|Footbridge in Tbilisi|
Saturday, 24 December 2011
|Stalin keeping an eye on who's entering his museum|
To be fair, I did stumble upon something that aroused my curiosity. The Stalin Museum in Gori. Gori, a rather bleak town a day's ride from Tbilisi, is the place where little Joseph spent his childhood. Apart from the museum only the small citadel in the town centre holds any touristic appeal—and a very mild one at that. Even the museum is a bit of a letdown. Spacious rooms glorifying Georgia's most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) son, loads of newspaper clippings and documents drawn up in Russian with translations in Georgian, and everywhere a chill air rushing in through unseen crevices. No mention of the atrocities committed under Stalin, even though some of the worst Soviet-era purges took place in his own country. Things got almost homely in the room where Stalin's desk is displayed along with a great number of gifts from friends and allies around the world. Tasteful stuff, if you're into things like jewel-encrusted swords and letters of congratulation written on a grain of rice. My favourite item: a pair of red clogs presented by a local chapter of the Dutch communist party (tightfisted buggers!).
|Stalin's home, dwarfed by its own protective superstructure|
On my way out a lady with a yellow beehive took me by the hand to show me a wooden hut standing in front of the museum. Solemnly she opened the little front door and pushed me in. 'Home of Stalin,' she said, as if that explained the why and how of the structure's survival and near-perfect condition. Next was a green bulletproof train carriage, in which Stalin travelled to the Yalta Conference. Bog, tub, wooden air conditioning, and three minutes later I was out on the street again. None the wiser, but two hours closer to dinner time.
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Annoyed at my own relief, I started listing everything that was wrong with Batumi. Those fin-de-siècle facades. Can't deny they're pretty, I thought. But that’s exactly what makes this place so perverse. Behind the renovated splendour of the beach front lie the impoverished backstreets no holidaying Russian ever sees. And how god-awful those coloured spotlights that turn the entire city centre into a Disneyland by Night.
It didn’t help, of course. I enjoyed every bit of it. Even the larger-than-life musical fountain dancing to the tune of such Western evergreens as An der schönen blauen Donau and Theme from Mission: Impossible. I guess that’s the problem with traveling. Somehow you never succeed in leaving yourself at home.