This year, Christmas was over already in the morning of 25th when we packed our things, left the AirBnB-apartment and went back to work to the hostels. In the hostels our job is to clean the most important places and sometimes just to be there, welcome new guests, give them bedsheets, take the payment etc. We both work 3-4 days per week for 5-6 hours per day. Therefore we can stay there for free. At the moment the hostels both are mostly quite empty as it is off season. That makes working there more relaxed.
The atmosphere in Laura’s hostel is familial, sometimes one person cooks for the others and they share meals. As the hostel is still quite newly established and some parts not finished yet, you can get involved in some changes that take place. The evenings we often spent together with Sam (the founder of the hostel who’s from Egypt), Che (from Scotland who also volunteers there), Berika (who’s actually Georgian and just lives there for a while), Artus (an exchange student from Latvia), Ahmed (from Egypt who’s in Georgia for finding work) and the two Georgian sisters Maya and Lamara who have been living at the hostel for some months. The hostel Noemis stays at is more modern, all the material things a hostel needs are there but it lacks character. So she often visits Laura’s hostel and can also stay the night when there is space. Sometimes we do miss our privacy and alone time, as we both live in an 8-bed-dorm. Therefore‘ we decided to leave the city for a few days around New Years Eve and visit Borjomi. At New Years Eve we hiked up a mountain and looked at the lights of the city and fireworks. The other days we had lashing rain and just did some smaller walks around Borjomi.
In our free time in Tbilisi we are discovering more and more of the city. It has beautiful parts and a good size so you can get around easily by walking (also because we live very central). In case you need to go somewhere further you can take the metro which costs about 15 ct per ride. One evening Noemi took part at the critical mass (as in other cities cyclists meet up for cycling together through central/busy roads and that way campaign for better conditions for cycling in the city). Together with people from the hostel we went to play table tennis, to a bar with live music or played cards in the living room of the hostel. One evening Laura met up with Giga whom she had met ages ago at an International Student Week. Giga is from Tbilisi and showed us a very nice cafe where you can play lots of board games and when walking home we discovered some (for us) new parts of the city. One time Noemi went to a Georgian dancing class with one of her hostel mates. On other days we found nice cafes and tried the Georgian dish Kinkhali (similar to Pierogi or Tortellini just with a ‚handle‘). We enjoy being settled for a while and getting to know a place more and more.
One day we got a reply from a hostel in the nearby ski-resort Gudauri. Laura had emailed them in order to inquire if they need volunteers. Luckily that was the case. Before we departed to Gudauri for four weeks, we equipped us with bag packs (that we’d put on the back of the bike in the future), shoes (as our runners weren’t suitable for the snow and as well starting to fall apart) and warm gloves. Our dream was to be able to learn snowboarding in our free time there. Our work would include to do some hikes and create gps-tracks of them and make all that available on the hostel website for future guests. We also should do some research about alternative activities in Gudauri (apart from skiing and snowboarding) and present the results on the website. We were lucky the warmshower host Tamaz offered that we could store our bikes and some of the luggage at his place in Tbilisi for some weeks. Before we brought everything to his apartment we cleaned the bikes thoroughly.
We were looking forward a lot to being in Guduari. The best way of getting there (as well as it was to Borjomi) is taking the minibus (Marschrutka). The ride costs about 2-3 Euro and it takes 3 hours. The busses depart in Tbilisi from the metro station Didube. When you get off the metro you find yourself in a chaotic labyrinth-like market. It’s not so easy to find the station as on your way lots of people try to offer you different (mostly more expensive) alternatives how to get to places. On the bus we waited for another hour, as it usually just leaves whenever it is full. In the evening we arrived in Gudauri. Viktor was the first person we met there on our way to the hostel and it was sympathy on first sight. He also was a snowboard instructor and lived in the same street as us. At the hostel we were welcomed by Eka who is managing the hostel for that season and decorating the place with her paintings. We appreciate a lot that we have a room for ourselves here (even if that meant we had to move rooms a few times). Gudauri is actually just a small village and there is lots of construction going on in order to expand the ski-resort. Its located about 50 km from the Russian border. Soon we noticed that Russian is also the most important language here and not English. So people would approach you in Russian first. Often we wished we would speak Russian as well. Some of the tourists coming to Gudauri (many people from Dubai) had never before seen snow in their life and it’s nice to watch them experiencing it. It takes about 30-45 minutes to walk to the supermarket here and as the offer sometimes is limited it’s not hard to decide what to cook 🙂 On our first day we met Michael the owner of the hostel and talked about our tasks. Later we had the chance to borrow ski equipment from his parents. So we spontaneously skied that afternoon and Noemi tried it for the first time.
During the first few days it was snowing a lot and therefore foggy and cloudy. On our third day we got to see Gudauri, the mountains and the beautiful view for the first time. And then there was lots of nice and soft powder snow. We borrowed snowboards, helmets and goggles to start practicing. Viktor lent us some snow pants and one pair of boots which he brought to our hostel. After trying to snowboard on the first evening ourselves we got some helpful advice from Artus who stayed at Laura’s hostel in Tbilisi and came to Gudauri for one day. His stay became a bit more adventurous than expected as he lost his go-pro (camera) during his last ride down. Laura and Arturs took the last lift up but they didn’t find it. Laura’s first snowboarding day got a bit longer than it would have been comfortable. Spontaneously Arturs stayed one night and was lucky to find his camera the next morning. In the next few days we practiced more and sometimes together with Viktor who helped us a lot. We expected we had gotten enough muscles in our legs over the past few month – but it proved false while snowboarding. One day there was half a meter of new snow and we rode (more appropriate: tumbled) down the slope and fell very soft. We had never seen that much snow in our lives before. We saw Viktor almost every day, either for riding, having tea and oranges in the evening or lunch. One evening we went to the neighbour building, where snowboard movies were shown. On other days we did some of the hikes and that way got to know the area better. The view is very beautiful and we enjoy the fresh air and being outside a lot.
Our snowboarding skills got better with the time and we didn’t fall a lot anymore. One evening Laura unfortunately had an accident in the deep snow just before we wanted to finish riding and afterwards she had some pain in her knee. When it didn’t get much better she decided to go to Tbilisi to see a doctor. He said she shouldn’t do any sports for 6 weeks to give the knee a rest 🙁 But Laura is still in a good mood, does some knee exercises and the pain is getting less. Instead of snowboarding she is hiking and yesterday brought a delicious picnic up the mountain for a lunch break. She hopes to be able to ride again before leaving these beautiful mountains.
Our New Years Eve view in Borjomi.
From Borjomi we took the train back to Tbilisi.
During the first days in Gudauri our view looked like this.
Doing groceries got quite tough due to the deep snow.
It just didnt stop snowing.
Viktor and Noemi in the deep snow.
Time to dig.
Noemi`s elegant way of stopping.
Laura is enjoying Powder Day.
Laura is racing down the hill.
Where will we go next?