The Kutaisi Airport

It’s March, and that means people are starting to make their summer travel plans (at least those people that only travel in short chunks). For those of you considering Georgia (and I’d encourage everyone to give it a try), there’s more than just one airport that will get you into the country. Most people are familiar with the one in Tbilisi (the capital city), and some are familiar with the one in Batumi (a ‘resort’ town). However, there’s often a cheaper option for us budget travelers: Kutaisi.

Location

So first, I have to say that the airport may be called David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport, but that’s just the closest ‘city’ name. It’s actually a half hour by car outside of ქუთაისი (Kutaisi). So if you’re thinking about showing up and walking into the city, that’s not likely to happen. I love walking, but when it gets to over an hour with my backpack, that’s a bit much.

However, it is more centrally located than თბილისი (Tbilisi). The capital is in the South East of the country while Kutaisi is (more or less) in the middle. So if you’re going to see the countryside (especially the Svaneti region), this is going to be a better location.

Getting around

Despite this, it’s actually pretty easy to find transportation from here to anywhere you’re going. There will typically be buses and taxis waiting after every flight’s arrival so you can just walk out and find something.

Taxis are pretty standard wherever you are so I don’t need to go into too much detail there. I will make a quick side note though to say that (if you have data) there’s an app called Yandex that works in Tbilisi and Batumi (and only those cities). So if you end up in one of those places and don’t want to get charged double (or more!), it might be worth a download.

Buses are the cheaper way to go, and are fantastic if you don’t mind being a little crowded. You might get lucky (if you’re going to a larger city), and get a full size bus. However, most buses in Georgia (often called marshutka which is the Russian word) are the size of large vans, and they’ll cram as many people in as there are seats available.

Should you end up in one of the more crowded vehicles, you can truly say you’re getting the local experience. Georgians will cram as many people into a vehicle as possible. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out with friends, and we crammed 5-6 passengers into a normal sized taxi. Don’t worry too much though; the whole seat-sharing thing only happens when you’re with friends. Among strangers, you’ll at least get your own seat.

If you don’t want to worry about finding cash for the bus as soon as you land, you can hit up the Georgian Bus website and buy a ticket before arriving. Now that I’m looking at it, it appears there’s an English section. I think that’s new since I don’t remember that when I was buying a ticket. Just remember to save the image of your ticket to show the driver when boarding.

Common destination names

If for any reason you do need to read some Georgian though, I’ll include a little table of translations for you. This also works if you want to ensure you’re getting on the correct bus as some of them don’t have their destination written in Latin characters.

ქუთაისი აეროპორთKutaisi Airport
თბილისიTbilisi
ბათუმიBatumi
გუდაურიGudauri
ქუთაისი (ქალაქი)Kutaisi (City)

Those are the 5 options on the bus website. If you need more, just let me know in the comments. I can read Georgian though I typically don’t know the meaning of what I’m reading. But I know what it sounds like! Winning!

Final thoughts

I hope this was helpful, and that I’ve encouraged you to add Kutaisi to your flight searches. You might save a lot of money. If you do, I’d love to hear your story…. Or feel free to share random stories about Georgia. It’s an awesome place.

The Stolen Phone Incident

Date Time Coordinates: 9 Sep 2018 CE (Common Era), Batumi, Republic of Georgia, Earth, Sol System.

I’ve been in ბათუმი (Batumi) for a couple days now. This is my second visit; the first was enough to make me form the opinion that the city is too touristy. There’s been nothing about this visit that’s changed my mind. I’ve spent the last few days going out occasionally for food and a little sight-seeing, but most of my time has been spent surfing the internet and catching up on everything I’ve missed. I have internet access back in თბილისი (Tbilisi), but it’s not unlimited so I haven’t been doing anything that requires a lot of bandwidth.

My alarm goes off at 0900. I turn it off, and spend 5-10 minutes trying to convince myself that I should get up (I’m not used to getting up this ‘early’). I go to the bathroom, and start packing; we need to check out by 1000. I debate when I should wake up my travel companion. Fortunately, he gets up on his own a few minutes into tossing what little I have into my backpack.

I go to the kitchen, start some water warming up for tea, and pull a cup of yogurt out of the refrigerator (my breakfast). By the time I’m done with the yogurt, the tea is almost ready. I discover that being up this ‘early’ has benefits; the other people staying at the hostel are up, and we chat for a little while….

Okay, maybe a bit longer than a little while; a few hours later…we check out. It’s well after the official check out time, but the owner’s cool about it. We ask if we can leave our bags while we go get lunch and explore. We don’t want to lug our things around all day.

My travel-mate has looked up the ‘best’ place for ხაჩაპური (khachapouri) in town. The place looks busy (a good sign) so we find a place, and sit down.

Quick note: In Georgia, it’s common to just find a table and seat yourself. This is even expected by the local servers. Also, you typically have to flag down a server when you want to add something to your order or pay your bill as they won’t normally come back to check on you. Sometimes, you even have to flag someone down to place your initial order. The whole thing seems very strange to me, and took some getting used to.

We order a couple medium sized khachapouri, and start talking about our time out here with a few smatterings of business ideas (the guy I was with loves coming up with crazy ways to make money; it’s like a hobby of his). Then our meal comes out. I’m immediately glad I didn’t order a large as this ‘medium’ is huge. I manage to scarf most of it down like the little piggy I am, but I was nowhere close to finishing all of it.

We pay our bill, and wander around the city for a couple hours until it’s time to start heading for the train station. We go back to the hostel, check out for real this time, and head out to the street to find a taxi.

Problem number one: both Yandex and Taxify don’t have any drivers available. After hitting refresh for 5 minutes, we finally find a driver. Except that he’s not moving. We wait 10 minutes. Still no movement. We decide to wait 5 more. Still nothing. Enough of this; we’ll just flag down a passing taxi. It’s not what we normally like to do because they charge more, but we really need to get to the train station so….

We flag one down, and tell him we’d like to go to the train station. He says he can take us. My travel-mate asks about the price: 10 Lari. He counters 6. The driver says 7. We agree. It’s still twice as expensive as a Yandex, but we can only expect so much; we did flag the guy down after all. We arrive at the train station, pay the driver, and head for the ticket counter.

Problem number 2: the cashier wants 99 Lari each to get back to Tbilisi. What!? There’s no reason it should cost that much. We tell her we’ll think about it, and wander off to discuss our options. We decide to get another attendant; maybe the one we got had something weird going on. She didn’t; still 99 Lari. We ask about the next train (that leaves 45 minutes after the one we were trying to initially catch). Still 99 Lari.

WTF!? We ask why it’s so expensive. Apparently, all the second class seats are sold out. The price we’d been quoted was for first class.

Considering our second class tickets going the other way were 24 Lari, I wonder what makes first class so special. Second class is pretty nice. Do they have strippers and free drinks in first class? Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Considering how many rich Russians travel between those two cities, I could probably make a small fortune if I offered a ‘strip club’ car during high season. They’re going to be stuck on a train for 5 hours so might as well provide something entertaining right? But I digress….

I saw a bus station half a block away from the train station. We should go down there and see what they’re charging. On the way over, I decide to check the time and…shit! Where’s my Georgian phone? I always put it in the same place, and it’s not in that pocket. I’ll worry about this later. Right now, we need to get to the bus station, and see what the deal is.

We get to the bus station, and ask the guy if anything’s going to Tbilisi. He writes down 1800, and says “go”. Okay, there’s a bus that leaves at 1800. We ask how much it costs. 25 Lari each. There we go; something reasonable. We buy tickets, load up, and wait for the appointed time.

By now, I’ve figured out my phone must have fallen out in the taxi. I pull up my travel phone, and pull up Google’s tracking service. My phone’s in the middle of downtown Batumi in the middle of the street. Okay, so it definitely fell out in the taxi.

My travel-mate pulls out his Georgian phone and calls my lost phone. He has a brief conversation with the driver who agrees to bring the phone to the bus station. Nice, I’ll get it back, and will only have to pay a fraction of the phone’s value as a ‘thank you’ for returning it.

We wait 15 minutes; still no sign of the driver. I check Google’s locator again to see where he is. Hmm…Google says it can’t locate it. My travel-mate tries to call it again, and it goes straight to voicemail. It’s turned off. That bastard turned my phone off on purpose!

I go back onto Google’s page and tell it to delete the contents of my phone the next time it’s turned on. That asshole might have stolen my phone, but I’ll be damned if I let him have my data. I spend the next few minutes stewing, and then it’s time to leave.

The bus takes 6.5 long hours to get back to Tbilisi. By the time it arrives, it’s 0030. At least I slept a little on the ride over. Now I can just walk over to the metro and…wait, what time is it again? Damn it, the metro stops running at midnight. I guess I’ll have to walk home.

I arrive home, get ready for bed, and read more of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. There’s nothing like reading a book to get you tired, and calm your mind down a bit.

The next day, I went to my local mobile carrier, and got another phone and SIM. The woman at the counter told me I could go to the police with the IMEI number, and they might be able to get it back. So…if something like this happens to you, there’s something you can do even though it’s not not much.

And that’s the long version of how my phone was lost/stolen. Occasionally, shit like this happens when traveling, but it’s still so much better than being back ‘home’ (if it can still be called that) working my ‘normal’ job. I’ve seen places, and hung out with people that I never would have found if I hadn’t ventured off to see what’s out here. And who knows; maybe someday I’ll run into you!

Stay frosty, people….

That Kazbek mountain thing

My normal method of travel involves just showing up somewhere and exploring. However, one of the friends I made in თბილისი (Tbilisi) wanted to go on a day trip labeled ‘Kazbegi’. So I decided to be a good little tourist go on a group tour.

The marshrutka (from Russian: маршру́тка; it’s basically a large van or small bus) was supposed to pick us up at 0915. Apparently, traffic was particularly bad that Monday morning, and the tour company employees came out to talk to us around 0930. We then walked down the road a little (this was not in the original plan) and got picked up at an alternate location. I didn’t mind, but there were a few people with luggage because they were flying out after the tour, and one person brought a kid and stroller. It was a little tricky getting their stuff over the few cobblestone sections.

We headed out of the city, and eventually hit the საქართველოს სამხედრო გზა (Georgian Military Road) going north. Traveling on this road is amazing. It winds through the mountains and hits 2,379 meters (7,815 feet) at its highest point. This was also the first time I felt cool in months as I’ve been in ‘warm’ countries.

The first stop did not disappoint from a scenery perspective. We were on the side of a mountain looking down on a lake that looked like it might have been artificial as there was a huge mound of dirt on the lower end of the canyon. There were also a couple shops, a bathroom, and some wool outfits with accompanying sword/gun we could wear in a cheesy attempt to look like a local for Instagram. If I ever make it out there to stay for longer than a day, I’ll be sure to wear an actual outfit for my pictures so…I stick my nose up at you, fake costumes.

 

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Small church

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The next stop was at a small church. While I only took pictures of the typical ‘churchy’ things, there were also a lot of defensive structures. The church is surrounded by a wall (that’s now in varying states of functionality), and a tower that’s entrance is a very narrow passage between it and a church wall. No armored (or fat) people are getting through there.

Then we came to a place that reminded me of Pamukkale, Turkey. This time, the mineral being deposited is orange, and makes the water taste like soda water. There’s no carbonation, it just tastes like it.

This is also around the time we started seeing the tunnels on running parallel to the road on the mountain side. These tunnels are at sections of the road where the uncovered area is closer to the edge. In winter when the roads are covered in snow and ice, these tunnels are vital to ensure vehicles can both make it up the mountains as well as prevent them slipping off, and having a very bad day.

We continued on to the town of სტეფანწმინდა (Stepantsminda). This place is pretty close to the Russian border, and is very touristic. There are a lot of hotels and restaurants. We ducked into one of the latter to place our lunch orders. We were going to continue our tour while they prepared the food.

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On the way to, and pictures of Kazbegi, Georgia.

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Then we all jumped into some 4x4s (all terrain vehicles), and went up the dirt roads to…. A church overlooking the town. It’s a very plain church that consists of a lot of rocks, and no real decoration. It doesn’t need any as the view is spectacular: very green mountains, rivers, maybe a couple flocks of sheep, and the town that doesn’t have any structures near the church. It’s pretty isolated, and would take a couple hours to walk up to so I can’t imagine it’s used to hold services. We wandered around for about half an hour taking copious pictures.

When the selfies were done, we went back down to the town for lunch. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Georgian food is fantastic! A lot of it is vegetarian as well; non-meat eaters rejoice.

After lunch, we started the long trek back. We stopped a couple more times along the way. Once, at the friendship monument which is a large semi-circle wall covered in art, and overlooking more stunning views of mountains, valleys, waterfalls…. The scenery on this trip did not disappoint.

The whole trip (minus lunch) cost me less than $30. That was money well spent even for my cheap ass. I also feel obliged to mention some sections of the road were destroyed which meant a very bumpy ride in some spots. The long winters with all the snow and ice make it nearly impossible to keep the road comfortably traverseable. It definitely took its toll on my old, grumpy self too. By the time we got back to Tbilisi, I was very ready to walk around. Also, if you get carsick easily, this trip is going to be hell for you. I was mostly ok, but I know not everyone will be.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful and/or entertaining. I know most of my friends in the US would have a hard time placing Georgia on a globe (hell, some of them have a hard time with the US state of Georgia), but this place is so worth visiting. See you guys next post.

How I got around Turkey

Having spent over a month in Turkey traveling up the west coast and across the Black Sea coast, I figured I it would probably be good if I wrote something about how I did it. My way may not be everyone’s, but at least this should give some ideas if anyone else is thinking about traversing the country.

So, I entered via ferry from Rhodes, Greece. While that was great for getting in, that’s the last ferry I’ve taken. (Quick aside: ferries are fantastic for getting between the Greek islands and/or between Turkey and the Greek islands.)

Once in Turkey, I found the easiest thing was to take buses. The country is well connected via roads, and buses travel to even very small towns. The word you’ll need here is ‘otogar’; it means main bus terminal. Every town has one. There were a few instances where neither I nor the local bus driver spoke each others’ language, but I was quickly able to identify if he was going where I wanted by simply asking: ‘otogar’? If he wasn’t going there, this was generally followed by a bunch of pointing and speaking in Turkish. ‘Teşekkürler’ (thanks), now I’ll just walk in the direction you pointed to and find another bus driver.

People that speak English get pretty scarce in Eastern Turkey, but I was always able to find someone that spoke well enough to walk me through buying a bus ticket at the town’s main bus station. Actually, they usually found me. I’d just wander into the terminal looking lost, and they’d come up and ask me where I was going. If that doesn’t happen though, just walk up to a desk, and ask. They’ll find someone that speaks English, and even send you to another company if they aren’t going where you need to go.

There were a few instances where I needed to take a couple buses; I had to go to one place to catch another bus in order to finish the trip. This is where the site Rome 2 Rio comes in handy. Even on the times when I didn’t look up the connecting city first, the employees would tell me I had to go through a certain place first.

Some people I ran into suggested I go online and purchase my tickets there. While that would have been great, I have yet to find a page that’s not in Turkish (and there were no other language options). Additionally, there are many bus companies and routes that are not listed online. I found that there were always multiple buses throughout the day heading in the direction I wanted to go. So just showing up was a lot easier, and I never had any problems doing that.

I should also mention that flying and taking trains are also options between the larger and/or more popular cities. These are also very affordable options, but I preferred to stick with a consistent mode of travel that would get me anywhere.

I also occasionally took metros (in the large cities) and taxis within a town when walking seemed like too much of a pain in the ass. Most of the time though, I didn’t mind walking. I know, I’m weird.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful. There’s a handy little comments section if there are any further questions. Until next time….

The Bus Incident

This is going to be a story about one of my more interesting days on the road. Fair warning: if you’re squeamish, you might want to skip this article….

My time in İzmir was coming to a close. It had been an enjoyable and relaxing week. The hostel was a block away from a pedestrian street full of restaurants. Another block beyond that was the bay. And they’d made the path along the water nice. Right along the water is a stone ‘fence’ and a cobblestone path. A little further inland they planted grass and a few trees. In the middle of the grass, there’s a bicycle lane, and a pedestrian walkway. I walked down there a few times to sit in the grass and chill with the breeze blowing through my hair. I really liked İzmir.

The only down side is there was no easy, public transportation route between the hostel and the main bus station. But this morning was a [relatively] cool 22 degrees (72F), and I was feeling refreshed after a week of relaxation so I decided I could just walk. Google said it would take about an hour, but I walk fast so I figured about 45 minutes.

I got to the spot, and…it looked an awful lot like a metro station that was under construction. I checked the map again; I was sure it had said ‘otogar’ (Turkish for main bus station) in the description. Sure enough, it did say that…but there were 2 other spots in town that said that as well. One was a good deal south, and I knew that wasn’t it as I’d arrived in the city at the ‘otogar’. That meant the remaining options was…another hour on foot east. Well, I was still feeling pretty good so I decided to continue walking.

Roughly 45 minutes later, I arrived at the correct otogar. A quick check confirmed I’d walked 6.1 kilometers (3.8 miles). Incidentally, this was with me carrying my backpack the whole time. Needless to say, I’d gotten hot and sweaty by then, but I wasn’t feeling too bad. Score a win for fitness.

Now it was time to buy a ticket to Bursa (the way point en route to İstanbul). The guy at the counter said the bus was leaving right then. So I bought my ticket, and ran outside. I got there just as they were getting ready to close the door, and leave. Perfect timing.

Four hours later on one of the nice buses, I arrived in Bursa. The bus station is the largest I’ve seen. I was later told it’s the largest bus station in all of Turkey. Navigating this place is far more difficult than the bus stations in the less than 100,000 permanent resident towns I’d been to so far.

While buying my ticket to İstanbul, the guy handling my purchase got into an argument with someone. It was in Turkish so I have no idea what they were saying, but it was clearly going to take a while. So another agent reached around him to finish inputting my information in the computer, printed out my ticket, and told me where to go. Thanks; minor crisis averted.

Now I just had a 2.5 hour trip to my destination city. However, I encountered a rather serious issue about an hour into the ride: I had to poop. Normally, that would just be a minor annoyance, but my diet had changed rather drastically in the past week so things were a little less solid than normal. Whatever, I’d just try to hold it in as much as possible, but farts refused to be contained. After one of them, I felt a little different. Had I just shit my pants? I hoped not, and resumed the waiting game hoping the bus would stop anywhere soon.

But now there was another problem: there was a lot of traffic. After a while, the bus pulled off the highway, and started going down side streets. At first, I thought that meant we were close to a station, but no. After another half hour of side streets, the bus finally stopped at a gas station. The ‘stewardess’ said something rather lengthy in Turkish, but I wasn’t paying much attention. Even if I could have understood her, I knew I was getting off to find a bathroom.

The bathroom that was available was a traditional Turkish one: a hole in the floor. No time to be picky; into the stall I went, and…sweet relief! While I had my pants down, I decided to check a few things. Sure enough, I had shit my pants. My underwear was quite brown, but there wasn’t anything solid in there, and nothing had transferred onto my jeans. Small victories.

Then, I discovered another problem: it seems toilet paper is a relatively new concept to Turks. There was a water faucet sitting rather low on the wall, and a small bucket underneath it. Was I supposed to clean myself up with that? I remembered something I’d heard in a cultural class a while back. Something about people using their left hands to clean themselves with, and thus not using that hand to shake hands or eat with. Well, I had to get out of the bathroom somehow so…yeah, I made my left hand very unclean. And washed the hell out of my hands when I got out of the stall!

I hadn’t done a great job of washing my ass (I mean, how can you when all you have is water and your hands), and didn’t have a change of underwear with me so…it looked like I was just going to have to be dirty for a little longer. At least I no longer felt the pressure on my guts so I was (relatively) comfortable.

All this had happened with enough time for me to get back on the bus for which I was quite grateful. I could have gotten to my final destination from the gas station in the middle of nowhere, but it certainly wouldn’t have been easy. It was time to wait out the remaining hour until we got the to the İstanbul bus station.

But as we went along, I noticed the buildings becoming less frequent. I pulled out my phone (which didn’t have data; fortunately, I loaded some of the area before I lost it), and checked the GPS. We were on a highway that goes around the outside of İstanbul. Where were we going? Whatever, I could figure out how to get back at the next city we stopped at.

Fortunately, we eventually started going back toward İstanbul. It seems the otogar is on the European side of the city, and we were coming from the Asian side. I’m guessing that spiel the stewardess gave earlier was saying something like “There’s been an accident near the bridge so we’re going to circle around the city. This will take us an additional hour to complete.” At least that’s my guess as we ended up at the bus station an hour later than the original plan.

From the main bus station, I took a small bus to a square. From there, I followed the directions I’d (thankfully) written down the previous evening to find the hostel (this no data thing was quite annoying). I checked in, and took a much needed shower. So…much…scrubbing….

I also had to poop a few more times before going to sleep, because diarrhea is no joke. At least this time the hostel had western toilets with paper. So I was able to adequately clean myself after each use. The little luxuries we take for granted….

So yeah, this was a not so pleasant experience, but everything worked out in the end. It’s also a very real reminder of why it’s important to eat a sufficient amount of fiber. There’s a reason locals down a lot of bread even if it’s not garnished with anything. Lesson learned.

I hope those of you that actually read through this found it entertaining. More importantly, I hope you’ve learned with me how important food choices are. Until the next disaster….

Financial Friday 14

Week 14 has come and gone, and so has the month of April. Here we go…

Travel

On Monday, I went from Marmaris to Muğla: $3.04. And Muğla to Bodrum: $5.71. The route covered 186 kilometers (115.5 miles). The buses were tiny (think large van), and picked people up even if they were standing on the side of the road. This was also their drop off policy; if you wanted to get off at any point, just let the driver know to stop. The driver on one of the routes even stopped to let someone puke real fast, and jump back on the bus! That has to have been the most considerate thing I’ve seen from a public transportation service. I can’t say it was the best bus experience I’ve ever had, but for that price, I’m not complaining.

On Thursday, I went from Bodrum to Söke: $5.14. And Söke to Kuşadası: $1.49. The second bus was like the others, but the first one was nice. There were comfortable seats, LCD screens on the seat backs, power outlets (both European and USB), and they even gave out free snacks and drinks! I chose a bread thing with a cheesy surprise inside over the energy bars, and I had my own water so I didn’t take the water or tea they were offering. Hell considering it was only a little over $5, I’m tempted to take that route going back the other way…just kidding, but it was a very pleasant journey.

Accommodation

Friday to Sunday was at the Maltepe Pansiyon which is by far the best deal I’ve gotten on a hostel. I wrote a little about it in the previous blog post. If you’re ever in Marmaris, I highly recommend it.

Monday to Wednesday was at Bodrum Backpackers. It was a good deal price wise, but I don’t recommend it. There was no official staff, and the place was falling apart. The rooftop ‘bar’ (which was not open) had an excellent view though. I enjoyed chilling out there in the shade watching the world pass by while ‘working’ on my laptop. Or at least, as close to working as I get these days.

Thursday, I arrived at a BnB. It’s a bit more expensive than the other places, but there’s free breakfast. And it’s still far cheaper than my accommodation in Greece so…winning.

Food

Food usually involved going out once a day, and buying some fruit to hold me over for brunch. There are also bread circles with sesame seeds they’ll sell for roughly $0.30 a piece. Once I even got 2 scoops of ice cream (good ice cream) for $1.50. Money goes a lot further here to say the least.

Other

So, I jacked up my travel insurance royally. I figured I could just go in and add countries as I went. This assumption was incorrect. So I went in and bought a second policy for the world (since I don’t know where I’m going to be a year from now). Both policies come out to $8.64 per day, and I’m stuck with both policies for another 9 months. It seems they won’t cancel active policies. So in summary, I’m an idiot. Hopefully, others can learn from this and ensure they either purchase a world-wide policy or list every country they’re going to for the duration of the policy.

On Saturday, I went to Marmaris Castle and Archeological Museum: $1.99. It was OK for two bucks. I think I’m becoming a snob though. 5000 year old relics just don’t impress me as much as they did a couple months ago. Sorry history.

Summary

Week 14
Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Total
Travel 0 0 0 8.75 0 0 6.63 15.38
Lodging 9.98 9.98 9.98 9.62 9.62 9.62 13.29 72.09
Food 7.69 10.52 0 6.76 6.81 6.76 12.17 50.71
Other 8.64 10.63 8.64 8.64 8.64 8.64 8.64 62.47
Total 26.31 31.13 18.62 33.77 25.07 25.02 40.73 200.65

So cheapest week yet thanks to Turkey being an extremely affordable place. I estimate it’s at least half the price of Greece (which was already a lot cheaper than western Europe). And for April:

Apr 18
Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Total
Travel 30.96 33.5 82.31 249.74 8.75 405.26
Lodging 65.5 131.45 137.34 104.74 39.56 478.59
Food 42.65 76.17 129.45 65.82 24.97 339.06
Other 19.68 57.5 26.43 89.01 36.55 229.17
Total 158.79 298.62 375.53 509.31 109.83 1452.08

Even after The Ferry Fiasco, I managed to stay under $1,500 so win! Until next Friday….

Patras

This is going to be an interesting post as I visited during Πάσχα (Pascha: Easter) which was a week after non-Orthodox Easter this year. As a result, I didn’t do as much of the typical sightseeing as normal; also, I was in an AirBnB so there weren’t crazy hostel people to go out with.

Πάτρα (Patras) is the third largest city in Ελλάδα (Hellas: Greece) with a population around 260,000. Strangely, this makes the Greek population here smaller than the 300,000 in Melbourne, Australia. The small (relatively) population, and the general lack of tourism gave me the impression I had found the real Greece. English speaking is only common among the youth, and people that work in the service industry (though even there it’s not as common as the larger cities). Needless to say, I appreciated the chance to get some more practice with my Greek.

So back to this Easter thing…. In Greece, this holiday is larger than Χριστούγεννα (Hristoogenna: Christmas).

As a quick side note, I fully support this idea. Christians should celebrate Christ’s conquering of death more than his birth since his death and subsequent resurrection is when he atoned for the sins of the world. At least that’s what they’ll tell you.

Because it’s so large, there were copious fireworks all weekend long. There were also a lot of closures for people to see their families.

An example of this is on Friday. This is the day they mourn/celebrate (depending on how you look at it) Christ’s death. Most of the businesses that weren’t critical to general living closed at 1500. Fortunately for me, grocery stores were one of the places still open so I was able to get some food (also, my AirBnB hosts fed me which was awesome). In the evening right around sunset, every church had a procession where they carried “Christ’s dead body”. It’s sort of like a parade….

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Random shots of Πάτρα

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Saturday was a relatively normal day, and most things seemed open so I went out walking. It’s particularly nice to wander by the coast as you get the breeze cooling you off. The restaurants right on the water were packed which is understandable as they provide a fantastic view.

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Beach…sort of…

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I went back to the AirBnB before it got dark for some sweet sunset shots. That roof is awesome! It was also perfect for viewing the fireworks that started going crazy around midnight. “Χριστός ανέστη” (Christ is risen) as the locals would say. This is also when the fasting (for those that participated) is over, and everyone stuffs their faces full of meat.

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Best view in the city

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Sunday was totally dead as that was the main holiday, and most people were partying with their families. The local grocery store was open though; winning! When I walked in, every staffer working that day hailed me with Easter greetings all at the same time. I’m sure I looked rude not returning them, but being bombarded with all those words at once in a still relatively unfamiliar language was just too much for my brain to process quickly enough to mount an adequate response. Sorry employees. I hope the cashier remembered me telling her two days before that I suck at Greek.

Monday wasn’t as dead as Sunday, but it was still pretty slow. I think some of the local buses weren’t running either as I waited at a stop that was supposed to have one come by every 20 minutes, but I didn’t see any. So…

Travel tip: If you’re traveling over a holiday, either A) ensure your transport method is running or B) allot enough time to use a back-up and still get to your connection on time.

Fortunately, I left enough time to walk to the downtown station. Although, I probably could have just asked my AirBnB hosts, and they would have drove me down. What can I say; I have a thing for walking….

So yeah…it was a mostly chill trip with a shitload of fireworks. Talk to you all later.