Monday, August 10, 2009


Mtskheta and Jvari, Georgia, August 11, 2009

It started innocently enough. I was in a little village with a nunnery, a couple of seminaries, lots of little churches, and a couple of rivers. Across the river and way up on the top of a hill on the other side of the valley was the "spiritual center" for all Georgian Orthodox believers, in the form of a cathedral that had been built and rebuilt on the site of a church built in the sixth century where St Nino... etc.etc.etc.

To get to this church, I decided to forego the 18 kilometer taxi drive around some twisty mountain roads, and walk the three kilometers (with 300 meter(?) elevation gain). THere were no roads or path, but a group of boys in the town told me I could just scramble up through the thickets that grew on the hill. So I did, in a bit more than an hour. And visited the church. And started back down.

Two minutes down the remote country road (with cows and stuff), a gray Hundai or something pulls up behind me with two real big guys in it. One gets out, smiles, and says something....I said hello, and he said something about he was not a taxi, and flashed me a card and said Police, or something. Now, you should know that one of the scams is that people identify themselves as police and do "money inspections" or other weird things that tourists end up losing. And here I was three hundred meters from the church, and an hour walk away through a bunch of brambles and weeds to the town.

The guy went on for a minute or two about something, trying to decide what language we would speak.....and we had none in common.....and then started asking me for identification. I showed him a luggage tag on my backpack. And he asked where that was, and I drew a map with my finger on the hood of his car of Moreno Valley compared to Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile his buddy gets on a cell phone and is talking to somebody in charge, I suspect. They ask me (I think) where I have been and I take out my map of the little town, and write the times I was at various places. They are talking about something about crimes, and at one point the guy points his finger like a little gun at his head and pulls his pretend trigger, and says criminalsky or a word to that effect. I knew I was not pulling out my passport and money out on this country road. So I was about ready to head back to the cathedral with the other tourists. But (after about ten minutes now) they lost interest and let me head on down the road.

I went around a curve in the road, and hid behind a bush for five minutes just to make sure they were not following me until I was really far from the church and could not be seen by the other tourists. And then I headed uneventfully back to the village.

I suspect, since I am still alive and unrobbed, that these guys really were cops. Either they wanted to warn me to get a taxi, and not walk around these hills by myself because there were criminals around, or they wanted to find out if I was one of the criminals. I will never know.

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