Saturday, July 06, 2019

Day 4 - Tbilisi to Borjomi, and a value for money train ride...

I’d rather lost track of this, but perhaps I ought to catch up before moving onwards...

It was very early in the morning in Tbilisi, and even earlier according to my body clock, but when the alarm went off at 5.20 a.m., I was ready to go. Better still, my hotel was too, for when I went to checkout, they had very efficiently arranged a picnic breakfast for me. And yes, it did appear to have enough food to feed three people, but I was hardly going to complain.

My taxi whisked me through the empty streets of Tbilisi to the main station, I went to the ticket office as indicated the night before, and asked for a one way ticket to Borjomi. Two Lari, I was told, the equivalent of about 56p. That seemed unlikely, but sure enough, the ticket said Borjomi, and I silently expressed amazement as I headed to the platform.

Now you might wonder what you get for 2 Lari, and the answer is, well, an aging but reasonably comfortable seat on a train which travels rather slower than its aerodynamic design implies. We travelled reasonably steadily as far as Khashuri on the main line, and I began to wonder how the whole journey could take its scheduled four hours or so.

All became clear as we left Khashuri and headed up the single track branch line. I don’t know if it comes down to a lack of maintenance, or the nature of the track, but we proceeded up the valley at about 10 mph, stopping occasionally in remote spots to drop off or pick up who knows. It was, indeed, the sort of journey where, if you knew the route, you could probably get off, run a bit, and pick up the train further along the route.

But we did eventually get to Borjomi, and I headed to my hotel, the rather extravagant Crowne Plaza. Unsurprisingly, given how early I was, my room wasn’t available, so I left my luggage and set off into the Mineral Water Park.

Borjomi is famous for its water, which tastes not unlikely Vichy’s St-Yorre, i.e. slightly salty, and can be found everywhere in Georgia and beyond. And thus, it is a tourist attraction, where you can take the waters as you stroll up the valley of a tributary of the River Mtkvari, try the fairground rides and enjoy the greenery. However, if you’re a bit hardier, and have some decent walking shoes, you can walk rather further up the valley to the thermal pools.

It was a nice day, and I had some time to kill, so I set off. It was a bit warmer than I had thought, and rather further than the signs implied, but it was a nice walk, and I eventually reached the Tsars Thermal Baths, which looked like a rather nice spot, filled with locals for the most part. I hadn’t brought swimwear with me, unfortunately, so I turned round and walked back down the valley for a bite of lunch and some pampering.

I’d booked a two hour Ayurvedic session, on the basis that they had a Keralan masseur and the chances of my finding one much closer than Georgia was fairly remote.

It was every bit as good as the spa menu promised, and I spent the evening on the balcony of my hotel room, as an electrical storm lit up the night sky....

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