Best Driving Lesson Yet
So, today, I had possibly my best driving lesson ever, although its only been the 5th lesson or so. I get the place where we meet, and Makho, my instructor tells me we’re going to go to do some driving on steep slopes. So I pull out (used reverse for the first time), and we head along Tbilisi’s busy, potholed streets.
We headed up to Sololaki, a neighbourhood built on the slope of one of sides of the valley that Tbilisi is in. Then we kept going up, towards something Makho called funicular (cable cars), up switchbacks and passes to the top of the mountain overlooking the city. We stopped at one point – Makho told me to get out and look at this house, visible from a lot of the city. I had always thought it was some kind of business center, but apparently it is also the residence of Georgia’s first billionaire – Boris Ivanishvili. It is this huge mansion with a helipad and a huge pool that has a 60 foot waterfall (unfortunately not running) going into it.
Driving up the mountain was pretty fun with ridiculous hairpin turns and other crazy drivers. This is reinforcing my idea that this is good all-purpose driving training, that I’ll be pretty prepared to drive anywhere. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be good at driving video games, which I’ve always been pretty bad at.
I’ve started carrying an icon around with me. Most cars have some kind of rosary or icon by the driver to prevent accidents, and I think I could use the insurance. I got a Georgian St. George icon (this one – http://www.chaganava.com/eBooks/enamels/screenshot_scr_icons.jpg). To me it really looks like St. George is slaying an alien sent to earth by the spaceship in the upper right hand corner. So, hopefully I’ll be protected against alien abductions as well. I think it is good to have a sense of humour about the scary driving here.
Well, the cool part of the lesson was when we were pretty far along in the mountains past Tbilisi, and Makho tells me to stop the car on a (relatively steep) slope – I was figuring he was going to teach me how to park on a hill or something, but he just told me to turn the car off and release the brake. I did this, expecting the car to move forward, but no, the opposite! It started moving backwards up the hill, accelerating even. Makho laughed at my surprise, and explained there was some kind of magnetic pole in the mountain. It was pretty amazing, apparently one of the few places in the world where this happens. Anyone else have experience with this?
Then we headed back and I had to navigate through a series of poles, one group set up as slalom with incredibly small amount of room between them, and the other set up as figure 8. First one was tricky, second was a piece of cake.
I’m at work now, the office is pretty empty – most people are at a round table in Kutaisi. I’m going to head out soon, pack for my trip, and then go to the weekly banya for a steam and maybe a relaxing scrub before the long train ride across the country.