When confronted by a hostel manager reluctant to discuss the price of a room but insisting on serving up tea with bread and jam, you tend to be suspicious as this is quite possibly a prelude to charging an extortionate rate, having made it awkward to walk away after such hospitality. This was the case in Zugdidi, Georgia, but was followed by the insistence that the room was, “no good”. Could this be some reverse psychology tactic to make me feel sorry for him in having to charge over the odds? Thankfully no, being Georgia the price was perfectly reasonable and the room, although basic had a certain charm as it was still decorated with the nursery paintings from the building’s former usage. Still, I don’t recall ever having a manager denigrate his own property.
Waitresses always seem to want to confirm your order for only one of something with a questioning tone. Entirely reasonable and even useful given the language barrier, but when you have ordered a Katchapuri Adrijani this would seem unnecessary. This fearsome variant on the national, cheese pie like snack is a vast, boat-shaped pastry mass capable of providing stable mooring for an oil tanker and is laden with a cheese lake. Obviously thinking this insufficient in the cholesterol stakes they go on to throw a fried egg and a clod of butter on top. One can only assume that heart surgeons are not short of work in Georgia. Indeed this cheese pie diet does seem to lead to a propensity for a wide girth in middle-aged gentlemen which demands a particular form of air conditioning on hot days: pulling up the t-shirt to be held in place by the blubber mass to allow air to cool the exposed flesh.
The employment of toilet attendants to oversee the daily functioning of public lavatories is an eminently sensible practice and is a common feature, particularly in Azerbaijan. Without fail the entrance of all such facilities is dutifully guarded by such an attendant, who quite rightly collects a modest sum to cover the running expenses of such an establishment. To whom I would like to be able to say, “why have you never stepped inside to clean that disgusting fucking mess up”. Not once in Azerbaijan did a public toilet display the slightest evidence that any form of cleaning product had ever graced a single centimetre of its surface area. Without wishing to distress more vulnerable readers with the finer details it will suffice to say that with cubicles generally being without doors, enabling passing clients to check on your activities, men seem disinclined to waste time on aiming, leading to a greater demand for cleaning work. As with my intensive investigations into West African toilets I apologise to female readers for not having carried out a similar in-depth study of ladies’ toilets. Female travel bloggers a critical gap in the market awaits you.
To purchase anything from any mini supermarket in Armenia demands the presence of a young female sales assistant at your side whilst you peruse the shelves. Nearing the age of fifty you may be surprised to learn that I have in fact mastered the complex art of buying stuff, particularly food, which I have discovered is best done on a regular basis and followed by bouts of eating, thus I have had a fair amount of practice. Of course an offer of assistance is decent and thoughtful. In addition maybe Armenian men are denied the many pleasures of shopping by devoted wives and mothers anxious to perform their role denoted by society and tradition and they have come to the logical conclusion that I must be some kind of simpleton who has strayed in by accident, surveying the shelves in wonder at the glorious range of canned goods on offer. As my Armenian doesn’t extend to useful phrases, such as, “excuse me madam would you mind telling me if this sausage contains quantities of preservatives and colouring in quantities sufficiently prodigious as to be potentially injurious to my health”, I always try some English and invariably discover a mutual level of incomprehension. So unless I appear as a security threat, liable to walk off with possibly a pack of spaghetti down my trousers, or they are simply entranced by the novelty of a man buying food it would seem they are in no position to offer any assistance.
If any of you dear readers know any English-speaking Armenians, I beg you to ask them for an explanation.