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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'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.


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...


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.


#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.


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

Eating, sleeping, singing...Georgian style

Snapshot from Georgian village

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