The Magnificent Hotel Bazaleti

I don’t mean to exoticize; the hotel’s actually pretty boring. It’s a refurbished soviet-era building where we have russian Glade in our bathrooms and tvs with telenovelas. Outside the ballroom window we’ve got a kickass view of the city though–amidst a bunch of distant blocky apartments lies this huge golden church which we have been staring at our entire stay.

But understand, our lives are pretty sheltered so far. And even though it’s been, oh, a total of three days, a comment often heard in the halls of the Magnificent Hotel Bazaleti goes something like “Oh my god we’ve only been here three days?!?!” It feels like three months.

The first day of training, I woke up at something like 5:30 am  and caught up on reading the entire internet, a project which I have yet to complete. After breakfast we all marched into our very first Georgian Language Class. Our teacher Neli is a cannonball. She blasted through greetings and negation and a few place names–thankfully some of the important words are cognates with an -i stuck at the end. Bank’i, T’ualet’i, Rest’oarani, etc. Also update on the whole marshutka thing–the reason we can’t find the stops is because there literally are no stops. You just, sort of, wave, and they stop for you. Oh. Score.

Then more Georgian language class, then a break. Then lunch, then medical information. Then a break, then cultural training. Then a break, then culture shock training, then a break, then I fell asleep in the middle of the next class, and was woken up (I’m told) when Tamara, our coordinator, said something nice about me and asked me to explain, and I was head-down, passed-out ASLEEP. I awoke to everyone in the circle saying “Ernie!” when they realized I’d dropped off.

It was decided that WE MUST GET OUT. Hours and hours (and hours) of hotel food and sitting in hotel chairs had made us sluggish. I dressed up fancy and met Anna and Christina out in the lobby. We wandered outside. “We taking a cab?” Anna asked, and I did the little wave Neli taught us.

IMMEDIATELY a cab appeared out of nowhere and pulled up in front of us. It was MAGIC. “Most cabs here aren’t metered–you hop in and announce your destination, and hope the driver knows where this is.Then you announce your price–xuti or eqvsi or so–and then off we sped to the three-story MacDonald’s on Rustaveli to meet the blooger Neal Zupancic, who gave us an AWESOME walking tour of the city. We saw the old Opera building, and the Freedom Square monument (a giant curlicue flashlight made of concentric squares, in the middle of a roundabout) Prospero’s books on Rustaveli is the primary expat hangout, also french presse yummmmmmmm

After getting some awesome Schwarma (shuermi in Kartuli), we parted ways, and Neal put us on a bus from Saburtalo. The whole ride Anna bounced around in the middle of the bus.

“Don’t you want to sit down?”

“No. This is more fun.”

And so I stood up (Christina kept sitting, because earlier she had been impaled upon the ticket machine) and bounced around, eyeing the beautiful buildings outside the bus window (this georgian babushka saw us staring, widened her eyes and nodded, yes, americans, we live here) and then we rannnnnn down the hill and saw a bunch of weird riverfront buildings that looked like they belonged next to the mississipi. Then we came to the river and the view opened up to the golden church on a hill.

TO BE CONTINUED I really fucking have to eat breakfast now

To keep your interest you should probably read magic cards with googly eyes


  1. panoptical said:

    That flashlight is actually in Heroes Square (gmirtas moedani) – Freedom Square is the one in Old Tbilisi, at the end of Rustaveli Ave.

  2. panoptical said:

    And thanks for the shoutout!

    • Truthfully though, your blog had a lot to do with my decision to come. Having a knowledgeable guide made the whole moving-to-georgia thing a lot less terrifying.

      • panoptical said:

        Awesome, dude.

        BTW, just noticed your handle – is that a vihart shoutout?

      • Why, yes it is! I absolutely LOOOOOOOVVVVVVE her. One of my educational idols. Young, into math and music, enthusiastic about everything, makes kickass videos.

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