Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Zugdidi and Abkhazia

In the morning, Babushka show Ilona how to bake Katcha-Purin and we're on our way. Not exactly because Vacho and Eldar wanted to show us an anciet monastary. The view was really beautiful. When the sky is clear, said Eldar, it is possible to see Abkhazia.

Cooking lessons in Georgia
And that's a monk!

The monk gave a small bag to Ilona. We also recieved gifts from our adoptive family: a drinking horn for me and a wooden hand made box for Ilona. The good family drove us to a hitchhiking place and stopped a car for us. The goodbyes were brief. What are they good for anyway? Democrats don't bother with goodbyes

We arrived in Zugdidi shortluy. With the police.

First, two officers stopped to chat with us, kind of friendly tough I am always weary of Police, these people are known to carry more guns than IQ. After a while we were silently greeted by two scary dudes from criminal police who told us to get into some police vehicle. The car was civilian-looking and the dudes driving it seemed to be detectives or something, they didn't wear the uniform. They didn't speak much for a while and I wondered if we aren't in some kind of trouble until one of the guys gave us a telephone with an english speaking friend who asked us:

"do you like Georgia?"

What the fuck? Afterwards she said that the police guy was a good guy and told Ilona to tell him something in georgian. It must have been some kind of obscenity but it made him laugh and he asked if we wanted something to drink. He bought us each a bottle of Fanta and sent for another police car to see us to Zugdidi.

In Zugdidi the police found a place for our tent in front of the police station where a guard was keeping an eye on things. What the fuck?

Riding with the Police

The downside of all this was that local cops seemed to follow us around everywhere to make sure we don't get killed by georgians Babushkas.

We continued north of Zugdidi towards Abkhazia, on of the two Georgian regions occupied by Russian forces. We probably cannot enter abkhazia but we might see the border.

Our last ride, the guy towards the border goes the extra few kilometers just for us. He likes Czech Republic he says, he even has a Czech handgun. He shows the weapon to us, it's similar to those carried by Czech Police.

"It's in case I get into trouble with the russians, all sorts of crazy people in the border region"

On the border, we cannot pass but the guards seem to be moved by our hitchhiking story and my interest in the Abkhazian conflict. They dispatch an officer to guide us to the border. It's an improvised border, a fence and some baricades on the road. Two georgian soldiers with automatic weapons are resting in the area. We walk pass them and are now in no man's land. The officer tells us to stop: no further. I ask why?

"There is a sniper on the hill"

"A what?"

"A sniper. If we go further we are in range of the sniper", the guy tells me in a calm voice

There are people walking between borders, carrying bread or various supplies.

"These people, are they in range of the sniper?" The situation seems a bit unreal.

"Yes, they are."

"And does the sniper shoot at people?"

"Sometimes he does."

The conversaton goes on as casually as possible. I, however was kind of taken out of my confort zone.

"Why?"

"Why?" The guard looked surprised, "how can you know what goes on in the mind of the russians?"

Border to Abkhazia:"If we go any further, we'll be in range of the sniper"

We don't have to stay here any longer, we back down towards Zugdidi in the direction of Kutaisi.

Side notes for our parents:

We were never in range of any snipers or guns of whatever type nor did we taky any risks that could have put our lives into danger. This visit to abkhazian border was reasonable and safe, no different from a touristic visit of for example, the border of North Korea.