Since my cousin Marek didn’t pay attention to his expiration date of passport, I ended up going to Georgia alone. It was a pity because we were really stoked to go together on such trip, but on the other side I like to travel just with myself. Meeting Slovak guys from Nitra at the airport before boarding to the plane was just a great start of one hell of a trip. One liter bottle of Whiskey in their hands meant that I am definitely not gonna be afraid of this flight. After landing at the Kutaisi airport I jumped into a minivan or Marshrutka it’s how Georgians call it and left for Tbilisi, a capital city of Georgia with more than a million inhabitants. Right away I went to look for a flat where I was supposed to stay via couchsurfing. Eventually I found it pretty easy and I met with my Chinese host Yanan. Really a nice guy who has been living in Tbilisi for some time and offered to host me.
My first impressions about the city were pretty good. You really can see a lot of police cars passing by all the time with their beacons on and with their megaphone saying something to the people on the streets or drivers. I must admit that their new bad ass American Ford cars with black and grey paint were pretty damn cool. Another thing you realize really fast is that there is a church in every corner. Around 84% of population claim to be a Georgian Orthodox religion. All those churches look really alike but have very rich interiors. Being inside of a church and watching people kissing frames of paintings or pray in a bus whenever they saw a cross or a church just makes you realize how strongly religious they are.
There are a lot of elderly people selling whole kinds of stuff on the streets. Everywhere you can find them selling old books, handmade socks or typical hats, some jewellery, paintings but also many kinds of nuts, fruits, tissues or even cigarettes one by one from different packages. On the main Tbilisi avenue called Rustaveli is looks like an alive market. But not just there, you can find it everywhere, especially on Station square, where I got of the bumpy metro ride which opens the door even before stopping. Metro in Tbilisi was built in 1966 and it also looks like that with extremely fast escalators and pretty damn deep stations. I probably spent like 2 minutes just going down by fast escalator, it was that deep.
Station square was a cool place where was a lot going on. Very busy place indeed, just how I mentioned before, people selling many things on the street plus all the minibuses passing by. While I was waiting for some food, which I am gonna write about later, some taxi drivers started to ask me about my GoPro camera. I explained what that thing is for and how much it costs and then I was forced to take some pictures with then, which was actually my intention as well. Very nice and friendly people, not like taxi drivers I know. On the streets you don’t get the feeling like somebody would steel a camera hanging of your shoulder or would bother you just because you look like a tourist. People were very friendly and helpful in all the occasions I needed something, but I think they are like this in general. Willing to explain even if not speaking English.
So which sights did I see in Tbilisi?
Walking along the Tbilisi’s busiest street Rustaveli I soon found a Georgian Parliament standing right next to Tbilisi first public school. Both very magnificent buildings with great dimensions. I just crossed the street and ended up in the National gallery. My first church to visit was a Kashveti church situated next to the gallery. I went on walking until I got on the Freedom Square, formerly known as Lenin square, but in 1918 it was renamed due to foundation of the first Georgian republic. On Freedom square you can find a bust of Alexander Pushkin and Tbilisi Town hall as well.
Walking south and I passed by Lado Gudiashvili square, then walking up the old stairs towards another church with a statue in the background. Kartlis Deda is symbol of the city. It is a statue of Georgian woman wearing a typical dress and in her left hand holding a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, in her right hand holding sword for those who come as enemies. Not far away is a Narikala Fortress with botanical garden and St. Nicholas church overlooking the city and river Kura. A short walk down the stairs and I found a Metekhi church and a statue of king Vakhtang Gorgasali. Metekhi stands for a “the area around the palace” and it used to be a king’s residence. I crossed the bridge above the river Kura and turned left where you can find an Aerial tramway going up to the Narikala Fortress. The park close by is called Rike Park which provides relaxation and other activities for all ages. Another new monument of the city is the Bridge of Peace which I crossed to get on the other side of the river again and to walk on the streets of old town and visit Sioni Cathedral.
Last place which is definitely worth to pay a visit is a Tbilisi’s Funicular. It is a tram going up to hill where a Mtatsminda Amusement park is situated and definitely a place to take pictures from. I was really surprised how cool the place was. It was pretty empty since it was cold and Tuesday afternoon, but almost all the rides were open. You can find there all kinds of activities and rides for kids as well as for adults. Some of the rides like Ferris wheel or roller coaster offer spectacular views of the city while pumping adrenalin into your body. Amazing place with great view I must say, but only one thing I didnt understand was, why there were so many employees in the amusement park at that time when there was no people. Imagine 6 booths next to each other with different activities like shooting on the target and there was a person working in each of them. I think not just that place but the whole city was overstaffed. Anyways, in the summer it looks for sure different.
For sure these are not the all the hot spots to visit in Tbilisi and I missed some cool ones, but this time I didn’t check any guide, neither considered places to visit before coming to Georgia. I just wanted to walk, enjoy and discover by myself.
There is one big THANK YOU to Yanan, Nick and Semih, my new friends I made in Tbilisi.