Metro Turizm: The Standard for International Bus Companies

Yeah, got nice and caramel this day - had to wait over an hour for the bus but STILL have no complaints!  Say Whaaaaaaaaaat??!!!!!!!!

Yeah, got nice and caramel this day – had to wait over an hour for the bus but STILL have no complaints! Say Whaaaaaaaaaat??!!!!!!!!

 
If a bus can arrive an hour late and still get a rave review, you know it’s good.  So, I was in Tbilisi and needing to get to Istanbul.  Me being the cheapest of the cheap miser that I am, I wanted to find the cheapest way to get there.  Enter, my saviour – METRO TURIZM.  I searched and searched and searched and searched for a bus from Tbilisi to Istanbul, but alas, there was none.  There WAS however, a bus from Batumi to Istanbul, we were saved!  After taking the overnight train from Tbilisi to Batumi, we (slowly but surely) arrived at the bus station in Batumi.  After about 5 minutes of driving around central Batumi (in a taxi, with the best and most honest taxi driver EVAH!), we arrived at the ticket office.  We bought our bus tickets with 40 minutes to spare before the scheduled arrival time.  Since we had SO MUCH time to spare :) my daughter and I decided to grab some snacks – for the next 30 minutes.  When we returned, I was nervous we had missed the bus because I was sure that we were late and that the bus had come early.  NOPE!  I decided to stay outside with our luggage to insure we did not miss the bus while my daughter stayed inside the air-conditioned ticket office. 
 
For the next hour, every 10-15 minutes or so, I would motion for her to come outside to inquire as to where the bus was.  After the second time, the ladies in the ticket office sent out some Georgian coffee for me (which was strong but quite tasty).  I then began to notice that the bus being late wasn’t really bothering me all that much.  But why?  C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R    S-E-R-V-I-C-E!  The ladies in the office kept us informed and were always polite.  The delay wasn’t there fault and we both were aware of that but they still displayed a high level of professionalism and friendliness.
 
When the bus did arrive and it was time to put our bags in the back, I noticed the bus driver was a bit hesitant.  I later was told that his back was hurting.  I don’t really know if this was 100% truth or if he was just trying to get a peek of the bootay but what I do know is that when we finally arrived in Turkey, he too went above and beyond.
 
With us on the bus were about 10 other travellers.  Two of those travellers were a mom and her son.  Crossing the border was a sub-trip in and of itself and when we finally got through, we noticed that the woman and her son were not on the bus.  The bus driver waited and waited and waited and waited and waited but she never showed.  Of course, he had to leave, it’s policy but the amount of time he waited and waited was more than ample.  Our second stop into Turkey, we had to change buses but nothing major.  We spent a week in Turkey and then headed out for Bulgaria, again we chose METRO TURIZM.
 
So each rather spacious seat has, at the back, a (touch) display screen on which the traveller may choose from a selection of movies, music, local televison shows or connect to the bus' camera and get a drivers-view of the journey.  Hmmmmm-mmmmm.  YUP!  Class!

So each rather spacious seat has, at the back, a (touch) display screen on which the traveller may choose from a selection of movies, music, local televison shows or connect to the bus’ camera and get a drivers-view of the journey. Hmmmmm-mmmmm. YUP! Class!

 
You’re seeing right.  Along with the spacious seats and personal screens, you are offered complimentary tea/coffee/cola with biscuits/cookies.  During both trips, the employees were welcoming and helpful.  I REALLY, REALLY cannot say enough about this bus company, they really set the standard.  Thank you.
 
#METROTURIZM

Tbilisi to Batumi on the overnight train…

…and a bottle of wine will get your bags carried to the train door.  We arrived at the train station, located behind a shopping center, 30 minutes before departure.  It took about 10 minutes to get our bags out of the taxi, get situated in our room and decide how to pay the unofficial baggage handler.  The art of the hustle is prevalent in Tbilisi, so many are trying to make a lari or ten wherever and however they can.  The night we took the overnight train, they was a man hustling to get money by carrying bags.

Before crossing borders, I try to use up as much of the local currency as I can to avoid excess anything.  So, by the time we arrived at the train staion, I had about 5 lari left (3 US dollars).  I didn’t ask the man to carry our bags and even told him I could carry them myself but he was determined to hustle so me money from me.

Get yo hustle on and get on the train

He was kind and let my daughter ride on top of the bags so I relaxed a bit and felt the 5 lari would be enough if I carried some of the bags because it was only a 1 minute trip from taxi door to train door.

Noooo, noooooo, no.

We get into our room on the train and it’s time to settle up.  I pull out the 5 lari from my coat pocket and look confidently at the baggage handler.  He utters something in Georgian and I just keep looking at him with those when will you be leaving me alone eyes.  It doesn’t matter.  He just stands there until I begin rummaging through all my pockets to find any leftover lari.  Nope, still only have the 5.  So, this is when the panic begins to erupt.  I begin pulling out hryvna and forint – Ukrainian and Hungarian currency, respectively – and asking if this will do.  Nope.  But, not to worry, SuperWine saves the day!

I suddenly remember I had a gifted bottle of wine in my bag and quickly pull it out and point it reluctantly in the direction of the baggage handler/hustler.  The wide smile which engulfed his face at the sight of that wine bottle was enough to break any and all language barriers.  SUCCESS!  Whew, THAT was close.  Now, we wait another 20/25 minutes and we start chugging along on the way to Batumi.

The train car was excellent, plenty of under-the-seat space for bags and a hook for coats/jackets/small bags.  There was a window in front of which a small table was placed.  A television above this table aired local Georgian television and showed movies as well.  There were overhead racks for overnight bags and is where the sheets, blankets and pillowcases were located.  There were a lot of stops but even a light sleeper such as myself was able to catch a good 3 hours of sleep. The train arrived in Batumi early, 06:30 after a nearly 7 hour trip.  Batumi is a beautiful city and if you can maneuver your way around more hustlers and frustration at the Batumi train station (taxi drivers, room offerers, constant staring), then your trip from Tbilisi can end as pleasantly as it started.

Tbilisi to Batumi Ticket - Passport Needed

      First-class ticket costs 40 Georgian Lari (25 US dollars)

P.S.  To purchase the ticket, go into the shopping center and up 2 sets of escalators/stairs and you will see the windows for train tickets.  Go to the right (around ticket window #12) for the tickets from Tbilisi-Batumi.  If you would like to take the train at another time, they offer a day train, the schedules are posted on the wall to the left if the escalators are behind you.  Ciao 4 Now, Y’All  :)

Once Upon Another Time – Alexandre Baev (CineDoc Tbilisi)

024Fingertip Tootbrush, Market Bitch, Give Me 20 Lari

 

Alexandre Baev’s documentary, Once Upon Another Time, was one of the films featured at the 1st International Documentary Film Festival in Georgia.  I wanted to get an authentic feel for the city and this film provided a depressingly realistic view to the dark culture of another Tbilisi.

 

The film begins with the faces of the people set against a backdrop of colorful poverty and stark realism.  After a quick meal, a woman is witnessed intensely cleaning her teeth with her fingers.  Should it be expected that women who live in such conditions should not want to be hygenic?  Was she only doing this because she was being filmed?  Stray felines.  Layered wooden walls.  Nature nursery.  Whenever I see a multitude of cats, my eyes immediately travel to their respective corners to scan the environment for those pesky little sneaks otherwise known as mice.  Though none were seen in the neighborhood of Another Time, my eyes did fall upon the basic living conditions of the people.  Makeshift homes, old appliances and crowded living arrangements were in abundance as were the felines.  The children, of which there were also a fair amount, entertained themselves with sticks and the adventures of the world outdoors.  On the rainy days, the children squatted in the doorways of their homes with eyes pleading the rain to take a vacation.  When nature failed to live up to her expectation of childcare provider, the children played with one another.

Attacked by education, little boy fights back – finally.   2 little girls and a little boy are playing together outside and the little girls decide to amuse themselves by hitting the little boy over the head with a book.  He takes it, he takes it, wait, he’s had enough and hits the little girls back.  As a mother and teacher, I wanted to jump through the screen and tell them to READ instead of hit, but I couldn’t.  All I could do was sit there and observe and wander if they actually knew how to read and if anyone had ever read to them.  That question was soon answered.

Market Bitches don’t need an education.  Minutes after the beating by book (gotta say that it looked the weight of a coloring book) a woman and girl are filmed sitting on a chair in the middle of the neighborhood reading. #Oneofthemostpoignantscenesofthefilm?  Probably.  My reactionary depression decreased a bit at this point as I saw small bullet holes of hope beaming through this seemingly hopeless situation.  Yet, dark reality reared it’s ugly head and the cameo appearance of the “market bitch” was soon to be seen.  Camera pans to little girl washes clothes in a basin, camera pans out to a man standing there watching her wash these now water-weighted clothes, man does nothing to help, girl is seen carrying a nearly 5 liter bottle of water to rinse the clothes, she struggles with the heavy bottle, man labels her a market bitch, presumably due to her incompetence.  Really?  Really.  Reality?  Reality.

So, then, who asks for the 20 Lari?  Who needs it?  I’ll let you guess.  Is it the woman who sells fabric from her home to the community?  Is it the little children who want to buy sweets?  Or, is it the man who wants to go back to his village and needs the 20 Lari for transportation costs?  If I told you that someone exclaimed, “She is not normal!” could you then figure out who asks for the 20 Lari (which is roughly 12 US dollars)?

“A man should not take money from his wife.”  Soooooooo?  Yes, it was the man who asked for the 20 Lari.  Though he had no job, no money and seemed to not be concerned with finding employment or a source of income other than his wife, the woman was referred to as not normal because she was so adamant about not giving money to her husband.  That’s it.  That’s the culture.  That’s the reality.  Now, I know it.  Not so sure if I really wanna know now.  It’s too dark, really dark, really sad, really depressing.  Once Upon Another Time, I didn’t know.

THE Unimpressive Standout

Getting academic - preparing my daughters' homeschooling assignment in a Georgian hostel.

Getting academic – preparing my daughters’ homeschooling assignment in a Georgian hostel.

So, I had to research the word impressive. No, seriously. I mean, I have a general definition of the word but I wanted to know 100% what it means.

Here goes – “Having the power to excite attention, awe, or admiration” (Merriam-Webster said it, so it’s true).

Sitting in this hostel a few days ago, I had the pleasure of hearing the following: not impressive, just standout. Now, considering my eternal sense of paranoia and anxiety, the male who uttered those words could have been referencing a number of things. I, of course, took it personal as I was the only other person in the room at the time and they were looking in my direction. Tammi, the Hulk, wanted to tell these ignorant bastards where they could shove their blatantly inflammatory comment but then Logical Tammi stepped in. What if I took their words to heart and absorbed the true essence of An Unimpressive Standout.

Standout – to be prominent or conspicuous; to steer away from shore (Y’all know who said it)

An Unimpressive Standout – a prominent loner which does not evoke awe or admiration. This individuals claim to fame is that they steer away from shore taking the roads less travelled (hey, it’s my blog and I’ll translate how I wanna).

OMG, that’s SO me…I can dig it. Can you? This is how I translate this…

I am travelling with my 10-year-old daughter throughout Europe and Asia and have been for nearly 4 years. My daughter is fluently bi-lingual and becoming multi-lingual as you read this, as am I. She is able to interact with her peers and well as those in other age and social brackets.

I survived an abusive childhood, was a 17-year-old runaway, graduated high-school on time, with honours, was homeless, became a single mother, became university-educated, worked at a prestigous university, left all that to give my daughter a global education, have taught in 2 countries so far, ran an English summer camp, and am now in Georgia (the country, not the state) on my way to an even broader cultural intelligence. If that’s not impressive then that must make my life commonplace.

And, if my life is commonplace, if any individual can come from something to nothing to become an amazing rarity, if THAT is not impressive, if THAT is commonplace, normal even, then I welcome this reality with open arms. You know why?

If any and everyone can live this life, then the future can be nothing but great. If you can have individuals all across the globe not only surviving but succeeding, if the reason we standout is because we just put a novel spin on an ancient phenomenon, then I’ll take the title of an unimpressive standout and I’ll run with it.

I’ll be THE Unimpressive Standout – for now.
(I look forward to meeting other Unimpressive Standouts along my journey).

Ciao 4 Now, Y’All :)