|Two of my favorite things about Georgia - Khachapuri and the alphabet!|
When we started planning our sweep through Eastern Europe I knew the Airbnb selections were going to be less desirable than those we’ve enjoyed in more popular parts of Europe. And that proved to be true. Everything got a little dingier, a little darker, and the decor got ever stranger. The buildings became more off-putting as well. The good news was they were also becoming more affordable.
|A hallway straight from a scary movie...just be brave. There is a nice Airbnb in there somewhere.|
Coming into the city we were expecting to see some of the beauty we’d heard so much about. But in fact there was very little that was charming. What we did see was an abundance of uninspired Fascist architecture and some neglected facades from the turn of the century. And, imposing statues of men on horses of course. However there were glimpses of new restaurants and shops along the way.
That brings me back to our Airbnb. For the dates we needed there weren't a lot of choices in Tbilisi - especially apartments that didn’t look like Soviet holdovers. But then we found this little gem Bright & Modern in Old Tbilisi.
It really was a nice place, but it certainly had its quirks. First the building. It was just one of many faded beauties waiting for love on a nondescript side street. Once you stepped inside the steel door you were in a dark hallway with a forbidding stairwell - one of the scariest we've encountered. The automatic interior lights had a life of their own so, we learned to have our cellphone flashlights at the ready, day or night. Once we huffed up to the third floor we carefully made our way down a long hallway divided by two sets of doors. It was also dimly lit and came with some serious tripping hazards - and once I surprised a women crossing the landing wrapped in a towel with wet hair. All we could do was stare at each other in surprise.
|Getting ready to run the gauntlet.|
|From a hole in the wall of our building you could buy delicious bread hot out of the oven.|
|The kitchen was a fine place to be early in the morning before it got too hot.|
The apartment was full of nice amenities and a great list of neighborhood restaurants and attractions. When the problem with the phone and the air-conditioning arose he offered to let us move to another place and not charge us for the time we’d been there or any cancellation charges. And, he was working feverishly from his end to get things fixed. If it had been any other way, we may have chosen to move.
Now we were ready to begin exploring the city. As always we found a free walking tour, and just like Minsk, it needed to be booked in advance. And also like Minsk, Michael struck up a dialogue with the tour director - a delightful young man named Levan and asked about potential local press coverage. Before we knew it a news reporter and a camera man from Georgia's most popular television station was tagging along as we saw the sights.
|The man who called "action" as we walked Tbilisi Old Town.|
|Our walking tour guide and Georgian entrepreneur Lavan.|
One of the best parts of the story is the anchor woman's deadpan introduction and the elaborate Georgian text that accompanies the story. This fanciful alphabet was formed in the 5th century for Georgian eyes only - it is nothing but beautiful gibberish in any other country.
What we did see of the city confirmed what we saw on our drive in - this is a city in transition. Without the oil and gas resources of a country like Azerbaijan it will take more time and more money to restore Tbilisi to it's previous glory. However there is some progress being made in the old town and a few of the Soviet-style buildings have been converted into impressive luxury hotels or museums.
|The luxury Biltmore hotel opened the week we were there.|
|We met Skull 4 at the Georgian museum - not looking too bad for 1.8 million years old.|
Fast forward to mankind in the 21st century and unsurprisingly Russia’s presence is felt everywhere. For most of the last 100 years Georgia has been under Russian (Soviet) control gaining their freedom like so many former Soviet Republics in 1991. Since then, there have been tensions between the two as Georgia moved too fast towards the West. In 2003 the country celebrated its new direction with the Rose Revolution. Five years later, Russian had enough and made its presence known by invading Abkasia and South Osietta. To this day, Georgia and Russia do not see eye to eye on these disputed territories. These are examples of the disruptive “frozen conflicts” that the Kremlin likes to create wherever possible. Last summer we visited another one of these in Transnistria (a sliver of land squeezed between Moldova and Ukraine).
|The extensive cave city of Uplistsike - a great place to hone your rock climbing skills.|
|And he looks like such a nice man...|
Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture.
|Our new friend and guide Terial could have climbed all day!|
|I really enjoyed Churchkhela. But after reading the recipe it would be impossible to make at home.|
|Saying good bye to Terial - I wanted to keep him!|
Thanks for following along,
Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads