What did I do in Tbilisi for four months?
I cycled into Tbilisi – the capital of Georgia – in late December 2016 and stayed until the beginning of May 2017. I stopped in Tbilisi because I wanted to get to know the city, wait out winter and also because Georgia has a good reputation for delicious food and wine. Furthermore, unlike many of the surrounding countries, most nationalities can stay in Georgia for a year visa free.
On arrival I made a list of things to achieve during my winter stay: learn Georgian, learn Russian, get a job as a teacher, travel around Georgia and Armenia, take an online writing course, play squash, make Georgian friends. Like many of my good lists, I managed to achieve almost none of these objectives. Tbilisi had other ideas in mind for me.
Instead of learning any Georgian or Russian, I improved my German comprehension in leaps and bounds thanks to my German housemates. I did not get a job as a teacher but instead ran a stop-motion animation workshop and worked on a stop-motion film with a graphic design studio. I did not travel to Armenia, but instead ended up cycling around the separatist region of Abkhazia. I did not make a plethora of local Tbilisan friends but instead spent the winter with the other international long-distance cyclists who were also hibernating in Tbilisi. I did not take up travel writing, I did not write a book and I took up badminton instead of playing squash. The final thing I did was to throw my ambitious list out of the window with no regrets and embraced the spontaneous and marvellous adventures that Tbilisi offered me.
I also hosted a stream of friends and family who visited me during the four months. They all arrived in their usual marvellous fashion: not only graciously flying across continents to visit me but also embracing the unexpected adventures that we found ourselves in.
When I first arrived I was visited by university friends, Paddy and Emma. We celebrated our reunion by eating lots of khachpuri
After they left, I spent a lot of January sitting in my unheated kitchen trying to learn new software skills, talking to my very knowledgeable American housemate and thinking about getting a job in Tbilisi
I still kept up the cycling, commuting between badminton classes and friends’ houses, darting between taxis on the mad six-lane Tbilisan roads
In February my Dad and step-Mum visited me for a week and – alongside drinking lots of wine – we ventured out to Stalin’s home in Gori and to the caves of Uplistsikhe
I spent some time learning how to perform in a gymnasium wheel
And some time learning how to fall off slack lines
I spent a significant time with this guy, another fellow Oxfordshire-born cyclist (not the owl, the other one).
I also spent a lot of time eating pancakes with my German housemates in our beautiful long term guest house
In February, I ran a weekend stop-motion animation workshop for ten people in Zango Studio, Fabrika. I really enjoyed leading the creative and enthusiastic participants and was very impressed by the short animations that the groups created by the end. Watch the video to see them.
In early March I was visited by my brother Pete and we went skiing in Gudauri
At the end of March I joined three other solo cyclists, Louis, Mikel and Rob, on an adventure-packed cycle trip to the separatist region of Abkhazia in northwest Georgia. I didn’t take the camera this time, but the adventures of the ten days will remain as very fond memories!
After the success of the stop-motion workshop, Georgia’s TBC Bank commissioned me and the studio to make a one-minute stop-motion promotional video. I worked with Zango Studio (housed in the Black Dog Shop featured) with the enthusiastic yet fierce Manana (left) and the organised and focused Tamriko (right). We also worked with the very skilled musician and editor, Tima. The final edit coming soon!
Here is a sneak preview of one of the sets that we used in the film
During the month of April when I was working very long hours in the studio and had had to move out of my other house, I was honoured to be hosted in Tbilisi by the generous Christoph and Katharina, the German couple I met in Turkey (featured here in Cappadocia). I hugely appreciated their patience when I arrived home from the studio at all hours of the night and morning, often collapsing into their bed for a few hours before dragging myself back to the studio again.
I finished everything I could on the video before my planned flight back to the UK on May 3rd. I left the bike in Tbilisi and flew to the UK for a wedding, to Kiev for the final of the Eurovision song contest, back to Dublin for a wedding and finally back to the UK for a family reunion and to get a Russian and Chinese visa (I now have 30 days in Russia and 90 days in China, both challenging visas to get, so I am a lucky cyclist!).
I arrived back into Tbilisi at the beginning of June, took my bicycle and hit the open road again.
I’m now back on the bicycle heading east through central Asia and onto China.