I had received some bad news the day before leaving Tbilisi - the job I was counting on suddenly changed their minds about hiring me (even though they confirmed in July that I had the job) and I was basically going back to Spain unemployed and broke. Fortunately, I have a better job now that is better paid and with a more reliable company, but at that time I was pretty emotional and distracted.
My flight left Tbilisi at 7.50am and just to be sure I'd be at the airport in time I decided to take a taxi at 5.30am. I should have been sensible and gone to bed early, but I stayed up drinking Georgian wine on the terrace with my friends for my last night in Tbilisi and went to bed at 2 and got about 2 hours sleep.
The art historian I interviewed the other day on the Georgian avant-gardes, and her husband (an excellent artist in his own right), offered to help me get a taxi to the airport. Georgian taxi drivers have the annoying tendency to charge foreigners more, so I figured getting a local to ring up would help barter my price down from 30 lari to less. So at 5.10am I get a call from her saying the taxi is on its way and her husband was coming along. They turned up at 5.30am, her husband helped me load the suitcase into the car, wished me good bye and told me the taxi is paid for. I was in shock and told him that's not necessary and he just smiled, told me not to argue and wished me a safe trip.
I cried when I left Tbilisi. The fortress was still lit up and the place was as beautiful as ever. I was in a limbo, uncertain about what to expect in Madrid (at least I had the appointment with the other academy for Thursday morning).
I fell asleep as soon as I sat in my plane seat, and except with a few nasty turbulence over the Caucasus Mountains I slumbered soundly till I woke up when we touched down in Kiev.
|St. Sophia - Kiev|
In Kiev things got complicated. In Tbilisi, I only received my boarding pass for Kiev since I was flying there with Aerosvit and then changing to Alitalia. I was told I had to pick up my boarding pass from the transfer desk in Boryspil airport.
The transfer desk was chaos and there was an epic hurdle of people (I wanted to say line, but this wasn't true) trying to get their boarding passes. In my emotional state I nearly burst into tears. After washing my face I went back and saw one woman who had finished with a client who didn't seem to have a swarm around her. I just quickly asked if I could leave the airport and check in again later. She told me to wait a minute and tried to get me my passes.
Of course, the system had a problem so she gave me a "provisional" boarding pass on a paper and said if I went to the check-in transfers desk in the airport I can pick it up that way. She showed me to passport control (they put me on a bus, sent me to another terminal, I then got told I had to go back to the other terminal to go through passport control, but never mind the details).
When asked at passport control my purpose for visiting the Ukraine, I babbled something about a 9 hour stop over and wanting to visit the city. The guard looked at me blankly so I just said "tourism." Then came the satisfactory sound of the stamp hitting my passport.
I was out of the airport and went to the bus station. There was a marshrutka leaving for the city that cost 25UAH (2.5€) to the centre. My friend Kami, whom I met in Armenia, had given me a really detailed itinerary of what to do in the centre for a couple of hours, and really saved me so much stress and time wasting in my few precious hours. She gave detailed directions on how to get to the metro, what to visit and most importantly where to eat. My time in the centre was limited to 2 hours, but I got a lot done thanks to her invaluable advice.
|St. Michael's Monastery - Kiev|
Kiev, or locally known as Kyiv, is one of the most beautiful cities I've been to. It has the grandeur reminiscent of the Budapest from my childhood which has now been lost. It's clean, stylish and even with the 11ºC temperature and all the clouds, it wasn't depressing.
It's true that two hours is nothing, but I managed to wander around, see the two beautiful gold-domed churches of St. Sophia and St. Michael's Monastery, take a walk on the riverside, walk back to Maidan Square and enjoy a stroll back to the metro via the gorgeous Klovs'kyi Uzviz. I even stopped for a bite to eat at Puzata Chata which is a cheap, canteen-like place that serves amazing Ukrainian food at ridiculously cheap prices.
I managed to return to the airport in plenty of time, yet trying to figure out how to get my boarding pass was a little complex. Fortunately, the staff were really helpful and in the end I just checked in as normal at the Alitalia desk. I got my boarding pass for my connection to Madrid too, which saved a lot of hassle for changing in Rome - which was a good thing, since I had about an hour to change planes.
My flight arrived on time, I made it through the passport control etc. in Rome Fiumicino Airport to get to my gate before boarding commenced. On both flights I managed to sleep like a baby before take off and then only waking up on landing.
I was lucky in Madrid because my luggage arrived without any problems (it had some mud on it from somewhere, but with two changes I was just relieved to have it) and a friend of mine had come to the airport to give me a lift. All in all, with four airports in four countries, eight hours of flying broken up into three chunks and trying to visit the city in a stop over - the whole trip went smooth as you could have hoped. All flights left and arrived on time and my luggage arrived OK. Not to mention I got lifts to and from the airports.
Tbilisi and Georgia were special, and I hope to return. I will miss these remarkable places, but I feel I returned a new person ready for a new life. I'll probably post a few more posts on this blog looking back on my trip including top ten destinations, food etc.
In the meantime, it's good to be home!