Due to the aforementioned "border lag" I didnt rise until after 12 and just strolled around town in welcome sunshine, finding some quite nice buildings in parts painted in pastel colours, synonymous with St. Petersburg. The cathedral was also impressive, surprisingly built in the French style despite the countries renown for indigenous church architecture, nobody could go anywhere near it without crossing themselves 3 times. The Georgians are Christian Orthodox and indeed became only the second nation in the world to adopt christianity in the 4th century, the neighbouring Armenians just beating them to it. Inside there was the expected overwrought iconoclasm, people kissed pictures and lit candles and queued almost out the door to buy religious trinkets. It was obviously still a very devout country, however much the Ruskies might have tried to suppress it. In trying to identify the people I noticed that they were certainly of European ilk, dark still of course with almost universally black hair but their dress was certainly western in the main. The older women wore headscarves but it was more a cultural than religious habit, very much like conventional Eastern Europe, and as for the guys you were nobody if you didnt wear a black leather jacket or dark blazer. There were also the odd gypsy folk who looked like Romanys in their colourful skirts and unkempt look, but were probably other sects from wilder parts of the country I imagined. Black faced snotty nosed kids of just 6 or 7 went around begging with babies strapped to their back under a shawl, they made me think of Fiddler on the Roof. Other regions of the country had a reputation for lawlessness and a frontier mentality, perhaps this was just a taste. Its a quirk of geography that although they lie further East than say the Turks, Europe had slipped round the northern shore of the Black sea to almost surround it. The bridge to Asia did not lie in Istanbul after all.
I was saved from further hunger by an enterprising young Turk who had set up a lone kebab joint in town and then I retired to a local deadbeat drinking den on the marketplace. The food (a loosely applied term) in the grungy display cabinet looked like it had been there for a week and hadnt been edible to start with. The locals didnt seem to notice and at least the beer was one thing that was more freely available than in Turkey. It was drinkable enough too, certainly at less than 25p a pint.