This is a further extract from my book ‘On The Beaten Track – Travels In Eastern Europe’, which chronicles my travels primarily by train in 25 countries in the east of the continent, mostly taken with my regular travel buddy called Hamish.
This passage comes from my 2014 visit to Tbilisi, the mighty fine capital of Georgia…….
At the train stations en route to the capital and throughout the city, old men and women set up pitches to sell seeds and nuts as snack food. The edibles on offer were the type that I would put in a bird feeder back home – sunflower seeds, peanuts and the like. They displayed their wares in pots & bowls of every size, shape & variety and would pour your purchase into a small cone created by folding some baking paper or small plastic bag.
I am sure that there had been similar vendors in other countries that I had visited, but the sellers of Tbilisi were to take on more significance.
It was daft of me to wear my sunglasses when crossing a road via a dark underpass I know, as this meant I had not appreciated the size of the large metal tray that an old woman dressed all in black had displayed all of her snacks on.
As I walked past, my left knee clipped the tray and sent it spinning off the small table it had been quite happily resting on before my arrival. Amazingly I hardly spilled a bean, but clearly the elderly lady was not happy and immediately stood as straight as she could and shrieked.
I instantly froze through fearing an attack with a stick, memories of my Mostar humiliation flooding back. Things were then to take a sudden turn for the worse. An old man walking towards us managed to kick the tray a couple of seconds after it had landed upright, to send just about every snack into the air and onto the ground.
This set the shrieking off to new heights and very soon a small crowd had gathered to see what the commotion was all about. Had Johnny Foreigner assaulted this dear old lady? As the wailing reached banshee levels, I was thinking, “shit, how do I get out of this?”
Hamish just stood transfixed, no doubt wanting to laugh but concerned this may worsen my (our) predicament. I instinctively reached for my wallet, pulled out a fifty-bean note (fifty Lari = £17.50) and handed it to the old crow, who was by now in shouting and arm waving mode.
She grabbed the note and held it right up to her nose. The screaming stopped and a broad smile broke out across her wizened face. It had done the trick, it was her lucky day. She nodded and beamed at me – we were free to go and Hamish was free to laugh.
We headed to Tourist Information again as planned before all the commotion. Once back above ground, Hamish let it out, virtually pissing himself with laughter. I laughed also, but not quite as joyously as my ‘friend’.
Tourist Info sent us back from whence we had come to find the theatre we sought, meaning I had to return to the scene of my crime. Unbelievably, the black widow had scraped up every nut, seed and berry off the floor and was now happily set up once more as a snack vendor! What the eyes don’t see………..