Black Sea Ferry III: Meandering across the Black to Poti

At the rate that we are travelling, we may never arrive, although I am led to believe that we will be there within four or five hours. I am not sure that I will be too disappointed to see the back of the ship, but it could be my preoccupation with timing and the uncertainty of the next step of the voyage that is getting to me.

When I saw that the vessel had been built in Germany in 1988 it didn’t actually register with me that it would have been East Germany; not that the DDR’s engineering is suspect, of course, but their sense of decor, and the generally authoritarian stamp that has been imbued in the ship’s soul, is unusual.

My cabin on board The GriefswaldDecoration is bland; think inexpensive rec room designs of the late seventies and wash away 80% of the colour. Inoffensive and cheap paneling prevails, and a sense of joy is almost completely lacking. Built for service, and presumably eavesdropping, the ship soldiers on in a new world order unaffected by change. This description, however, is perhaps unfair, because it is designed to be a ferry for trucks, and not a cruise liner; it is a working ship, a rare species these days, and I am glad to sail on her for this reason alone.

Most of my fellow-travellers are a breed unto themselves; primarily truckers working a very difficult route, plagued with paperwork and bureaucracy that defies imagination, they lead a difficult life. They all smoke incessantly, and as we edge closer to Georgia and freedom from the MS Greifswald, there is a sense of the open road.

The rather groovy barDepending on the time, I shall try and find a bus to Tbilisi or stay overnight in Poti and head into the capital in the morning. The current issue is the language, or more precisely the script. An ability to read is essential when trying to catch a bus.

Georgian script is unique, and impenetrable to outsiders. Now I know that Wikipedia should not generally be quoted, but I will, and this brief entry should offer a glimpse into the linguistic quicksand into which I am entering:

The Georgian word for “alphabet” is ანბანი [anbani], derived from the names of the first two letters of each of the three independent Georgian alphabets, which have the interesting characteristic of looking very dissimilar to one another yet which share the same alphabetic order and may be seen mixed to some extent, even though there is no official distinction between upper and lower case in writing the Georgian language”.

Get it?

A life ontheoceanThe problem of finding the correct bus will be coming apparent. All I have to do is to find the bus station, which will be filled with minibuses and Georgian passengers in a wonderful mayhem, and find the one going to თბილისი. When I say “bus station”, don’t think of the shiny facilities of western cities, think muddy marketplaces full of noise, colour and idiosyncrasy.

Fortunately Georgia is not a very large country, and I can’t go terribly far wrong, although it might take an additional day or so to get there if I end up in a Russian-occupied border zone by mistake.

I have a Snickers Bar for company (don’t be fooled by the wrapping on a Ukrainian Snickers Bars; they are not the same, and taste rather different; not exactly fishy, but different, nonetheless). I didn’t get breakfast this morning because my place at table 10 had been taken by a Georgian woman with her small grandson; their place had been usurped by someone else, and I couldn’t see an empty seat other than one at a table full of swarthy men who appeared to be wrestling team from Turkmenistan.

Greifswald DIningFood, other than at the proscribed time and in the proscribed portions is unavailable on the Greifswald.

So the plan is in place. We dock, wait for the Georgian border controls to do their thing, then I find the bus station, track down a bus, go to თბილისი and check into the hotel. Or not, depending on how the day unwinds.

Poti Harbour

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