- The beauty of Tbilisi is that I do not need a visa, South African passports are accepted, and I can just walk through security. No hassle.
- We checked into our apartment after a horrendous taxi ride from the airport. Worse than any other taxi I was in during my time in Tbilisi.
- The sleeper couch was very comfortable. Always a perk
- It’s a rather small city, I went for a walk and found some really great street art. The noise pollution from the cars hooting at each other continually was unexpected. My South African mind wondered whether it was safe walking around alone here.
- I walked down a pedestrian street with pretty little lights strung over it, thinking that I should come back here some evening when they’re lit.
- We went to the city centre, the bathhouse domes rising from the earth. Tour guides showed Arabic families around the city explaining the various famous people who had been to these bath houses during the previous centuries.
- I went for a walk, flowing Google maps instructions to a store. I spotted a coffee shop along the way and walked in. The waiter spoke English and I chatted to him for the time it took to drink a cappuccino. We exchanged numbers but never saw each other again.
- I walked from Liberty Square to Dry Bridge market. A complete waste of time. I love markets, but I do not do well with flee markets. I enjoy walking between stalls and buying stuff, but flea markets never seem to sell anything buy-able in my opinion. I had read that it was a market, nobody mentioned that it was a flea market.
- I went to hike in the botanical gardens. I missed having a walking stick with me after learning to rely on one during my Camino hike in Spain. It was beautiful up there. Different types of plans being cultivated. A small Japanese garden, a bamboo forrest, a little river, a water fall. I walked around there for hours. Suddenly I found myself at the Mother Georgia statue at the top of the hill. I’d been walking up and up with out realizing how far I was climbing. I saw the tourists all taking the stairs down and turned around. I wandered back down on my own via the botanical garden. I found a café and ordered a chicken salad. It came with delicious guacamole.
- One afternoon I took mum to the flower market I had found near our apartment. We had a nice time watching the men playing chess and the people selling their flowers. I bought a bunch of beautiful tiny little pink flowers.
- I went to buy a hiking stick. I had read about hiking trails and the city has so many uphill and downhill parts, that owning a walking stick might come in handy even on a regular day. After I had found my vividly pink collapsible walking stick, I checked Google maps for a lunch place. I found burger restaurant and ate a delicious burger while chatting to the barman. The service was slow, but the burger was worth it I told myself.
- I attempted to go hiking in the national park. This was an impossible idea. Firstly, the boys down at reception told me that a taxi would be too expensive all the way, I should take the metro and then a taxi for a shorter distance. I wondered how much was too much, in their minds. Then again, I rarely enjoyed the taxi rides, a smooth train ride might be more relaxing. I couldn’t get a taxi to understand that he could drop me in the middle of nature and drive away. Shortly after I convinced him that I was where I wanted to me, alone in a nature reserve, he left, and a thunder storm started.
I stared at the map for ages. There were three hiking trails, but the starting point was not marked at all. I ended up walking on a tar road up a hill, not knowing if this was a trail or whether it led anywhere. The uncertainty was rather bothersome.
Unexpectedly I arrived at a church or monastery, something religious. I was out of water. I enjoyed the view and walked back down.
My phone could not find signal for the taxi app and I started walking back to the main road. I was really grateful when a passing taxi picked me up. He already had a passenger, but they could drop me in a busy street and then I could get another taxi much more easily.
I came home, having felt rather wrong footed all day.
- I felt like going out and so I downloaded Tinder again. I had rarely has a nice time on it, but maybe I’d find someone nice to spend an evening with. I matched with an Egyptian guy and a Russian guy.
- The Egyptian guy and I met up and went for a wine tasting, it was rather interesting but neither of us enjoyed Georgian wine enough to continue. Georgia matures the wine with the leaves and the stems, only separating the juice later, this gives the wine a much earthier taste.
We walked down the road and found a shisha smoking café. We sat down and smoked while chatting away. He was nice and a decent conversationalist. I said I like to drink scotch and he went on about the type of Scotch he prefers. We talked about previous Tinder dates. I enjoyed being out on a nice evening with a non-annoying person chatting to me.
- One day I went to search for a North Face store, I couldn’t find them, and I hadn’t realized that Tbilisi doesn’t have zebra stripes to cross the road there were under passes most of the time. I was exhausted on this day and I didn’t truly need to find North Face. This meant that when I found a busy street I had to cross and I didn’t know how, I simply turned back. I needed rest and I wasn’t going to spend time walking up and down the pavement trying to find a crossing. When I told this story to the boys down at reception they all looked at me uncomprehending – how could I not have known about underpasses?
- I took a taxi to the Narikhala fortress one morning. The car’s engine complained as we ascended. At the top the city spread out before me. The river a murky green colour even in the morning sun. I walked down the hill after I had looked at the fortress. I could see the golden dome of the church gleaming on the opposite hill on the other side of the river.
I ambled around the city centre one morning. It’s very small compared to some of the other cities I’ve been to, within a few days you can see all the “important” stuff in the centre.
I passed an orthodox church, crossed the river by walking over the Bridge of Peace which was an important landmark. I passed everything that most tourists come to see in Tbilisi that morning and walked up to the big church with the golden dome. It was beautiful, but at the same time, it was just another church.
- Most of my Tbilisi memories don’t pertain to seeing the “check list stuff”, but to living there. I was a student. I had group work (PS. Our team passed that assignment with a distinction!). I would wake up and do my exercises, I would buy food at Spar and flowers at the flower market. I found delicious shawarmas containing pork near the apartment.
- Clothes – I shopped for clothes in the second-hand clothing stores. It was so nice. The styles that are sold in Dubai never really felt like stuff I’d wear. I know many people fly to Dubai for shopping sprees. I snooped around little shops finding wonderful stuff. Every day I’d come home with a bag of clothes, bought for so cheap I couldn’t believe it.
- I met up with the Russian guy I had matched with on Tinder. I accidentally led us up the wrong street and then up the right one. Then we climbed 144 stairs to the café called “144 Stairs” I believe the stairs are famous or something, but I never checked why they’re on the tourist sign posts. The view was lovely, and we got on well. It was nearing sunset and I suggested staying. He was cool with the idea.
Later on, we had to move inside as it started to rain. He showed me a taxi app he uses, the one I hadn’t tried to use again after my non-hike in the national park. I had forgotten I had downloaded it. We shared a taxi, entering my address into the app meant I didn’t have to keep saying “further on” with helped. Mental note: always use an app.
- I contemplated getting a tattoo. I had wanted to get one when I finished the Camino in Spain, but it was rather expensive getting it in Santiago (the final destination of the hike). I could get it in Tbilisi for much cheaper. My mind spun, until one day I decided to get it done. I made an appointment at a tattoo parlour near the burger place and got the Camino shell inked onto me. Afterwards I went to the burger place, but the guy said they only opened 13h. I told him I had previously been served just after 12h. He shrugged. I crossed the street to the other burger place.
- One day mum and I were walking back from Liberty Square, she suggested we go to a restaurant she went to previously. The food was good and after that we took the bus home. I preferred busses to taxis, the taxis seemed really temperamental.
- Another afternoon mum and I went to Vera park and sat down at a restaurant with outdoor seating. We ordered wine and tried to order something to nibble. The waiter kept saying he’s sorry, but the place was new they didn’t have this or couldn’t make that. We eventually ordered French fries. Apparently, they did have potatoes
- I saw the Egyptian guy again, his hostel has an entire room dedicated to board games, so we had an evening of board games and beer. I liked the alliteration. I took a taxi home and learned how to say “further on” in Georgian, because the taxis always dropped me too soon. The Egyptian guy was leaving Tbilisi the next day.
- Mum and I went for lunch in the pedestrian street with the lights. We went to a place I had previously been to and ordered some very good chicken in a cream sauce. It was scrumptious.
- I met up with the Russian guy a second time, this time in Vera park at the same place mum and I had been. They played Leonard Cohen music, which didn’t annoy me so it was nice going there. Commercial pop annoys me beyond comprehension.
- I love street art and, on my way too and from the tattoo parlour, I walked through various underpasses meaning I passed some amazing art.
- I saw the Russian guy for a last time on my very last evening in the city. I left Tbilisi surprised by how much I had enjoyed my time in this small almost unfamiliar city. I hadn’t learned to speak the language or seen something akin to the Colosseum or the Big Ben, but I had still fallen in love with the city.
Autumn Moments in Tbilisi
I worked as a dog walker and dog sitter earning enough money to return to Tbilisi, a city I wanted to see again.
I wanted to do some winter shopping after having such success in the summer, I wanted to return in a different season and buy clothes for the cold. I’ll just add here that it was a great success, I bought some beautiful autumn stuff.
I rented a room in a two-bedroom apartment from a Russian speaking man named Gaga (the name felt strange to say). I chuckled as I opened the fridge and found half a bottle of vodka and saw a husky in the yard. I really was Near Russia. I also had the good fortune that nobody had rented the other room, so for the price of a room I had my own apartment for three weeks.
Ok, I’m going to refer to my Russian friend as Dmitri for privacy.
I saw Dmitri again, it was so comfortable to hangout again. I enjoyed being back in Tbilisi, with the cooler weather, the clothes, all of it appealed to me.
So here are some snippets from my Autumn trip:
- My room had a balcony with a beautiful view of the sunrise. I loved waking up, putting the kettle on the gas stove and having coffee on the balcony before starting my day’s studying.
- I bought bread from a small bakery operated through a window. I wouldn’t have noticed it, if I had not seen the girl who painted my nails buy bread here. I went to buy one, “puri” means “bread” in Georgian, the money currency is “lari”. “One puri” I said holding up a finger. The Russian baker was so pleased he knew an English word. “One puri, One okay one puri one lari good” – I gave him a coin and he gave me a bread with a piece of newspaper wrapped around it. The bread was so hot it almost burned my fingers. It felt “right” having an apartment with bread and flowers and wine.
- One afternoon I asked Dmitri to help me carry kitchen supplies from the supermarket down the hill. The dog walking had given me stiff hands and arms, carrying heavy bags was possible, but since I had a friend in the city it was nice to see a friendly face.
- I checked Google maps and called every language school in the city. Two of them wanted to meet me, the other 18 asked that I send my CV for future reference. One was for French students. None of them had a job for me.
- One evening I went to Dmitri’s place, I missed avocado, since I haven’t found good avocado in Dubai. So, I made an avocado salad. I enjoyed being in a real kitchen, the kitchen at home is a sauna in the summer, the kitchen at Gaga’s apartment felt impersonal. This was a big kitchen and I enjoyed moving around it, cooking Jamie Oliver listening to some mellow music.
- I bought new flowers for my apartment at a flower market where the guy totally over charged me, but the flowers were beautiful, so I paid double and enjoyed them. The prices are so cheap anyway.
- I took a taxi to the second-hand clothing stores which had served me so well over the summer. I was successful yet again, the styles just felt comfortable for me. Left with two or three bulging bags vowing I would back these into my suitcase before buying anything else.
- My breakfast now existed of coffee with cream, fresh bread and butter which was so good I almost reluctantly added the cherry jam or some cheese. I love cherry jam, but the bread alone was wonderful. I watched the sunrise and went to study. Mentally thanking the dog owning families who had paid me to make this possible.
- Close to the end of my trip I remembered that I wanted to visit Mtatsminda park, not because of the amusement park, but I wanted to go on the Ferris wheel. I texted Dmitri and we went up. The view was different than I expected, I saw the city from a different angle than I had previously. I watched the city come and go before me. It was lovely.
- Dmitri had success ordering food on an app. Gaga’s apartment was a black door opening on a dirt road, I had great trouble with the same app. I tried various times, but it was annoying, I couldn’t speak Russian or Georgian and their English was non-existent so I was struggling to get my food to me.
- I used my taxi app religiously though. I never had to explain my address. I could hardly pronounce my street and now I didn’t have to I ordered a taxi and the GPS directed him while I closed my eyes or watched the orange leaves pass by the windows.
- I left Tbilisi at 3am I felt sad leaving the city. I had hoped to get a job here, in a place with bread I love and beautiful flowers, and everything else which was part of this world.