After a few minutes he came back. "They don't have any coupé tickets. They're all sold out." I had worried about this, since the tickets had been sold out on our journey from Baku. I panicked, thinking about spending sixteen hours in third class. Can you even sleep in third class? I kept thinking of poor Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas.
"See if they have any first class tickets," I instructed him, "just buy two compartments."
After ten minutes he came back with the good news that they had first class tickets available and the bad news that the money he had changed in Baku ($200) wasn't enough to buy the tickets. Thank heaven for ATMs. And so the tickets were bought, and all of the disastrous situations in our trip were finished. I'm not going to complain when the worst thing that happens is we have to pay more than expected for a return trip.
The rest of our vacation went great.
Monday we started our day with taking a funicular to the top of the hills surrounding Tbilisi. On one of the hills is an amusement park filled with lots of tacky rides that appeal to small children. Very cultural.
In the funicular.
The view from the top.
On the Ferris wheel.
The Ferris wheel, which lights up at night and can be seen across the city.
Having exhausted our the rides and our funds by 1:00, we decided to walk to the botanical gardens, which looked like a reasonable hike on Google Maps.
The only problem with arial shots is that they're really bad at showing elevation, and scale can sometimes be hard to determine.
The only problem is that we just kept hiking and hiking and hiking.
We stopped for rest breaks, water breaks than then necessitated other types of rest breaks, granola bar breaks, picture breaks, and ibuprofen breaks for Brandon's knee, injured while he worked at Stouffer's, and no longer happy about going up and down lots of hills while carrying twenty-five pounds of Joseph on his back.
But eventually we made it to Narikala fortress, which was next to the botanical gardens, and as we realized after looking around, only separated by a 500-foot drop. Those maps really don't show ridges very well, and no guidebook (we had three) mentioned the botanical gardens being in a side valley not connected to the city.
By this time it was 5:30 and everyone was exhausted and hungry so we took the cable car down into the city,
crossed the river, and trailed through the old city looking for somewhere that didn't ask for Joseph in exchange for dinner. My favorite part of the March of Death for Dinner was Edwin repeating over and over in monotone while being dragged down cobbled streets past tourists, "I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired," until we told him to quit it. But really, it was a pretty long day for a three year-old and he took it quite well.
The next morning, after eating a very big breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll back down to the old city to enjoy it with somewhat fresher eyes than the evening before.
We paid through the nose for two dolls that could add to our Christmas tree ornaments from foreign countries collection.
We found a trail that went past the baths and into a ravine behind the city that dead-ended into a waterfall.
We finished the afternoon with more Georgian food, for the third day in row. "Please, no more khachipuri!! the children all begged," so we obliged. Who knew you could get sick of khachipuri? After a late lunch, we hailed a taxi to swing by the hotel for our bags before taking us to the train station for our night train back to Baku. We arrived the next morning by 9:00, too early to even eat the breakfast we brought. Whatever else you can say about this country, the train (to Tbilisi) seems to run right one time.
And that was our trip. If you're ever in the mood to travel to Tbilisi, I recommend it. Even if you're not, try it anyway. You might be surprised!