a few hours later I sat on a chair next to Mamuka in a room full of nicely dressed wedding guests and stuffed with delicious dishes and wine. They showed traditional dances, gave enthusiastic speeches like a hundred toasts. Unfortunately I had to say goodbye pretty early since I needed to catch the plane home early the next morning.

That was quite an interesting journey – completely different from what I usually do. This time I was bound to roads and cities which doesn’t fit to the “wilderness travels” I’m used to, but I was glad to see something new as well as visiting a lot of friends and happily accept their outstanding hospitality once again. Finally I want to mention that this entire trip including the expenses for the car, insurance, gas and the flight back cost me about 200 Euro – sometimes you have to be a little creative in financing your holidays.