Monday, August 01, 2005

All the Gori details

On the 4th of July, David, Blaine and I set out on a trip to Gori. Gori is about an hour and a half from Tbilisi and is the birthplace of Stalin. There is a museum in Gori dedicated to Stalin and everyone who had been there told us it was a must-see, just based on the pure creepiness factor.

The road to Gori was quite good, by Georgian standards, very little bumping and swerving to miss pot holes, which is how I judge most trips these days. The scenery was breathtaking. Seriously, if you head out of Tbilisi 15 minutes in any direction, you encounter some of the most beautiful land in the world. It really is just gorgeous. Everything is so green, and even though we are in the hot summer months, everything is still in full bloom.

As we enter Gori, we notice that it is quite different from Tbilisi. Where Tbilisi is always congested with cars and people, Gori looks more like a ghost town. We passed very few cars on the road going into the center of town and saw very few people out in front of shops and homes. It almost felt like we were in a cheesy horror flick - you know the kind, where the clueless couple pulls into an obviously spooktacular town but they think it's all just jim-dandy until the zombies come out and start eating them? Yeah, that's kind of what it felt like. We located the museum with no trouble at all. Considering it is in the center of town and all roads lead to it, well, it would have been kind of hard to miss.

We get out of the car and head to the museum. There is a lady in the lobby of the museum who informs us of the cost of entry - I believe it was 2 lari per person (about a dollar US) - and then points at our cameras and tells us that if we want to take pictures it will cost more money. Every 2 pictures would cost us 1 lari. Then she points at the video camera that David is holding and tells us that if we want to take video, it will cost 20 lari more. David tells her that we won't video but gives her 5 lari extra for pictures. So, now we can take 10 photos of the museum. And to make sure we stick to this, the lady follows us through the whole museum watching what we do and keeping a tally of every time the flash goes off.

The museum itself was quite creepy. Stalin's death mask, enshrined on the second floor, was cast only 6 hours after he died (as we were breathlessly informed by the picture-counting museum lady). The place was dark, dusty, and everything was in Russian or Georgian. Now, I can passably read Russian, but it takes me a few minutes, and when you are trying to translate and keep track of your wandering 3 year old at the same time, well, things get difficult. The only light in the building came from the high windows - many of our pictures didn't turn out because it was so dark. Once we were finished inside the museum we were led outside by the picture counter so that we could visit Stalin's original home, which is on the grounds of the museum. It was small and not that interesting to be completely honest. After visiting the house, she led us over to Stalin's personal train car. Much more interesting, especially considering that they had Stalin's favorite chair in the "living room" portion of the train car and the museum lady practically begged David to sit in it and have his picture taken. He did sit, and Blaine crawled up on his lap, and I snapped my tenth and final photo.

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