Happy birthday Stalin!
20 August 2016

Happy birthday Stalin!

The ferry trip from Ukraine to Georgia last almost 70 hours, that is two times the scheduled time. The only noteworthy event was a pig who escaped from a truck on the deck, an event that I missed and every now and then I try to recreate in my mind based on the details collected from drunk truck drivers on board.
Georgia is one of those countries which has always been hard for me to locate on the map, too far to be European, to close to be Asian.
The name of its capital city is almost impossible to pronounce (Tbilisi) and, probably because of that, I have always wanted to visit it.
We cut the country West to East in its plain area, and therefore didn’t see most of what the country has to offer, with its majestic peaks and remote landscapes.
Instead, we pedaled for hundreds of kilometers on a highways.
We visited Gori, sadly known for being Stalin’s hometown, where the history of communism meets the Italian province: in a case of the controversial museum dedicated to the notorious dictator there are cups donated to Stalin by the communist women of Ascoli Piceno for his seventieth birthday.
By car, we visited Gergeti, close to the Russian border, where we saw amazingly high mountains rise in front of us like insurmountable walls. While looking at them, I kept thinking not of their peak, but of their base. The point where the stone explodes from the ground and becomes the mountain base. I was thinking of the angle between the ground and the wall. I was thinking we could touch that point and it seemed unbelievable to me.
Along the beautiful, high and dangerous road to the Russian border, calm and colorful, hundreds of trucks waited for their turn to pass the strict soviet customs, on the side of the road.
It was comfortable and weird, after so many months, to be pushed by an engine, to travel so many kilometers so fast and with no effort, almost like bingeing on peppers without having to digest them.
Georgian cuisine enchanted us in a whirlwind of bakery. Talk about digesting.
Since we pedaled all day, we felt authorized to order anything at the restaurant. Talk about bingeing.
In Tbilisi, which I keep calling Tiblisi, in an unconscious refusal of legitimating a T in front of a B, we took care of the first, dreaded, visa: Iran.
To obtain it, we had to omit that we were going to enter the country by bike: this form of independent tourism, in fact, would entail a watchdog following all of your movements. Or a guide, as they say.
For our safety, they say. For their paranoia, I say.
Chiara had to wear the hijab in the passport pictures required for the visa.
These are just little hints of what was awaiting us in Iran.
We like to remember Georgians like this, like strong drinkers: any time was good to offer us a shot, at the supermarket, on the road, at the hotel.
In the apartment where we stayed in Tbilisi we had problems with water on the first day. To apologize, the owner brought us a 5 liters jug of red wine; quite enough for a nice shower.
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