Covid 19 in Georgia

Finally, the sun is back! Because the weather was so good yesterday, we decided to go on a long hike. We went to see the Tbilisi Sea and from there, we walked all the way home. All in all, we covered 15 km and were extremely tired at the end of the day. So, one day late, here is our new blog about the corona situation here in Georgia.

The Georgian news website keeps telling us how good Georgia has been handling corona. The Georgian PM gets a lot of thumbs up from surrounding countries and even receives compliments from all over the world. Today, 539 people are infected with Corona, 6 have died and 178 have recovered (Georgia has a population of 3.7 million).

You’d think that corona has just started here, but actually the first cases were discovered on the same day as the first case in The Netherlands. So, what did they do to prevent corona from spreading?

At the end of February, Georgia had its 3rd case of corona. By then, the government decided to start being careful and they took the first measurements. Schools have been closed since March 2nd and at the beginning of March, borders to surrounding countries were closed too. Besides taking early measurements like closing borders, closing most shops, setting a curfew (we are not allowed to be outside from 9 pm until 6 am), wearing gloves in supermarkets (and now also facemasks), people had (and still have) to go into quarantine a lot! Whenever there is a slight chance you’ve had contact with a person with corona, you have to go into quarantine. This happened to us in the restaurant in Gudauri. There had been some customers with Corona and all of us had to go into quarantine.

On top of that, the police actually check that you stick to the quarantine and hand out a really high fine when you don’t obey the rules; all fines are terribly high. There was never a full lockdown here, such as the one in Italy for example, but whenever there is a city with a larger amount of infections, that city or county will be closed off completely! This way, the government tries to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible. And they were doing really good, until Easter came…

Easter is a bit different here. The orthodox church is the biggest church in Georgia and Easter is a week later than it is in the Netherlands. With Easter, people go to church, share the same spoon (to drink the blood of Jesus) and get together with friends and family. A lot of families go to graveyards and have picknicks next to the graves of their ancestors. The government was very worried that corona would spread rapidly during these days and tried everything they could to prevent this. But they did not close the church or forbid the Easter ceremonies. Obviously, churches here still are pretty powerful!

What they did do, was close down the 4 main cities of Georgia. Since Tbilisi is the biggest city, from then on, we were stuck here! Besides this, they also put a ban on private transportation. It was so quiet on the streets for a week, it was great! They even closed all the graveyards for the Easter weekend, which we noticed when we went on a long walk.

We ran into a dozen police cars; they were all parked near the small entrances. We even had to cross a police line to get to the church we were headed. Luckily, they let us! On a side note: on a lot of our walks, we pass the most beautiful graveyards. Some look like entire cities! There are benches and some graves look like picknick areas…

But… back to Corona: all the measurements seemed to help a bit, because even though there was a raise in numbers, it didn’t spread as much as some people thought it would. Last Monday, the Government even started an 8 week ‘re-opening’ plan. Every two weeks, more restrictions will be lifted. It is really nice to see some dates on which we can go back to ‘normal’ (even though some might be postponed later). If all goes well, in 7 weeks we might be having dinner in outside restaurants again! Unfortunately, there’s still no word on when the big cities will open again, so we will just have to wait and see.

Yesterday, we read an article that stated that Georgia might be one of the first countries to start opening borders for tourists again. That would mean that we would be able to start moving freely again! We can’t wait.

Of course, we would love to continue our travels and our plan, but that will still take a while. We might have to change our route, but planning is impossible these days. For now, we are just glad that, very slowly, life seems to start returning to ‘normal’ again.

Around Tbilisi

While we drove from Gori to the beautiful ancient city of Uplistsikhe, we lost all of our coolant again. We saw the pink fluid dripping out of the radiator, but we decided to visit the site first. Together with hitchhiker Asher, we walked the many steps of the stairs in the tunnel, that led from the river to the old cave town. There were rooms cut out in the rocks, some of them without roofs from the everlasting erosion. The once so important Queen Tamar had her own hall here and there’s a church overlooking the valley. The video in the museum told us that this city was one of the main trading sites on the route from Asia to Europe. Very interesting and beautiful to see!

Once we got back to the car, we had to fix the coolant problem. Nienke had just emptied our bottles with coolant in the tank that morning, so we didn’t have any left. Fortunately, some friendly men helped us and assured us we could fill it up with normal water. One of them even looked under the car and tightened a screw, so that we could drive to Tbilisi without losing all of the water again. We definitely had to find a decent mechanic now!

When we arrived in Tbilisi, we had some troubles to find the right entrance to the Peugeot store. The traffic in this city is very stressful! We finally found out that this shop wasn’t able to help us (even though they are Peugeot!), so we went to Tegeta Motors again. We found this shop very reliable in Batumi, so we had some hope for this one in Tbilisi too. Unfortunately, they didn’t have time to help us, so they told us to come back on Saturday. That meant we had to wait for two days! We therefore drove to a nice park-up on the Tbilisi Lake and settled down for the night.

On Friday, we had to go to the vet to get Sparta’s last vaccination. We found a great clinic that belongs to the Agrarian University and they were definitely very trustworthy. Next to the rabies shot, Sparta also got his microchip so that we can prove that he is rightfully ours! Because we couldn’t drive very far and we had nothing else to do, we drove to Tbilisi mall and walked around the stores for a while. The weather had turned really bad, thus we decided to have lunch in the mall and go to the cinema after. Sparta was exhausted from going to the vet, so he slept the whole afternoon while we enjoyed our first movie on big screen in 6 months.

The next morning, we immediately went back to Tegeta Motors. We had made an appointment with Wild Goose for 11 o’clock, so we wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible! Fortunately, the mechanics told us that they could fix the radiator easily and that they found another problem too, which they would also fix. We took a taxi to the city center and told them we would be back later to pick up the van. Then, we finally met with Tanja and Michael again! They truly had made us an amazing breakfast, which we enjoyed with some sparkling wine and a lot of coffee. The rest of the day we played with Sparta, talked to our new friends and relaxed a little. Hopefully, our car troubles will be gone for a while now!

On Sunday, we went out to check out Tbilisi center. Wild Goose took us up with the cable cars and pointed out all the great spots that could be seen from the hill. They showed us around the old center, took us to a lovely coffee place and told us where the best markets are. We loved the city tour very much and we will definitely be back there to see some more of Tbilisi! The rest of the day, we had another delicious diner together, drank some more wine and talked a lot about all our travels. Thanks for having us T+M!

Monday, we went to Lisi Lake to have one last day of relaxation with each other. We would start a new Workaway on Tuesday, so we really needed to have some alone time. On Tuesday morning, two guys came to pick us up with the van of the company to guide us to the place where we would spend the next two weeks. Luckily, it hasn’t rained for a while and the road was dry, because there was no asphalt for about 15 km! After some bumpy last kilometers, we arrived at a big blue house in the middle of nowhere. 40 dogs immediately started barking at us! That was a very loud way to be welcomed into their territory.

Thus, we will be working with the dogs and about 20 cats here for approximately two weeks. Until now, Sparta is both excited and scared, but he is doing better with some of the other dogs already. We really love the walks we take with a group of dogs twice a day. The house is very dirty and so we have also been cleaning a lot of sh*t, which we – of course – don’t really enjoy. Cuddling with all of the dogs really makes up for that though!

In the next two weeks we will spend a lot of time with very cute dogs and cats. If one of our readers is interested in adopting one of them, please let us know! There are flights to Tbilisi every day and it’s a beautiful city, so you could definitely make a nice trip out of it ;).