Like stacks of pancakes, Tbilisi’s post-communist buildings lay almost on top of each other in an array of pale and bleak beige. Georgian ladies line Rustaveli street, selling pierogies and Russian delicacies. The rail-road system bustles with vendors selling hats, used makeup, lottery tickets, coffee, bright red wigs, and sheep meat, all in the darkness of the underground. The weather feels damp; the subway creates a steamy smoke that rises in the streets, and the rain causes puddles throughout the city. Georgia is a country like no-one else’s.
Istanbul to Tbilisi is a quick flight; I leave the mosques, the diverse city, and the sea behind and enter an unfamiliar desert landscape, Russian influence, and mountain churches. Flying into Georgia’s capital, military bases dot the sandy bottom, reminding me of the oil drills that lined Azerbaijan’s coastline. These military bases stand in place due to the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Armenia. Once closer to landing, the Vere river that runs straight down the city’s whole comes into view. Soon, we were walking off the tarmac in our 83rd country.
Our accommodation for the week sits at the top of a steep hill overlooking the neighborhoods of Tbilisi. An old Georgian lady fumbles with her keys to let us in but then disappears down the hill to her own house. She returns thirty minutes later, smiles, and shoves a new key into the guesthouse. She leads us to a grim loft at the top of the curving stairs, where two beds meet in the middle. My stomach rumbles in sync with my siblings’, and we proceed down the twirling stairs, the steep hill, and into the main center of the city. We found a traditional meal of pierogis, soup, and meat wrapped in grape leaves for our first night in Georgia, which quickly cured our aching hunger.
For the next five days, Tbilisi was our playground. We explored monasteries coated in dark, green vines, restaurants serving only Khachapuri Adjaruli, and the modern steel bridges on the Tbilisi riverfront. The most notable thing we did was walk the subway stations which were almost like Georgia’s spin on underground malls and markets. We took an epic day-trip to the Davit Gareja Cave Monastery in the countryside of Georgia; we had run-ins with the Georgian military, an off-roading experience, a lost GPS signal, guns, and a monastery with a unique history, that story deserves it’s own blog post! It was a truly fantastic week.
Part two up soon! Below are the only two pictures taken in Georgia.