Now, you’ve just arrived in the Republic of Georgia, what’s next? How do get out of this airport you might ask? Would anyone be speaking English at all? Would I be bridenapped or guys, groomnapped? Why? It can be a legitimate concern, if you’re an attractive foreigner…
Okay, Miss Hoggy was just messing with you. But whatever worries you might have of moving around in Georgia, lay it down, because this is Georgian 101, the manual to marshrutka and wine drinking.
(Disclaimer: This is what she did and experienced, and her way of navigation. If something isn’t quite right, please kindly comment)
If you’re there for the first time, you’d prefer taxi. Taxis are unmetered here, so bargain first. If they say 20, you say 10. If they say 10, you say 5. You get the idea, whatever price they’ve told you, halve it. Show them that foreigners are not pushovers. Yay! 2- Foreigners, 0-Taxi drivers. (Refer to Filipino 101 for my first bout with taxi drivers)
Now, after a while, you’re probably settled down and know your way around, kind of, and it’s probably time to figure this one out.
Yeap, the marshrutka. It is cheaper than a taxi and the fare’s fixed. The catch is, there’s a thing called the Marshrutka Etiquette. Here goes.
- So you all know now that it’s a public transport of sort with its sets of route numbers, you’d need to ask the driver to stop. But love, there’s no fancy button for you to press like the ones on a Melbourne tram. You’ll need to shout: “Gaacheret!” Don’t be timid, unlike Miss Hoggy’s first time. Just SHOUT! Because that’s your fancy ‘Stop’ button. If not, you’ll be miles off your intended stop, like Miss Hoggy’s first time.
- And also, it’s mighty helpful if you know where your stop is with recognisable landmarks. If not, you can’t even use your fancy ‘Stop’ button. But don’t worry, if you don’t know where you’re going, ask the driver. They might not talk much, but they know the tourist attractions on their marshrutka route. Meaning, they would always stop for you, exactly where you want to be, even if you don’t really know where it is. But as long as you let them know, you’ll know, eventually.
- Remember “The Exact Change” system? You’ll get funny (or angry) stares if you take a big note out to try and pay the driver. In their eyes, you’ll just slowing everyone down! So always be ready with your tetris, it just makes thing less awkward and you feeling less guilty.
That’s it. The first time is nerve wrecking, I know. But once you’ve done it and sort of get it on how marshrutka works, it’s a very important travelling skill to have in Georgia. Less taxi haggling, more money saved, I can guarantee that you’ll be less angry too, at taxi drivers.
Getting your way around in marshrutka is quite a Georgian experience. Is there anything else more Georgian than that, Miss Hoggy? Yeap, there is. It’s the ancient art of wine drinking. Essential if you’re to survive a supra, a Georgian party. It’s a guarantee if you make a friend out of a Georgian, you’re surely invited to one.
Wine, as I mentioned before, is mostly home brewed. Meaning, you’ll have absolutely no clue on the alcohol percentages. So, warning, those wine are quite something. If you know you can’t drink well, tell them in advance and insistently, with ‘Ara’, which means no, if you want to survive a supra unscathed.
And I did say wine drinking in Georgian is an art. Here are the essentials:
- Unlike the western culture, wine is only drunk when a toast is made. No sipping casually, acting like you’re really cool. No, only after a toast, after the tamada, the toastmaster, has made a really meaningful toast and shouted ‘Gagimarjos!’, the Georgian equivalent to ‘Cheers!’
- You would then respond with ‘Gagimarjos!’ And then your next essential form of action is scull your glass of potent wine. (To those not great drinkers, here’s why you’ll need to tell them in advance.)
- Never ever fill your own glass. It’s rude. In Georgia, wine glasses are filled up to the brim by friends, before another toast is made.
- Another rude thing: don’t toast with a beer. That’s for your enemy.
- And this will go on for hours. Toast, scull, wine glass filled. Toast, scull, wine glass filled. Longer toast… longer scull… more wine filled…
So you get the picture, you’ll have to hold your alcohol pretty well to survive a supra standing. And just so you know, the toast gets lengthier as the tamada gets drunker.
What if you have enough, but your wine glass is still getting filled up? Here are a few tips:
- Don’t scull your wine anymore after a toast. Just take a sip as sign of respect.
- And if they want to fill your cup, cover your glass with your hand, and use the powerful ‘Ara’.
- If it keeps coming, just repeat the previous steps, over and over again. Repetition is key.
- Oh, beware of cha cha, Georgian vodka. It’s home brewed, it burns and a drunkard maker.
Anyhow, stay safe in Georgia and have a great time. I mean it.
P.S. Most of the communication that needs to be done are in Georgian. Check my post out on Communication the Georgian Way for more basic Georgian phrases.
Marshrutka, courtesy of batsav.com, a very informative website on all transcaucasian culture.