One balmy Georgian morning, my elbow was perched on the edge of an immigration counter in Tbilisi International Airport. My foot, tapping in impatience. I couldn't read the officer's face.
"Shall I transfer to the visa on arrival counter?", I whispered to the hubby. "I think I need to pay."
"Huh?", was his only response. He was red-eyed, and probably on a sleepwalk.
Luna and I stood far from the giants, thinking we'll be safe from being crushed while hubby fetched our bags. Then came a ground staff who angrily shooed us away because he wanted to push a bunch of airport trolleys along our path. Mind you, it's one spacious hall. I swiftly scooped our daughter Luna and jumped out of the way.
Then my eyes landed on the sign: 'Tbilisi. The city that loves you.'... Wow.
The guesthouse that we booked is an unpopular one. We chose it because of its location (a mere five minutes' walk from Freedom Square), and more importantly, its cheap rate that is a rarity in the capital. Based on a review we read online, there's no sign outside the building which makes it tricky to find (makes it seem dodgy too). So we requested the guesthouse owner to arrange a pickup for us. We were charged €12.
After a brief stop at the ATM machine, he escorted us to the parking lot.
Even with a few jams in the business district, we got to the guesthouse in half an hour. The owner's daughter, Natalie, was waiting for us on the street. She assisted us in taking our luggage up the few steps to our room. Our room's an old living area on the first level of an apartment and it's ridiculously spacious. There's a fridge, a water heater, a dining table, and a couch. Nothing short of perfect.
She came along to In Vino Veritas — obviously a watering hole — to translate our orders. The owners didn't speak a single English word. And apparently, didn't know how smile too. Or were they having a bad morn? It's a bit of a disappointment when prior your visit you read about the Georgians' "legendary hospitality" and uhm, you don't experience what you expect.
Perhaps we just had encounters with the wrong people (like that grumpy supermarket lunch lady who refused to reheat our orders)? Or maybe, because I'm from the Philippines, the word hospitality conjures images of ubiquitous smiles and random waves from strangers. For a post-Soviet state, the word is most likely defined differently.
But hey, we're only talking about day one. Did this impression last?
Ah, a story for another day.
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