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December 7, 2002

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We arrived in Tbilisi yesterday at 4 PM and found the Azerbaijan embassy still open. They weren't accepting visa applications, however, until we bribed the guards to see the consul and then bribed the consul fifty dollars to issue a transit visa immediately. At this point we're as corrupt as any official. With our visa in hand, we relaxed in Tbilisi for a day. We have until Dec 10th to make our flight in Azerbaijan, but we're not taking any chances with delays. We will ride tonight's overnight train to Baku.
Last night we stayed one more time in Hotel Ivaria, the refugee hotel that breaks every building safety code (if Georgia has any building codes). Besides all of the fire escapes being blocked by makeshift accommodation, people toss trash from their balconies.
For days these people have sat on the steps of Parliament protesting Shevardnadze's government which hasn't provided jobs or any form of economic relief. Georgians we've met think Shevardnadze is the country's 'top crook,' totally corrupt, which is an opposite view from the mostly favorable press he enjoys in the Western media.
The people in our hotel are too socialable, it's difficult to walk to our room without receiving an invitation for drinks.