CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnCaucasiarnby William MillsrnGeorgia on My MindrnGetting from the Crimea to the Republicrnof Georgia presents several problems.rnI had been told that one way was to getrnto Trabzon on the Black Sea Coast ofrnTurkey, and then take a boat to therncoastal town of Batumi in Georgia. Arnguidebook had warned that foreignersrncould not cross the Georgian-Turkishrnborder.rnThere were no flights to Trabzon fromrnSimferopol, and I ended up on a smallrntwin-engine prop plane loaded to therngills with passengers and merchandisernbound for Istanbul. I do not recall anyonernweighing anything and was thrilledrnwhen I felt the loaded plane heave itselfrninto the air. Turkey is the shopping centerrnfor all the nearby republics of the formerrnSoviet Union, and these charteredrnunscheduled flights were regularly filledrnwith traders, taking what little might interestrnthe Turks and returning with muchrnsought after consumer goods. From IstanbulrnI took a modern jet to Trabzonrnand set about finding the Georgian consulrngeneral who was to ease my way to Batumi.rnHe was, however, in Batumi, andrnwhile I waited for him to return I exploredrnTrabzon, a town I recommendrnhighly.rnThe pace is much less frenetic thanrnthat of Istanbul, and Trabzon is of a sizernyou can get your imagination around.rnThe town was colonized by merchantsrnfrom Miletus during the eighth centuryrnB.C., like any number of sites aroundrnthe Black Sea. Pursuing the various merchantrnexplorers from different civilizationsrnwas one reason for my interest inrnthe whole area. After all, it is the hope ofrnnew business that drives most exploration.rnGoods coming in by ship tornTrabzon now find their way to Georgiarnand Armenia overland.rnAnother import is Russian women, allrndubbed “Natashas” by the Turks. Onernafternoon I was looking around BoztepernPark on a high hill above Trabzon andrnsome young Turkish men invited me torntake tea from a big samovar in the centerrnof their table. One or two were geologists,rnone a Black Sea captain, and one arnteacher at the police academy. Thevrnwere busy kidding each other and thernsubject of Natashas came up. The teacherrnconfided that he loved the Russianrnwomen. His salary was about $130 arnmonth and he spends $100 for one nightrna month. When I exclaimed that thisrnwas three quarters of his salary, hernreplied, “Yes, but they are wonderful.” Irnsuggested he come to America wherernamateurs had knocked the bottom out ofrnthe trade.rnChance had it that I ran into a Canadianrnparamedic and an Irish doctor whornworked for the Georgia-British Oil Company.rnThey told me it was nonsensernabout not crossing the border by land,rnthat they had come that way, and if Irnwanted a lift I was welcome. Next day Irnwas racing along the beautiful coastalrnhighway toward the border. First we hadrnto pass the polite Turkish officials. Then,rnbefore the Georgian guards, there camerna separate set of Russian border guardsrnwho were characteristically snotty andrngave everyone a hard time. With theirrnloss of prestige in the world, Russian soldiersrnhave become even more touchy.rnAfter this brief unpleasantness, we wererngreeted by the Georgians and straightawayrnI got a taste of the famous Georgianrnhospitality. Much more of it was torncome.rnLeaving the coastal road, we drovernthrough farmland, some of the highestrncornstalks I have seen, and citrus groves.rnSince people are allowed to have theirrnown cows now, a driver must stay alertrnfor what amounts to open range. ThernIrish doctor was in a hurry to get back tornPoti, their headquarters, before nightfall,rnand so I waved goodbye from the backrndoor of the Intourist Hotel. I had arrivedrnwith no contact, having no Georgian orrnRussian at mv command, and no reservation.rnAs I discovered over and o’er, thernyounger people often spoke English andrnwith little prodding a group of youngrnwomen in the lobby pleaded with therndesk clerk on my behalf for a room. Herninsisted he did not have one, but afterrnmore pleading, he said I should comernback in two or three hours and perhapsrnthere would be something.rnNothing to do but go across the streetrnto a ‘ery large park filled with people,rnfountains, and occasional classical musicrnover a public address system. After a bitrnI found a place on a park bench beside arncouple with a baby. Not having the languagesrnI didn’t tr’ to strike up a conversation,rnbut soon was making Americanrnnoises to the baby who stared my way, allrnof which led to the couple introducingrnthemselves. He was an out-of-work scientist.rnPart way into our conversationrnthere was a big stir as a group of armedrnbodyguards accompanied some big shot.rnI asked the woman on the benchrnwhether she thought it was all right forrnme to take a photograph and she replied,rn”Why not? Of course.” By now it wasrntwilight and when I took a shot the flashrnwent off automatically. At once a widebodiedrngiant came hustling over with hisrnweapon making lots of unfriendly noises,rnbut the right Georgian words were saidrnby others and he departed grumpily.rnIt turned out I had photographed thernmain man in town, the godfather, AsianrnAbashize, ruler of the Ajara region. Notrngood. Shortly after, a young fellow scientistrnby the name of Tengiz Gogelia camernup and we all headed for a cafe and threernbottles of champagne under an umbrellarnwhile a soft Georgian rain began to fall.rnYes, I did think of “Rain)’ Night in Georgia,”rnbut kept it to myself. Before thernevening was over I got a hotel room, andrnTengiz and I became fast friends at thern”Heineken Bar” where we took our latenightrndinner. Seeral hours earlier, I hadrnknown no one in Georgia; now I had se’-rneral friends. Tengiz was to provide mvrnavenue to any number of interesting peoplernin Tbilisi.rnI met him again at sunrise with hisrnsmall daughter on the gravel beach of thernBlack Sea, where we swam and watchedrnan old man with his pants rolled up walkingrnin the surf smoking a cigarette, whenrna Russian helicopter flew over. The oldrnman didn’t even look up. As I was to discover,rnthere exist five Russian bases onrnGeorgian soil. Not many days before, arnUnited States Nav- ship had docked inrnBatumi. So it goes.rnLater that day Tengiz took me to visitrnthe remains of a huge fortress I hadrnpassed on the way from the border.rnThere was an excaxation in progress un-rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn