We're happy to report our safe arrival in Tbilisi! Enormous heartfelt thanks to our family of Chicago friends and colleagues whose unstinting patience and support made this journey possible.
After a very pleasant day's layover in Munich, which eased the jetlag, we arrived Monday morning at 3am to the news that Tbilisi's previous day's heavy rains had caused severe flooding. The zoo was especially hard-hit; a large number of animals were drowned or washed away, and many escaped - tales & rumors of hippos, wolves, and lions wandering the streets occupied our first few hours. In the early dawn, a police car even stopped to warn us that we walked the sidewalk at our own risk.
(The now-famous image of Georgians helping a tranquillized hippopotomous through
the flooded streets of Tbilisi. Sunday 14 June)
Our inital sense of wonder and surprise became grave as the day went on, as we learned about the wide extent of the damage, which included a number of human fatalities. The Prime Minister declared a day of mourning, the flags flew at half-mast, and we listened to a polyphonic choir sing in honor of the victims. Hard work to clear wreckage and debris, mostly by volunteers, will continue for days to come.
Since our arrival, however, the weather has cleared. It's presently warm, dry, and balmy, and should remain so all week. In most of the city, there is little evidence of the flood, and the escaped animals have now been contained. Today, we're testing our equipment and gathering our first footage with our handheld steadycam in the winding streets of Tbilisi's Old City. Gagimarjos!