Bicycle tour in Georgia (Caucaus) and Armenia to commemorate the Hungarian prisoners of war and Hungarian civilians, who worked in the Soviet Union
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Here I politely ask every cyclist or person I met during my cycling tour, to contact me by e-mail.
Why did I plan a tour to Georgia?
My father with some hundred thousand other Hungarian civilians was deported by the Soviets from Hungary to the Soviet Union for a so called "small labour" malenkij robot ( to labour camp or gulags) in January 1945 . They called themselves prisoners of war, though they had never been soldiers. I dedicated this tour to the memory of those prisoners. At least one third of them died. My aim was to find out the location of some prisoner (labour ) camps. My father built roads in the high mountains. I also wanted to meet locals, because he had a good opinion(experience) about the people in the mountains, where the prisoners worked.
65 years after his return from the labour camps in the Soviet Union I successfully did this tour commemorating those innocents civilians. I planned the tour, so that I would be able to climb some challenge BIG destinations (passes or ski centres).
Tendürek pass 2644 m 4 km from the Iranian border, happy on the pass top, for I have just escaped the terrible cloud burst
As I was putting my bike in the car, it started to pour with rain. So I missed to glance at Mount Ararat.
The magical Svanetia
day I.: on August 2nd at 3.50 p.m. local time (two hours later to the Hungarian time) I started my bicycle tour from Sarpi at the Georgian -Turkish border ~80 km
The first Georgian church Typically both countires have built new churches and mosques right at the border.
starting point of the tour: Sarpi in Georgia at the Turkish border waterfall with St.Andrew' s statue Batumi, bazar sunset at the Black Sea
In the big heat and with tail wind I began the tour. In the first km the statue of Georgia's Saint Andrew waited for me with the waterfall besides, in which not only children were taking a bath . Within the first kms I already got to know the road obstacle Nr.1 in these countries : the"holy" cows , who did not move any cm from the continous white line of the country road even to the horn sound of the lorries. In Batumi genuine Asian atmophere received me. It seemed to me that the minibuses of the town' s transportation randomly stopped in the middle of the broad road. I had to compete with them not to be pushed off the road.
Coming out of the town the scenery was flat, though with some short steep slopes . Besides the heat the sound of the horns was tiring. Both accompanied me during the whole tour.
In Poti I was glad to see the sign room to rent . I stayed here for 15 Lari( 10 bucks). It was a simple small house consisting of a tiny room. The shower in the garden worked with solar energy "heated" water. Several such small units were on the plot with Georgian and Armenian guests. The owners :Morozov, a Russian couple did not leave their house after the Russian-Georgian war as some neighbours did. They still brought up the children in Russian. I went with my friendly host to the beach of the Black Sea 150 m away.
With his help, he watched my documents and money, I went for a short swim in the excellent water. While I was swimming , he cleaned the beach from the driftwood and rubbish. It was strange for me that the beach had grey sand not yellow. He meant it is from the andesite rocks.
in the shade of a fig tree it is pleasant to rest my voluntary informants I asked for water, and also received a warm welcome and hazelnuts
day II. August, 3rd ~ 110 km
As usual, I started my cycling early in the morning. I crossed many rivers during my tour. This is Georgia ' s biggest river Rioni. Again a monument. Exercise of Georgian letters. Plane alley with a train from the Soviet era. On the most important main road of Georgia I shared the road with a wheelchair man , who did his job happily. In my next break local people again joined me for a brief talk. It turned out here that a kiwi plantage looks like the one, which was just behind the shady poplar alley.
Then I first caught sight of the chain of the Caucasus. The first watchtower in Svanetia .Finally I reached the valley of the Enguri river. I supposed that my father built the road in this valley for 34 months.
I went on very slowly on the climb in the big heat. In the meantime I also drank my spare water. On my question I was informed that there will be a spring in a few kms. It often looked like a black plastic tube in most cases with cool water in. I found it within a wooden fence. I saw a girl on a larger grassy area. She and her friend were on hitch hiking holiday from the Ukraine. Their tent was standing hidden behind the wooden hut.
I immediately remembered the words of the embassy official in Budapeste"the area is not safe, do not go there.
river beach first sight of the Enguri river I reached the climb,too first watchtower in Svanetia
day III. August, 4th.:~90 km
Besides the dog from the nearby quarry, other visitors also arrived in the middle of the night, but only to the spring. Of course, I did not know that at once. I was nervous. The words of the embassy official rang in my ears. But they left quickly.
After the evening rain I quickly packed my stuff. The Ukrainian couple got up later, because the trucks ran later than me. I lifted my bike over the fence, put my luggage on. As I started to cycle I noticed a puncture in the rear wheel. I was working on the other side of the road when a motorcyclist stopped by me. After him a vehicle of the UN. They were UN observers from Germany. I asked the biker about the road after Mestia. He promptly answered: "off road". He did not ride the whole section of 120 km. But I took from his words I can not expect anything good. We exchanged some words in Hungarian With the driver in the car as he noticed the Hungarian flag. He came from Cluj/ Kolozsvár Romania. Note for not Hungarians: this big town used to belong to Hungary for 1000 years.
some photos of Jvari water reservoir the road built by the prisoners was flooded by the water reservoir,but here it was out of the water
The country road was winding long aside the water reservoir. I had a conversation with a beekeeper. He told me that most of the road constucted by the prisoners was flooded by the later water reservoir.
Countless such brooks fed the river.
the first bridge over the Enguri river I crossed father with daughter in front of his shop I obtained new informations about the labour camps in the valley brooks followed brooks mountains of Svanetia These mountains are waiting for my attack.
The first dark tunnel in the Caucasus. Georgian characters also the English equivalent of the village name is written, at least in the Western half of the country.
Svipi village the water source sign cheered me up peaks rising up to 4000 m my first tunnel in the Caucasus
that is the true Svanetia these peaks are reaching almost 5000 m Latali' s watchtower This scenery receives the visitor every morning and evening: trudging cows.
I am soon arriving to the area,which the UN observers judged the most beautiful. The inner part of Svanetia, ~20-30 km before Mestia. In Latali the road led under the cemetery. Locals were mourning somebody. I did not stop to shoot a photo, but the marvellous tunes touched me deeply. The tumes spread from the hill all over the village, though the houses were built in these villages far from each other.
This evening's destination is near :Mestia
old Caucasian man in front of his house my guide with daughter and granddaughter some watchtowers of Mestia with Liberty Bank in the foreground a part of Mestia from a garden gate in the morning
I exchanged some words with this old man. He did not worry any more as I answered his question: do you visit a friend in Mestia with a definite yes.
Maybe not such a long time ago, the safety was not as good as nowadays?
By the way as I answered the frequently asked question, is somebody following me, coming with me?, with no. He, like other people before, was very surprised.
On the advice of my host in the evening I was looking for the vulcanizer to get my punctures repaired in the evening. But his container was closed in the darknes.
My compensation was the fancy sight of the lit up watchtowers in different parts of the town. A police car stopped by me. They inquired about my accommodation. As I told them I was looking for the vulcanizer. They said, I should go back and wake him up.
Strikingly, there were lots of European and American tourists in the tiny town. Since Mestia had an air field and asphalted road lead here, the number of tourists has been growing rapidly, as my host informed me.
I also asked him about the labour camps. I should not have mentioned the name of Stalin, because he immediately reacted. There were much more evil people than him f.e. Beria. It must be known, that Stalin was born in Gori, in the middle part of Georgia, though Beria also not far by Kutaisi also in Georgia.
day IV. August 5, .:~65 km