Tbilisi - 1

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Our itinerary originally had us taking the train from Kutaisi to Tbilisi today in the footsteps of Michael Portillo.  But, seeing as there is only one train a day (between the capital and the country’s second largest city!) leaving at 12:00 and taking 5 hours as against 3.5 hours by car and the fact that we had the car anyway, we decided to stay with the car.  There are stretches of motorway but a large section in the middle is over a pass on a two lane road.  We declined the opportunity to do a detour and see the Stalin museum in Gori along the way.


Our first call in Tbilisi was to the travel agent to pay for the Georgian part of our tour (they are very trusting in these countries, but I suppose you wouldn’t stand much chance of nicking off without paying).

Next call was to an open air flea market, “Dry Bridge Bazaar” selling all sorts of odd bric-a-brac plus bad art and miscellaneous electrical bits and pieces.  How these places ever get written up and touted as a 4* tourist attraction is a mystery; I suppose it’s only people who are in to such things that write them up and give them stars and people who are not can’t be bothered to contradict them so the inflated rating becomes established.

Next we visited Tbilisi’s main church, Holy Trinity Cathedral.  Built in the national style in 2004 about all you can say for it is that it is large, in fact, the largest in Eastern Europe (if indeed this is still considered Eastern Europe as Georgia is East of Turkey.  It is more like a museum than church and the interior is covered with the usual frescoes and icons.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Our activity today is a walking tour of Tbilisi.  We started up on a hill near the Narikala Fortress (established in the 4th century), past the enormous statue of Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) and walked down through the old quarter.  Fortunately the weather has cooled down a bit and walking is comfortable.  There is far too much traffic in Tbilisi and the air pollution is quite noticeable with a grey veil over the city.

The old town of Tbilisi is quite attractive with its colourful houses with wooden carved balconies.

Once down in the town we visited several old churches.  Our guide, Nino, hesitated to go into the first church (Sioni cathedral initially built in the 6th century) because there was a hearse outside and she thought a funeral might be in progress but the assembled people seemed a little too gaily dressed for a funeral - it turned out there was both a wedding and funeral on at the same time.  The wedding was in full swing in the main part of the church while the funeral body was on display in a side chapel with appropriate chanting.  When we mentioned that it seemed a bit strange for both ceremonies to be on at the same time, Nino said that time-slots for weddings can be highly sought after and this particular bride was not going to give up her day just because there was a body in the next room.

IMG 3213

There are some modern grandiose architectural statements in Tbilisi such as the pedestrian Peace bridge over the river, a bow-shaped steel and glass construction and two futuristic theatre buildings that look like giant bedpans abandoned on the hillside and have apparently never been put into use (perhaps they forgot the toilets).  It seems that the current government seeks to disagree or undo any of the projects started by the previous government, so many either do not get finished or are never put into use.  Georgians do not a have a high regard for their government, justifiably it would seem, as they seem to be the instruments of the local oligarchs.

Considering the contribution of the Caucasus to the art of carpet weaving there are noticeably few places in evidence selling them.  We did pass one shop that had what appeared to be a passable collection of kilims, sumacs and carpets but nothing sprang to our eye from the piled stacks.  One is hesitant to give a carpet dealer any encouragement to start pulling pieces out unless one is definitely intent on buying, which we are not.

We experienced a lacklustre welcome at Tbilisi’s Great Synagogue, then went on to the Anchiskhati Basilica which dates back to the 6th century and is the oldest church in Tbilisi.

We ended our tour at the National History museum which wasn’t bad as far as such things go, but as all such museums pretty much have the same sort of objects on display (old coins, broken pots, jewellery, weapons etc) it wasn’t hugely interesting.  It did have one section about the Russian/Soviet occupation of the country from 1921 to 1993.  Georgians definitely do not like the Russians for good reasons.

We were a little hungry so decided on a sandwich for a late lunch but the service was so bad and the sandwich hadn’t arrived after 45 min so we left.  This is the third restaurant we have walked out of in Georgia (in only four days) so you would have to conclude that either our tolerance has disappeared completely in the last few days or that the service is pretty bad here.

The service reputation of Georgia was redeemed at dinner, even if it was an Italian restaurant.  Meal portions are large in Georgia so it is usually sufficient, and seems accepted, to share a main course.


© Cheryl & Clive Miller 2019-20