Countdown to Zero: Day 28

I’ve fallen even further behind! I know! I’ve spent the last few days in Brno, Czech Republic visiting a friend I met last year around this time in Armenia and again early this year in Japan. I’m re-evaluating doing a daily post at this time; perhaps it will be easier to do once I’m back home…But for now…

Today’s throwback: Akhaltsikhe, Georgia, August 2013

There’s a fortified castle in this Georgian city, close to the Armenian border, that was almost deserted when I was there in August 2013. It was magical. Earlier in the day, I had avoided a herd of cows as I walked to a nunnery from my guesthouse near the Vardzia cave monastery, then taken a marshrutka to Akhaltsikhe, struggled to find a decently priced place to stay (eventually the hotel across the bus station gave me a discount), hired a taxi to take me to the isolated Sapara Monastery 10 km outside of town in a very old car that had a seatbelt without a belt (complete with an endearing old driver who worked his hardest to go up the sometimes unasphalted mountain roads, then proceeded to give me a tour of the monastery in Russian when we arrived), and returned to town in the midst of a torrential downpour…

The rain subsided and I ventured outside, arriving in the castle just around sunset and pretty much had the place to explore myself, climbing up its towers, walking on its walls, and smiling in amazement at the beauty of the town and surrounding countryside. I’m currently in Prague as I write this, an effortlessly beautiful city but one with countless tourists, and it’s such a contrast to think that I might have been the only foreigner within those walls that day. I really had that sense of discovery which captures the soul of a traveller and makes one appreciate being off the beaten path. What was notable was that I knew almost nothing about this city or its castle before getting here. This day was challenging, memorable, irreplicable, unique, special – one of those travel days that will forever be a highlight in my life 🙂

Here’s a video from the castle:

Mtskheta moment

Irreplicable moment of the day: I’m in a taxi with two Japanese travellers I met atop an abandoned ruin in Mtskheta (just outside of Tbilisi) in order to split the cost of a cab to an ancient church atop a mountain. Our driver is a big, burly Georgian with tattoos of a dagger piercing through a heart, a scorpion, and Georgian characters on his knuckles. Out of nowhere, we hear “Love you like a love song” by Selena Gomez. It’s not the radio, but the driver’s ring tone! He tries to get the phone out of his pocket while negotiating a blind bend up the mountain. I make the sign of the cross with as much fervour as do the Georgians, and somehow all is well as we got to the top and saw views like these:

20130819-183453.jpg

20130819-183557.jpg
And this one (I’ll leave it to you to make your own commentary):
20130819-183606.jpg

Perhaps I’ll go into more detail about my day trip to Mtskheta, but I just wanted to share this weird moment with you. Never forget to appreciate the random things that come your way! Happy travels!