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I've started to paint a nice picture of Georgia in my first few posts, but this doesn't mean everything is so rosy there. The country is no different from others, with both good and bad sides. The difference is that as a foreigner I notice many problematic things which Georgians may consider "normal", when in fact they're confusing, and even incomprehensible, for a foreign tourist.

You can look at this cover photo and perhaps it stirs some type of nostalgia for those who grew up in Soviet times. :) These old LADAs are everywhere on the roads in Georgia, and I'm always amazed at how many people are stuffed inside them. Often the small cars are weighed down with heavy loads attached to the roof, barely moving down the road. I wondered several times if some of these people ever made it to their destination point. Many of the old cars are in bad shape, and probably shouldn't even be on the road. However, as far as I can tell, there is no type of inspection requirement for machines, no emissions testing - nothing to control the quality or safety of the cars on the roads in Georgia. And this leads to #1 on the list for "bad Georgia"....

#1 Driving Culture!

1. I really began to wonder how otherwise hospitable people become complete maniacs behind the wheel, disrespecting the safety of others in the process. What causes this behavior? I don't know the answer, but it isn't only fellow humans you have to worry about on the roads. There are a lot of other factors that make driving in Georgia dangerous. The lanes are very, very narrow, locals drive at crazy speeds even on mountain roads, and it's similar to Russia where there are always people riding your bumper trying to push forward, or swerving into on-coming traffic trying to pass...it's really frightful. :(( There are markings on most roads to separate lanes, however Georgians seem to treat these as mere "suggestions", and not official rules. On mountain roads, you can find yourself in a pit or sudden stream with rapid flows at any given moment, and no warning signs.

An ordinary Georgian road outside of the city looks exactly like this photo below - you must constantly dodge cows, horses, pigs, [insert other livestock and animals], and still be alert for humans walking right in the middle of the road. On the first few days of the road trip, I really jumped a few times in fear, and my Georgian host said "What? It's normal!" For me, it's NOT normal. As a side note, I've never seen so many cows in my life! I think each Georgian villager must own dozens of them, based on how many we encountered on the roads. This is not bad, just an observation. :)

FullSizeRender (1)

2. I'm no urban expert, but in the city I absolutely couldn't understand many intersections where cars are coming from multiple directions and trying to merge together with no traffic light, stop signs or yield signs - nothing. Maybe the locals understand the flow, and when it's their turn to go, but it didn't seem that way. Whoever honked the loudest, had the most animated hand gestures, or shouted seemed to be given the right of way. During rush hour in Tbilisi, such intersections like this become a real nightmare. They have local Georgian cops trying to direct the flow, but it seemed useless to me and completely ineffective in eliminating the gridlock and chaos.

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3. Meanwhile, in a small town near the Armenian border with almost no cars or traffic, there are orderly traffic lights. :) Explain the logic, please...

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4. I tried to find accurate statistics about traffic deaths there, and based on data I located traffic accidents and road deaths are on the rise, not declining. This Chart details it, and you can read more about the epidemic here. Three times during my ten day road journey we saw very serious accidents, with people on stretchers, covered in blood. :(( This is on ordinary asphalt roads, not the off-road dirt paths we drove on in remote mountain regions.

traffic_accidents_by_year

#2 Smoking Culture

5. "Good" and "bad" - these are totally subjective terms, but this is my blog, so I share my personal reactions. I can't stand cigarette smoke, and have a real aversion to it due to sensitive eyes. I'm used to being around smokers, as several people in my family smoke, but never in confined spaces or the house. In Georgia, you can still smoke almost EVERYWHERE! Even in the airport, where this photo was taken on the morning I left. Even in the hair salon! There are some non-smoking restaurants, but they are definitely in the minority. And even if a restaurant claims to have a "non-smoking" section, they are worthless. The "non-smoking" section is only divided by a curtain, or half-wall which doesn't eliminate the smoke, or smell, from drifting to your area.

So, for those who like to smoke in various environments, this is probably a "good". You can sit, eat, drink at the bar, get your hair done, ride in a cab...and still puff away in peace. :)

FullSizeRender (5)

#3 Walking Conditions

6. I once wrote a post complaining about all the stupid signs we have in America, warning people to "not stand by the edge of cliff, danger of falling", or walk down a mopped aisle because it's "slippery when wet." However, in Georgia such signs could be useful. For instance, Tbilisi is an ancient city, with many deep steps, cobble stones, and other things that are dislodged due to age or simple neglect. I also note there's a lot of rennovation and construction going on in the city, which means there are things dangling in the air and sitting on the sidewalks and paths which are very poorly lit at night, making it difficult to see anything. Combine this with the fact that there is almost ZERO respect or yielding for pedestrians, and you can understand how the injury depicted in this photo happened.

FullSizeRender

When walking in Georgia, you should never expect drivers to stop for you, even when walking in a designated zebra area. They simply don't do it in many cases. To protect from harm and danger, my Georgian friend was very kind, holding my hand or arm to guide me down dark steps, paths and crossing busy roads on foggy, rainy nights in Tbilisi. Yet the moment his hands became occupied with grocery bags, and I was left on my own, I had a very serious fall on hard concrete, tripping over a metal object. I didn't go to the hospital in Tbilisi...the journey had to continue after all. :) I suffered through the pain and discomfort until I returned to the USA and went to the hospital. Diagnosis? A severely sprained elbow, with partially torn ligaments. Still causing me problems today, as the elbow hasn't fully healed. :(

That's it... a few "bad" things that had a real impact on me personally when visiting Georgia as a tourist. Overall lack of infrastructure is also a problem, but this is part of Georgia's charm - a real rustic, off-road mountain adventure that I loved, but isn't for everyone.

P.S.: Many readers wrote to ask what I thought about Georgian men, and honestly I don't think anything of them. They are just men, like all others. Some are probably wonderful, others complete goats. Sorry, I don't have any crazy tales to share about "wild" Caucasian males. They are very attractive overall, with a sort of untamed, rugged vibe, facial hair and beards - which I really like. :) Many have amazing blue eyes, combined with dark black hair - exotic and hot from a purely superficial standpoint. Their general appearance/stature is very different from most American men. But as a 43 year old woman, good looks, sweet compliments...they aren't enough to keep my attention long term, or get the panties off. The soul, intelligence, kindness, humor, openness...these are qualities that matter long term, regardless of the country from which a man originates.

Other Reports from Georgia

Georgian Military Highway to Russian border
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Eating, sleeping, singing...Georgian style
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Snapshot from Georgian village
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Comments

( 108 comments — Leave a comment )
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eltelfo
Dec. 7th, 2016 09:43 am (UTC)
"...But as a 43 year old woman, good looks, sweet compliments...they aren't enough..."
молодец, мы были уверены в тебе

This is not "Bad Georgia", they just broke terrible "Soviet order" and set on "National
Freedom".
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:46 pm (UTC)
Actually, even in youth I wasn't so naive to fall for the sweet talkers. :) I feel no Soviet legacy in Georgia, except for maybe customer service problems in restaurants, stores - very slow and inefficient. And old, grey Soviet apartment buildings.
(no subject) - sozidatel_lesa - Dec. 10th, 2016 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
ivalnick
Dec. 7th, 2016 09:52 am (UTC)
Driving Culture!
Not sure I can translate this anecdote accurately.
But it was already 30 years old.

Georgia, taxi.
The driver goes through a red light.
Passenger: What are you doing? Red light!
Driver: But what horseman does not like to drive fast?
At the next intersection the driver stops at a green light.
Passenger: Why are we stopped?
Driver: So there is another horseman can drive fast.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Driving Culture!
The anecdote translates well, and I've heard it several times about Georgian drivers. :)
(no subject) - ivalnick - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Maks J-Fry
Dec. 7th, 2016 10:19 am (UTC)
>it's similar to Russia

It is not similar to Russia at all. Driving culture in Russia is way better than in Georgia. You can't even compare them because the difference is huge. Actually here in Russia Caucasian type of driving is considered as an example of extremely dangerous and rude behavior on the road.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:47 pm (UTC)
I said that the passing culture is like Russia, and it is. I have a phobia of on-coming traffic, and drivers in both Georgia and Russia take too many wild risks and chances trying to pass big trucks or other cars in such situations. It's okay if you want to endanger your own life, but not my own please.
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 02:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - orangelass - Dec. 7th, 2016 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 08:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 09:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Dec. 7th, 2016 09:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Maks J-Fry
Dec. 7th, 2016 10:24 am (UTC)
here's some examples https://youtu.be/osdBr_9fw5Y
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:51 pm (UTC)
There's a difference between the North and South Caucasus'. Georgia is predominantly a Christian country, not Muslim...
(no subject) - lev_kuzminsky - Jan. 5th, 2017 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jan. 5th, 2017 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lev_kuzminsky - Jan. 5th, 2017 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jan. 5th, 2017 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
evalex
Dec. 7th, 2016 10:49 am (UTC)
be well
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm quite clumsy by nature, so such falls are not uncommon, but this one was especially bad. I'm a strong woman, and will be fine. :)
Erik Shindler
Dec. 7th, 2016 11:30 am (UTC)
nice as always !
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
Lots of words, lots of words...I don't think readers have attention spans for my long texts. So, thanks for reading. :) I can't describe my emotions or impressions by simply writing one or two sentences with each photo.
karbunkul_lug
Dec. 7th, 2016 11:50 am (UTC)
But you like Georgia
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, I like it very much! And will return early in the New Year. :)
mb_b
Dec. 7th, 2016 12:42 pm (UTC)
When I was a kid, my parents took me on a pre-packaged tour of Georgia, Borjomi -- Bazaleti -- Tbilisi -- Sukhumi. There was a side bus trip to Seven Springs Pass (my first exposure to alpine meadows!) The bus driver appeared slightly drunk (as is probably the custom). Doubling as a guide, he was cracking jokes all the time. On the way back he decided to take a shortcut between the swithchback loops and pointed the bus straight down the slope. Everyone turned green, holding on for dear life -- it beat any amusement rides!
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 01:54 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, I had an experience where it was clear my taxi driver had been drinking, because I could smell it on his breath. However, overall, I didn't encounter any wild drunkards in the villages of Georgia, or even on the streets actually. I didn't visit Borjomi on this trip.

Edited at 2016-12-07 01:55 pm (UTC)
pin_gwin
Dec. 7th, 2016 02:07 pm (UTC)
One of the first Saakashvily presidential orders was to retire ALL police. All at once ground up, due to corruption and bribes. Georgia had no law enforcement for about 2-3 month, as I remember. It did not change crime or traffic statistics, but at the end he rebuilt the police. Now, ironically, he is himself a convicted criminal in Georgia.
Who did provide you with transportation there?
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 02:25 pm (UTC)
I think Saakashvili's reform efforts worked, as people living there told me there's been a complete turn-around with regard to safety and the police - both in a very positive way. In fact, you can search online and see that Georgia is now ranked as one of the "safest" countries to visit. http://www.georgianjournal.ge/society/32791-georgia-is-3rd-among-118-safest-countries-of-the-world.html. I never felt threatened there at all, even when walking alone.

In Tbilisi, I walked around the city on most evenings with a reader I've been communicating with for a long time. But for the long road journey, I traveled with a Georgian man puerrtto referred me to. Very nice guy, good English, and has traveled through Georgia multiple times, carrying foreign tourists. Thus, he knows all the nuances of driving there, remote corners to take me...it was a really great adventure. :)
(no subject) - pin_gwin - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pin_gwin - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
pinkjackal
Dec. 7th, 2016 02:10 pm (UTC)
Very precisely. Same impressions.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 02:25 pm (UTC)
I think these are common impressions. :) Which cities did you visit?
(no subject) - pinkjackal - Dec. 7th, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pinkjackal - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - pinkjackal - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - pinkjackal - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pinkjackal - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
redheadrat
Dec. 7th, 2016 03:18 pm (UTC)
Well, it is all a matter of comparison. Georgians are in sense of driving not much different from Italians, in addition to that widespread corruption of the road police in the past 50+ years meant that all problems can be circumvented with a bribe.

There is a very simple reason for the old soviet cars (some are actually fairly young, but have been in production well into the current century) is that they are cheap. Compare them to the Fords and Chevys from 80s and 90s that can be had for couple of hundred bucks all over the US. Also in the rural environment they have one more huge advantage, their technology is reminiscent of 50s and 60s; mostly mechanical with minimal modern electronics and easily swapable parts. This makes maintenance and repairs truly a DIY thing. So if you are away from the cities and if you don't have much cash, these cars are the beaters that keep on giving. It is not that unusual for a slightly more well-off person to have one such beater for "work" and something much more comfortable for family.
Maks J-Fry
Dec. 7th, 2016 03:25 pm (UTC)
The reason is even simpler - the poverty. And this is the only reason.
(no subject) - redheadrat - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - redheadrat - Dec. 7th, 2016 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 03:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
juan_gandhi
Dec. 7th, 2016 04:14 pm (UTC)
Regarding Ladas, they may look pretty fragile, but they are easy to repair. I remember using a rope to connect gas pedal to the lever under the hood. It happened somewhere away from civilization. So what, I fixed it. And so on. Some parts were breaking apart easily. Some were ok. But nothing' reliable, so it's you who should keep it running.

And regarding smoking, wait, how about Vegas?

And regarding the slippery stairs and the danger, if you ever walked along the rim of Grand Canyon... I would never take children there. Too scary. But lots of kids are running along.

Okay, anyway. Too many comments today. Thank you for the report and for the pictures. Georgia is beautiful. Svaneti, with its mount Ushba, is one of the best places on this planet.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC)
Vegas - it is such a rare exception for smoking in the USA. :) Yes, dangers exist everywhere for certain, especially when dealing with mother nature and all the diverse beauty she has blessed us with. I visited Ushba and Svaneti, and will have a report about these places. Never too many comments, I'm always pleased to hear from readers. :)
theodorexxx
Dec. 7th, 2016 06:17 pm (UTC)
1. That reckless driving isn't something unusual. Many Asian countries have the same road culture as well as India. And high speed on narrow road is a typical Caucas region thing. They simply can't drive slower than 75MPH if you are a man otherwise you a coward not a man. And they are shot-tempered like southern Italians :)
2. This happens in all ex-USSR and eastern europe
3. I thought Russia had strengthen you, but I was wrong :)

p.s: why do you wear a gown if you have an elbow damage. This things always stuns me in American movies. Is it a magical healing dress?
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 06:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, I remember in Asia the driving was wild, and in some cases you're not even enclosed in a car but riding in an open vehicle like a rickshaw or tuktuk in Thailand. :)) What do you mean a "gown" for my elbow? I think it's the wrong word. :) Do you mean a "cast"? The wrapping in this photo was only temporary, now I wear a support brace which is stronger.
(no subject) - theodorexxx - Dec. 7th, 2016 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theodorexxx - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
dorli87
Dec. 7th, 2016 06:31 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry you have broken your arm. ((( It is very unpleasant even at home but it is a real disaster in the foreign country. Shame on Georgian doctors.
But you are such brave girl.))

Edited at 2016-12-07 06:32 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 06:33 pm (UTC)
I was stubborn, and didn't go to a Georgian doctor. So, they are not to blame. :) I only went to the doctor when I returned to the USA. This injury is very uncomfortable, but life goes on....:)
(no subject) - dorli87 - Dec. 7th, 2016 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 7th, 2016 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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pani_yulya
Dec. 7th, 2016 09:47 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more on Georgian driving! It totally got me mad all my three journey to this country. Once I was heading from Tbilisi to Batumi on mini-van aka "marshrutka" at night, and I was even praying and regretting I hadn't written my last will just in case. The driver of this mini-bus was a complete jerk, he almost got a head-on collision and not once, and for all Georgian passangers, besides me and my husband, such a style of driving was absolutely normal and mundane!

And, yes, Georgians and Armenians smoke hard and constantly ask for cigarrets and lighters on the streets.
peacetraveler22
Dec. 7th, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC)
I wasn't brave enough to take one of those vans, so I paid more for a "safe" driver who was very alert and took proper care most of the time. However, he of course couldn't control the actions of other drivers. I don't know why there are so many smokers there, I guess because it's so cheap still, or they just like it. We all have our vices in life. :)
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