Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tbilisi, Georgia

Phin and I visited Tbilisi, Georgia twice, for less than 3 days total. After getting away from the highly predatory taxi drivers at the airport we found the bus to take us into the city to Freedom Square:

Then we walked through a mixture of completely decaying and fancily renovated neighborhoods to Envoy Hostel which was on Betlemi Street nestled between the Narikala Fortress and the Kura (Mtkvari) River by the Metekhi Bridge in the heart of the old town. Google Maps has some of the names in Roman script.

Once we got settled in and put our things away, we walked up to the Narikala Fortress and immediately fell in love with the whole area. Here was a view that looked like the entrance to the garden of Eden:

The fortress ruins contain the newly restored St. Nicholas church:

We had nice evening views out over the river and the city. Here facing north, in the middle you can see the mushroom-shaped building that is the new ministry of justice, the new Bridge of Peace, and a new concert hall shaped like a pair of tubes, not yet complete:

Here facing northeast from the fortress are the high river banks, the St. Nicholas church, the Metekhi church, and homes:

Going west along the hill we came to Mother Kartli (Georgia) looking down over Tbilisi with her sword for foes and goblet of wine for friends:

Across the river past Europe Square and near the Bridge of Peace is a huge fountain that has computerized light and sound shows every night that attract a lot of visitors. In the crowds were tons of Israelis speaking Hebrew, many Russians/Ukrainians/Poles, Iranians and Arabs, and a few Germans and maybe Italians. Very few people speaking English. On the hill to the south, west of Mother Kartli, is a tower that has spastic light shows at night.

The next morning we went on a short free walking tour with a guide from the hostel to Metekhi church and King Vakhtan Gorgasali statue, and some other places:

Afterward we went on our own walk north through a market area and regular neighborhoods, to the huge new Tbilisi Sameba (Trinity) Cathedral, built from 1995 to 2004:

We kept walking roughly north, uphill, through neighborhoods. Check out the grapes people have growing in front of their homes all over!

At the top of a hill we stopped to eat our lunch of leftovers from Kiev and enjoy the views:

Back in our own neighborhood we found what became our favorite drinking fountain. These wild dogs live in the neighborhood, and we saw one jump up to have a drink, but I was too slow to capture it on "film".

We went up to the fortress again in the afternoon:

And walked the streets some more:

En route to a monastery and church atop a hill we made a new friend who insisted on giving us some second-hand clothes, and a head scarf for Phin. She was a university professor and spoke a fair amount of English and some German, which along with a smattering of Czech (which made her forget we're American and think we are Polish) and Russian, enabled us to mostly understand each other. We attended part of a church service there with her.

This is a Turkish-style bath house that is being renovated, near the river and natural hot springs heavy on sulphur:

We went into this mosque, which I believe is the only functioning one in Tbilisi, and noted because Shiites and Sunnis worship here together:

At night we met up with Nika Kumbari, a graphic designer and illustrator who did some artwork for our company's website last year, and who I wrote to when I noticed he lives in Tbilisi. We saw the outside of Tbilisi Sioni cathedral (I think), and he took us to dinner at a great Georgian restaurant:

When we came back a few days later from Yerevan, Armenia by bus, we walked a couple of kilometers along Gorgasali street by the river and saw some more monuments etc.:

Then we went to another Orthodox church that I don't know the name of, and I went to part of the service while Phin stayed outside and talked to a friendly university student from Tbilisi.

We saw a few more things in town beyond Freedom Square before we took the bus back out to the airport:

And because our flight back to Kiev left at 6:30 am, we figured it would be silly to try to sleep in the hostel and have to wake up at 3 am or so to go to the airport, so based on the encouragement of the Guide to Sleeping in Airports, we did just that:

That's Phin to the left, and I was next to him before getting up to take the picture. It went pretty well, actually.

We liked Tbilisi a lot and there is a lot more to see and do there, not to mention many other places in Georgia outside Tbilisi. I'd like to go again someday.

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