A Travellerspoint blog

Tbilisi

Practical tips

overcast 20 °C
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Bus station: As with so many bus stations on this journey, Tbilisi's felt chaotic and stressful when we first arrived. And quite a long taxi ride into town. In fact the metro station is right next to the bus station, so if you already have a map and know where you are going, the metro is the way to go. We caught it back to the bus station for our departure.

For travel to Vladikavkaz, get a mashrutka to Kazbegi (should be 10GEL but ours cost 15GEL 'because he was stopping a lot for us to take photos' (we'd rather have paid 10 and got there quicker). But the driver was very helpful in finding us onward transport over the Russian border to Vladikavkaz.

Metro: You need to buy a metro card (2GEL) and add money to it for use on the metro. One journey costs 0.50. Very deep metro system, and very old. Wooden escalators and dimly lit stations. Not much in the way of historic marble or tiling here - very Soviet. But also very practical and easy for the bus station Didube.

Getting round: Walk. Tbilisi is very attractive place to walk around. It's quite hilly at the back of the old town, and some of the streets are really run down, but it's a great city to stay on your feet and really pace the streets.

Language: You may get by with Russian, but forget reading things here unless you have learnt the Georgian alphabet, which is incomprehensible (though I'm told very easy and logical if you learn it at school!)

Tea: Don't miss Althaus tea room for fantastic range of teas. Some supplied by the excellent local grower who has a shop in town too, selling Georgian and Chinese teas.

Coffee: Tbilisi has lots of expats and a favourite hang out for them must surely be Prosperos book shop and Caliban coffee house. Our first good western style coffee since we left Istanbul.

Hotel: Highly recommend the Hotel Oriental at about E40 a night. Excellent service, good rooms, good breakfast.

Theft: Beware the audacious kids who wander the street and walked up to our (outside) table at dinner, and picked up a parcel we had and began walking off with it, before we grabbed it back off them and they were ushered away by waiters.

Posted by UnwindRoad 09:30 Archived in Georgia Tagged hotel bus metro tea language station coffee tbilisi Comments (0)

Batumi

Practical tips

sunny 25 °C
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Border crossing: Our bus from Rize in theory went all the way to Batumi, but when we re-emerged from customs and passport control (slight delay because of our many visas and some questions over my US visa), the bus had already gone, or we assumed that when we had waited 20 minutes with two other passengers from our bus, who also decided to give up. So all four of us piled into an old shared taxi/bus costing 1.5GEL to get us to Batumi.

Casinos: Batumi is clearly a gamblers' paradise, with casinos on every other corner.

Beach: Lovely - but stony - Black Sea beach, with lots of people stripping off and plunging in. We paddled and the water was tempting, but our swim gear was back in the hotel.

Coffee/fod: try Privet Iz. Lavazza coffee but very nice soups.

Posted by UnwindRoad 05:27 Archived in Georgia Tagged beach crossing casino border coffee Comments (0)

Trabzon

Practical tips

overcast 22 °C
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Local transport: we have to confess we didn't take any this time and we took a cab from and to the bus station, for the arrival because this was a very bustly port and it was getting late when we got to the bus station, and on departure because we were so early leaving we didn't see any buses or shared taxis to catch.

Monastery: Well worth a trip to the Sumela Monastery about 40ks out of town. Our hotel set us up with a morning trip in a 12-seater mini bus costing 30TL, organised I think through Metro Turizm bus company.

Shops: Trabzon felt constantly lively with a youthful, studenty feel and people constantly out in the many shopping streets and shopping malls in the centre. Felt very western compared to our last two stop-offs.

Tea: Try the cafe formerly known as Stress Cafe and now the Ehl Keyf Cafe. Very young crowd here, but a stressfree place and nobody seemed to bat an eyelid when us oldies turned up for a cuppa.

Coffee: Edwards Coffee does a decent western-style coffee and some delicious cake if you're missing the coffee shop back home feel in Turkey.

Hotel: We stayed in the Nur Hotel. Best service we have had apart from Safranbolu; small rooms but staff bending over backwards to help at every point.

Tea: Next town up is Rize, and if we'd done our research we'd have gone here for the 2nd night instead of staying in Trabzon. Not to be missed if you like your tea is a visit to the Tea Institute at Rize with the Botanical Tea Garden, where you can sip tea and look at the plantations around. No museum anymore - as far as we could see - which was a shame but we were glad we stopped off here

Posted by UnwindRoad 05:12 Archived in Turkey Tagged shops hotel bus tea monastery station coffee Comments (0)

Amasya

Practical tips

sunny 23 °C
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Bus station: The Amasya bus station is at least 5 miles out of town, so if you arrive on a long distance bus you either have to transfer to one of the company 'service' shuttles into town or get a cab, as we did given that we arrived after dark in the evening.

For the return journey we just turned up at the ticket office in town of the company we bought our next trip from and the service shuttle duly arrived in good time for us to catch our coach out of town.

We didn't use any local public transport this time. Though, when we walked up the hill to the Apple Palace (about a 40 minute walk up fairly steep incline), the hotel housekeeper very kindly stopped and gave us a ride when she saw us walking about half way up. We walked all the way down, though.

Language: Nobody seemed to speak any English in Amasya. Even the words 'cash' and 'card' produced blank faces, even in hotels or restaurants. The first time we had come across such a massive language divide.

Tombs: Great to walk up to the Pontic tombs dug into the hillside. But don't expect great health & safety or even a protective fence to stop you falling. This is at-your-own-risk stuff. We made it most of the way up but vertigo got the better of us before we reached the highest point.

Apples: Speciality of the region but we saw none on offer in any restaurant or cafe. Even the Apple Palace hotel didn't have any!

Coffee: Go to Gamasuk on the main street for traditional Turkish coffee in great setting

Tea and evening food: Try the municipal gardens (just along the river from the Clock Tower). Lovely spot for tea and great Turkish pizzas by the river side. Youthful clientele. Bats join you at dusk and might even flutter past your face as you eat. But they never touch, don't worry

Posted by UnwindRoad 07:51 Archived in Turkey Tagged bus tea tombs language station pizza coffee apples Comments (0)

Safranbolu

Practical tips + some tourism

storm 18 °C
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Arrival by bus; Our bus dropped us at Safranbolu Otogar which is a couple of kilometres from the old town. You can get a free shuttle service (people calling out 'service' when you arrive) into the new town if you're staying there. But if you stay at Efe Pansion in the old town, they'll pick you up from the bus station.

For our departure, we got a taxi from the pension up to the bus booking office in new town Safranbolu and then the shuttle bus over to Karabuk station, which is another 8ks or so. Some buses supposedly to Safranbolu only go as far as Karabuk, but they'll always put on one of these shuttles if you are booked to Safranbolu.

There are probably public buses from the new town to the old town but we didn't find out.

Sights: The old town is very compact, so you can walk around it in a couple of hours, but it also has so many sights and so many interesting places to look around or saunter through that you can easily do as we did and spend more than 24 hours just in that old part of town.

The magnificent Caravanserai, originally built in 1645, has been restored into a posh hotel, but is also a museum and a lovely spot to sit and have a decent cappuccino, imagining the days when you'd be sitting among spice traders and camels in the courtyard.

The main mosque in town AND the hammam (which is famous all over Turkey - especially the women's side) were both built in 1661, so this was a thriving place through that period.

There are two main bazaars, although any of the little narrow streets feel like a bazaar in themselves. We liked the blacksmiths bazaar best and succombed for the first time to the temptation to buy stuff: a wrought iron kettle is now on its way (we hope) to Australia.

Coffee: Don't miss the Arasta Boncuk Kahvesi for a real Turkish coffee, brewed on hot coals, then served with water and grape juice to help the palate before and after the coffee hit.

We went back to the same place for evening meal and had delicious Turkish pasta and pizza type meals.

Mosques: We loved the mosque a little way out of town which is built right over the river. Lovely wooden minaret and amazing to see the foot baths lining the river banks, where people go even today to wash their feet before entering the mosque.

Posted by UnwindRoad 04:22 Archived in Turkey Tagged bus mosques transport station public coffee bazaars hammam safranbolu Comments (0)

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