Warning: this post is not for the eyes of parents, grandparents or teetotalers.
This may come as somewhat of a surprise to some of you but the three of us are partial to the occasional tipple. Until now a list of our top five booze sessions has been nearly impossible to compose. But we decided to give it a go.
Number 5: Vodka in Vladivostok
We were fresh off the boat and still with our Tokyo friends Antoine and Jen in tow. Our vodka bar-crawl ambitions had been dampened by heavy rain, and the fact that we had no idea where to find cheap vodka. After a couple of drinks in a little Russian restaurant (see video) we met up with our couch surfing host Serge in a bar close to the station.
Serge was not impressed with the venue, which turned out to be over-priced and void of atmosphere. Fortunately he had a plan, and after one drink had us running through a torrential downpour to his favorite underground club/bar. We arrived completely soaked to find a vibrant, alternative-looking place. The DJ was great, the shots cheap and abundant and the company outstanding. It was the perfect start to the trip, and our hangovers the next morning warned us of what was to come.
Number 4: Telavi wine tour, Georgia
As soon as we arrived in Georgia we booked ourselves on a wine tour with a driver and four wineries in one day. Things got off to a great start at the twin brothers winery. After a five-minute tour by a non-English speaking guide we were led to our wine laden table. Before us there stood three two liter jugs filled with red, white, and a traditionally produced wine, some cheese and bread. Things were going to get boozy. We did our best finishing off five liters of it fearing that the next three wineries would produce the same quantity.
Fortunately the next two were more sophisticated establishments offering only tasters of a number of wines, giving us to try a wider variety and the opportunity to sober up a little. At the fourth and final winery we drank another three bottles with a middle-aged German biker couple looking for somewhere to stay.
They came back with us to our hostel and joined us at a neighbouring bar with a couple of Israelis from the hostel. The beer and wine continued to flow. Later into the night a group of young ruffians entered the bar, clad in leather with gnarly faces they looked like the local mafia. They probably were. In another country and with less booze in our bellies we would have run a mile. However within minutes they were at our table with a bottle of vodka and shot glasses. One of them turned out to be an ex K-1 fighter who could speak a bit of English and wouldn’t let us leave until a bottle of chili vodka had been finished. The perfect start to our time in Georgia.
Number 3: Bukhara, Uzbekistan
We hadn’t expected muslim Uzbekistan to be so boozy. It’s not that easy or cheap to buy alcohol, it is usually sold from hidden shops with distinctive vinyl covered doors, but in Bukhara we landed on our feet. There we met Andre and Karla, a Brazilian couple cycling around the world and the previously mentioned German bikers, at our hostel. They were going to the farmers’ market for an early afternoon beer and shashlik and invited us to join. How could we refuse. The beers were 50c a pint, and the shashlik cheap and delicious. We were soon joined by their Czech friend Jan who was somehow accompanied by Yotaro, a Japanese guy we had met in Tashkent. The pace picked up when we discovered that the shack closed at 6:00. We still had vodka in the car and Jan knew a place to buy beers so we decided to take the party back to the hostel. The drinking resumed with a round of King’s cup, a dangerous drinking game involving a pack of cards and a cup, until the owner kicked us out for being too noisy. We took the leftovers to the square to finish off. It was a great night of laughs, new friends and drinks.
Number 2: Boozy Bikin, Russia
Bikin, 600km north of Vladivostok, was where we were to spend our first night of the trip camping at the back of an Azeri kebab house/bar. Torrential rain thwarted our attempts to erect our tent and it didn’t take much for our rescuers, a couple of Russian guys celebrating a friend’s birthday, to have us at their table. The vodka, from a box similar to that of boxed wine, was cheap and plentiful. The shots continued, the beer flowed, the calls for dancing never ending. As the night wore on we realized we still had nowhere to stay. Our new friend Alena managed to find a friend who would put us up. He was in the army so smuggled us on to the army base where we spent the rest of the night drinking beer and Bombay Sapphire while listening to tunes. You know it’s a good night when you wake up with a fuzzy head to find out you’ve been sleeping on the floor of one of the best snipers in the Russian army.
Number 1: Two day sesh at the Tbilisi hostel, Tbilisi, Georgia
We had already been staying at the hostel for nine days and they had all been pretty boozy. We had gone to the three day Tbilisisoba festival the previous weekend and that had been quite a party. The following Monday was another national holiday and we were invited to go “fishing” by Gio, a friend of the hostel owner Rauf. So our friend Yotaro, who had once again caught up with us, and his Dutch friend Berend helped us pack the car.
We all suspected that “fishing” would involve little fishing and so we had packed beer and wine accordingly. Nothing however could have prepared us for the liter of tequila that awaited us. I have never been a fan of tequila but it is rude not to when offered, especially at 11 am. Thirty minutes later the bottle was finished and we were on to our supplies. A few hours later, after one tiny fish catch, we were back at the hostel. There was now an Isreali living in China and group of English teachers living in Istanbul staying at the hostel and the wine was flowing. We decided to head to Salve, a cool bar in the city for more drinks and to hunt for my sunglasses, which I may have lost in a drunken game of backgammon the week before. A few hours later, we ended up in an Iranian night club for beer and to fit in some dancing in the mirror. In spite of crawling home at 6am everyone was up by 10 and still drunk. It didn’t take long for beer to be offered around. The beer was followed by a trip to the shop for wine. All the English teachers left with the exception of a wine-loving Canadian by the name of Liam. More wine was followed by another trip for more and then cognac. Greg, the Isreali, was hungry and had an early evening flight to China so we made a barbecue and carried on with the wine. At that point Liam passed out. We powered on and headed to a pool hall for beer and then back to the hostel to finish off the cognac. God only knows what time we went to bed but the next morning we all crawled downstairs one by one to survey the damage. There lay 15 empty bottles of wine (some of which were two liter bottles), three empty cognac bottles and an empty vodka bottle all from the day before. No words were needed, it was finally time to leave to Tbilisi.