Travelogue CROATIA IN GEORGIA: Without boarding pass in the wrong airplane

Tamara Hodak

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Leo called me again:
– Tamara, do you want to go to Georgia? Five days of APV in the end of October and 10 days of project in the first half of December.
-Yes, sure. They import clothes from Turkey, I need a coat.

I arrived to Zagreb and met Leo`s parents. That information is important to bring out because of eye liquid I had to bring to Leo to Georgia. Next day, at 08:00 am, I took a bus to Budapest. Flixbus arrived and hour earlier which happened never.

HOW TO FALL IN LOVE WITH BUDAPEST?

Everybody, except me, loves Budapest. Every time I visit, something bad happens and it ruins my whole trip. Why would it be different this time…

I left my luggage at the lower floor of the Nepliget bus station and went to the city. “Nice architecture!” – came across my mind. Frowned people on the other side. It was a nice, sunny day. Perfect for a walk around the city. I almost got hit by a car because the driver tried to do illegal turn in the middle of the crossroad. I kept moving on.

After an hour of walking, I sat to drink a coffee in some bar with a beautiful view of the river, bridges and some of the attractions. I am not really a coffee lover, and Hungarians speak nothing but Hungarian so I had to put a lot of effort into explaining the waitress that I want a coffee with extra milk. I did not blame her, coffee was good.

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THE ONLY HUNGARIANS WHO SPEAK ENGLISH ARE HOMELESS

I walked back to the bus station. I’ve never been to the airport in Budapest and all I knew was that I need to take metro and bus to get there. So I had to ask the passengers where the metro is. It did not matter which language I use, they did not know it anyway. They did not understood what I was trying to ask nor I was getting closer to the airport. Realizing I am alone in this, I stood in front of the metro map and tried to conclude where does the metro line end and the bus ride begin.

In that moment, homeless guy in wheelchair approached me. In pretty good English, he asked me if I needed help. Shocked and happy, I explained the whole situation. The man told me everything, turned around and disappeared.

I bought the tickets, sat on metro, got out, sat on the bus and arrived to the airport. All together it took less than an hour. So much drama for something so simple. But! That is when the real problems began.

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WITHOUT BOARDING PASS IN THE WRONG AIRPLANE

As soon as I entered the airport, I went to info point to ask where is what in order to save time. A guy, younger than me, absolutely uninterested in his job, sent me to the right. I stood in the queue on the right, thinking it is a queue for luggage drop off. Even though it was a little bit weird being the only one with 20 kg backpack while everyone else had only small suitcases, I kept on moving forward. I stopped the girl who was in charge of scanning the luggage and explained her the situation. She just told me to keep going.

I know I am allowed to have only one piece of luggage with me, not heavier than 10 kg. I put 20 kg backpack to scan. Small one afterwards. I have stuff for nails, pepper spray, hair spray, deodorant, shampoos, food and lots of other things I am no allowed to take to an airplane. Everything was fine. After scanning, a guy stopped me and told me I had some liquid I cannot take with me. Leo`s eye liquid! I was thinking to myself: “Are you really going to take that from me among all the other items?!”.

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I started making drama. I am trying to explain to the guy that I cannot see without that liquid, I have to have it, there is no smaller packaging, I have no choice. Please, give it back. He gave it back.

I tried to get some information about baggage drop off from him. As well as the desk where the boarding pass is being printed. He was not in the mood for explaining. He just let me pass to the gate. People were entering an airplane, flight to Abu Dhabi. I approached the stewardess and the third time started explaining what happened.

-I do not have boarding pass. This is an airplane to Abu Dhabi. I am going to Istanbul. I have a backpack which I am not allowed to have on board. What should I do?

-If they let you pass with the backpack, you will have to take it on board. Please, proceed. =)

-Taking the backpack on board is not the problem. But how am I going to explain all of this in Istanbul where I have connecting flight to Tbilisi? I repeat, this is not my flight.

-I do not understand.

-Sister, neither am I. Call airport security.

Security guards arrived. ONCE AGAIN, I explained what happened. They could not understand how did I pass the control with all the luggage without boarding pass check all the way to the wrong gate. I knew even less. After I spend half the day in Budapest, I am late for my flight. Panic kicked in. I tried to tell them to get me out to the entrance to leave my luggage and take the right flight. They looked at each other for half a minute and concluded that I am harmless. I was the last one to enter my airplane. By the way, I was lucky because the flight was late.

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THE WORLD IS SMALL

We landed to Istanbul. We were late big time. At the entrance to the airport, two boys were standing and shouting “Tbilisi gate 93!”, indicating we all have to hurry. About hundred of us started running across the airport just to get to our gate where people were peacefully sitting – our flight was late. I realize I could not trust anyone so I started walking around to find a screen where it is supposed to be written am I at the right place. Nothing nowhere. After half an hour of panic, a guy approached me. He was Estonian.

-Are you going to Tbilisi?

-Yes! You?

-Yes.

-So, I`m at the right place.

-Yes.

Relaxation.

I explained even to him what happened previously… His friend came as well, we started talking and it turned out we are all going to youth exchange. To Tbilisi. To the same hotel. With the same organizers.

Leo was waiting for us at the airport in Tbilisi. Concerning the fact we arrived a day earlier, we decided to stay together. I booked a room for 4 people, weeks before arrival so accommodation was not a problem.

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BLUES BROTHERS HOSTEL AND NAKED ALEXANDAR IN BATH ROPE

Taxi driver tried to persuade us that taxi is the only ride to the city. There are buses from the airport that give rides a few time per hour. Always ask for information someone who visited the destination before you, because there are some details you cannot find on internet. It was 05:00 am and we needed earlier check in. We sent an e-mail to the hotel, they positively confirmed. Bus took us the the station from where we took taxi. You would not believe the taxi prices in Georgia. Public transportation in general. Make prepaid card. I put 4 euros on mine which was enough for 2 people for 10 days!

We gave address to the driver.  After a few minutes of riding, he said that is it. We got out of the car, looked around and could not believe it. Ruined building, crashed cars, holes on the road, neglected trees, garbage… Hostel was nowhere in sight. A few people passed, we stopped them to ask if they knew something about hostel. Nobody had a clue. One man offered us a ride because we were at the wrong address allegedly. We accepted the offer. Just to realize we already were at the right place and we had to walk back for 2 km.

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We checked booking.com. Photos look like the place where we were, but nicer. There was no sign, indication, nothing. A woman walked out of the building we concluded might be hostel. We asked her if she lived there and is there a hostel inside. She said no, but there was some guy on the third floor who always has different people coming in and out. Shock!

We climbed to the third floor. There were big steel door, covered with rust. Pipes were sticking out of the walls, wall paint peeled off, last time cleaned – never. Sound of knocking on the door reminded me of kicking the barrel for fermenting brandy using wooden log. The door opened, there was shirtless grandpa. We made a step back. Because of the bad smell coming out of apartment, not because of grandpa.

“Alexandar!” – he said. Offering us to sit in the living room while we wait for Alexandar. We were looking at each other because we knew we were not going to stay. The doors on the left opened, a guy in a bath rope came out. That bath rope was hanging off one shoulder and purpose of wearing it was to hide “private parts”. He just got out of the bed.

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“You will sleep in this room.” – he said showing the room from which he walked out. We looked in and saw a lot of beds. Also more people sleeping. No, no, no. I started complaining. Considering booking.com a serious website, I expected at least the room i booked. As soon as I mentioned Booking, Alelxandar said “Ok!” and took me to my room. We walked in. Smell was even worse, sheets visibly dirty.

No – we concluded. We did not have unrealistic standards, but lack of professionalism and hygiene were unacceptable. We went to eat, food is a cure for everything.

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THE FIRST IMPRESSION IS FALSE!

Leo found a new apartment which was easy to reach and it was really fine. We settled and went to the city. At first, it all seemed like the country got out of the war two years ago. However, after a few days spent there, I realized it is a matter of perception because the country is located between Europe and Asia. Therefore, influenced by many countries with different culture. Balkan strives for central Europe so Georgia is something completely new for us.

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City is nice, full of culture and history. We took a walk through historical part, used cable railway to get to the hill and walked back down. We ate at the restaurants because the price of the food is cheaper than Konzum (Croatian version of Esselunga, Walmart, Carrefour, Lidl…). Next day, we went to another hotel where all the other participants of the project were waiting for us.

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THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE GENERALLY ACCEPTED

“Let`s talk about sexism” was the topic of the project. Concerning the fact I did not know much about the subject, project seemed more interesting because participating in it meant I was getting into the sphere I never gave too much importance. I am not conservative or judgmental, everything is welcome as long as it has good intentions, be what you want, wear what you want, believe in aliens and Tinkerbell, wear make up or not, choose your gender, sleep wherever you want… Your life is only yours. But be a good person!

We opened some very sensitive topics and tried to be tolerant to everyone as much as we could. It was easy to make deals about workshops. I did not know what to expect in December but my curiosity did not even let me sleep.

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Thinking about the topic and listening to the others, I remembered situations I have been through, seen or heard. How many times someone was catcalling you while you were walking down the street? In most cases, we just ignore it thinking “I pity the fool”. It became normal that this things happen because we accepted it. Something like that should not have been accepted in a first place! How hard it is for women to leave abusive husbands? Why men can sleep with 50 women, and women cannot sleep with 50 men? Why men cannot be emotional and women can? What did homosexuals do wrong? Mind chooses the body which sometimes does not coincide with genetics. And many other situations.

The continuation of the plan was followed in December.

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BAD NEIGHBOURLY RELATIONSHIP WITH SLOVENIA

To get back, the route I choose was Tbilisi-Istanbul-Budapest-Maribor-Zagreb-Plitvice lakes. Everything was ok until I reached Maribor. We arrived at 04:00 am and I had to wait for the next bus alone, outside while the temperature was minus something degrees. Nothing worked, a bar, hotel, nothing. So the only option I had was to wait.

I would survive it if something worse did not happen. I was approached by man. He was around 45 years old. He unzipped his pants and told me to go with him. I was cold, sleepy, scared, shocked and weighted with two backpack. I did not know what to do. I started running. After a few meters, a cleaner showed up. I told her what happened. She just smiled and said it was a local homeless guy who usually does that kind of thing. She also added that there was no point to call police because he would run away until they showed up. Until the show up? From where? Neighbouring country? My dear Slovenia, smaller than Arena Zagreb… I traveled through the whole Europe and the only incident happened in the neighbourhood.

Girls, if you are traveling alone, get pepper spray, Swiss knife, anything. Make sure the battery on your phone is not empty and be in contact with someone at every point. 

I could not wait to cross the border and reach Croatia.

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SECOND PART OF JOURNEY, TO TBILISI OVER KIEV

December arrived, the old crew gathered. I met Leo, Katarina and Lucija in Poland in the beginning of the last year. We became good friends so the next trip together was just a matter of time. Making deals about how to get from Zagreb to Tbilisi, we agreed that this is the perfect opportunity to use possibilities that were offered. Exaggerating, in this case, was planned.

Bus from Zagreb to Budapest. We spent the night there. The next morning, flight from Budapest to Kiev. The same day in the evening, flight from Kiev to Baku. We stayed in Baku for two days and took a night train to Tbilisi.

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MAKING FETISH MOVIES AND BREAKING GUINNESS WORLD RECORD

I packed my stuff and arrived to Zagreb a day earlier. I spend the night at Lucija`s apartment. As soon as I arrived, I sent her a message and she told me to come to a certain address. She dances so I thought I was coming to her training routine.

I arrived in front of the building, walked through the passage, approached the house, entered, walked down the stairs to the basement. There were no lights. All of a sudden, I heard voices. I knocked on the door, some girl opened. Deadly serious, she said: “Take off your shoes, we have to be barefoot.”. I thought that was part of the routine… We entered another room. Never in my life, I have been so confused! There was a guy, laying on the floor, wearing only boxers and 15 barefoot girls were standing on him. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?! Lucija was barely containing herself from bursting into laughter.

So, the guy wants to break Guinness record as human carpet. I do not know how many girls have to stand on him for a few minutes. He gets an article in Guinness world record book and 50000 kn (~6,666.66 €). Girls, each gets 1000 kn (~133.33 €). To make the story more interesting, I am not allowed to reveal the identity of the guy because he is successful businessman. Also, his hobby is making fetish videos. I mean, my trip had not even started yet and I have had already seen enough.

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BUDAPEST AGAIN…

Ride to Budapest went well. We started early, nobody bothered us on the boarder, weather was nice. As soon as we arrived, we headed to hostel. I do not remember anymore how many times I said I do not like Budapest so I was just waiting for problems to appear. Whole day walk around city was cold but pleasant because of the Christmas spirit. Next morning we had to get up before dawn because we had to be at the airport at 06:00 am. Important information to bring out is that metro did not work so they put replacement buses in traffic. Where were the stops? What did the buses looked like? How often did it ride? Were there any indications? These questions never got answers. 

My bad opinion about Budapest was justified once again. We got up much earlier than we should have if the metro was in function. It was Saturday morning and the only people we could meet in the street at the time we got out were drunk kids and frowned workers. We spent almost an hour walking around the big crossroads, asking people for information, googling, studying the map of the city. We were ready to give 50+ € for taxi because we had no more choice. At that moment a cute guy stopped us and in perfect English explained where to wait for the bus. Five minutes later we were on the way to the airport.

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KIEV DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE

Thought by experience, this time I knew how to leave an airport in Budapest. We arrived to Kiev. It was cold, snowing, slush everywhere. Nobody spoke English so we tried to communicate in Ukrainian and Croatian. Both Slavic languages so we understood each other up to a certain point. It was easy to reach the city but hard to find luggage storage. Public transportation and Uber are cheap so it is easy to move around. However, it snowed more and more, it got colder, we got wet and spent half the day visiting only 3 attractions. We set in restaurant, got a meal and made a conclusion that Kiev deserves a second chance as soon as it gets warmer.

I did not print my boarding pass from Kiev to Baku. There are no such thing as printshops. Therefore, I went to some hotel and ask receptionist if he could print it for me. He did it. We reached airport using Uber. Around 40 minute ride cost us 10 €. We had to go through the whole procedure right at the entrance of the airport. Passports, boarding passes and luggage check at the doors. They took pepper spray from Lucija and did not find mine.

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ONE OF THE WORST FLIGHTS EVER

Arriving to the gate, there was 195 men and 5 women waiting for the flight. Among 5 women, 2 of them were completely covered, 1 was older, Lucija and I. Men acted like they have never seen a woman in their life. Covered ones were accompanied by their husbands, older one seemed experienced in this situations and two of us felt terrible. It is very uncomfortable walking towards your seat in an airplane while almost 200 heads if following every move you make. Even when we sat, some stood up to continue looking at us or they even tried to watch through the gaps between the seats. Somebody would ignore, someone would be indifferent, someone would laugh. I was embarrassed.

Cheeky Carabao was the name of hostel were Mateo, Haris and Laura were waiting for us. It was 02:00 am and we took Uber. It was a little bit more expensive than in Ukraine, but all we wanted was to reach hostel as fast as possible. I guess we asked for too much. We had address and the name of hostel but our driver did not know where it was. He stopped in some street and for 15 minutes walked around asking people about location. It turned out we were parked next to the building were hostel was but the problem was the lack of indications. Finally, we entered.

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To be continued!

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