We take the bus out of Erzurum, Turkey, on our way to the Turkey/Georgia border. We will be leaving Muslim Turkey and entering Christian Georgia.
Lao tsu writes about “not going to see” a neighboring foreign country. We are going to see it.
The bus takes us to Sarp, where we share a taxi to the border. We take a minibus (dolmas) to Batumi, where we stayed at My Warm Guest House — probably the best deal and one of the nicest lodges we have stayed in so far during our trip. They provide a bottle of local wine in each room. If your go there, also check out the nearby Urkranian Restaurant — tasty stew!
We take the morning train to Tbilisi, Georgia.
We watch the Georgia scenery go by.
We are closer to Tbilisi.
In Tbilisi, we climb a hill to visit St. Mikhail of Tuer Church. We find that it is being repaired inside — there is scaffolding everywhere but people are still lighting candles in front of icons.
We walk down the hill from the church.
We look out over the city.
“You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning,” the sign in the tourist section says.
We talk with a young woman at the tourist information center. She tells us about the “breakaway” or “disputed” parts of Georgia, supported by Russia. “There are many Russians in Tbilisi,” she says. “Many of them are opposed to the actions of the Russian government.” Russia and Georgia went to war in 2008 in reaction to Georgian attempts to reclaim these parts of its homeland — a situation vaguely parallel to what is happening in the Ukraine in 2015 — but with less bloodshed because Georgia does not have as much military might as the Ukranians.
I ask the lady about the differences between Russians and Georgians. Russians tend to drink vodka, she says. Georgians tend to drink wine. They both drink a lot. Russians more often have blond hair; Georgians have brown hair.
We see a modern mural and an old church.
We visit the church.
There are many icons available for sale in the church.
We see a portrayal of what might be St. George with a dragon being led by a damsel. The dragon has not been killed but seems to be a pet.
We watch people taking communion inside. I was concerned about violating the sacred atmosphere until I saw people walking around, talking on their cell phones, and greeting each other as communion was talking place in front of the church. Communion is done individually — the priest gives communion to those who come before him while other people do their own thing in other areas of the church.
We walk down the street.
We see a police station.
We walk past a McDonalds Restaurant.
We have lunch at Revolutionary Square, eating traditional Georgian food.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 80):
“If a country is governed wisely,
it’s inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
labor saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody uses them.
People enjoy there food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
Spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of their neighborhood,
and even though the next country is so close
that people can hear it rooster crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without even having gone to see it.”
Lao tsu should not be taken literally. He is stressing the need to accept yourself as you are — and your home as it is. It is human nature to be curious about foreign people. We travelers are part of the solution to the world’s problems. Those who lack curiosity are part of the problem.
Some young people are naturally interested to diversity — they are curious about different styles of sexuality, emotion, and attraction. This is good and should be encouraged. When they satisfy their curiosity, the world draws closer.
We walk around Tbilisi and see Georgian ways of doing things — it leads to innovative thinking. Our ways are not the only ways. The old ways of thinking, involving military force, have not worked out over the centuries. Everywhere we go, people describe getting along with those who are different — Jews and Muslims, Russians and Georgians, Turks and Armenians — if only those seeking power could understand the virtue of just accepting others with out glorifying your own way of being and doing.