Aaaah… It feels so damn good to not be stared at like a circus freak! I’m definitely not in Ukraine anymore! Here in Tbilisi, people clearly don’t give a fuck, they just go about their business. Some people stare at me (it’s normal!) but that’s it. Some teens ask for a high five, but nothing more. Faces are different now, I don’t see the typical physique from Eastern Europe. In Georgia, most people have brown hairs, with dark eyes and a tanned complexion. I’m getting closer to the Middle East…
So here I am in Tbilisi, Georgia. First oddity I noticed : some cars have their wheels on the left side, while other cars have their wheels on the right side (yeah I’m used to look at the person driving before crossing the street, just to make sure the driver sees me…). A guy from Georgia told me a lot of cars were imported from the UK and from Japan, but it’s forbidden now. Over time, there will only be cars with wheels on the left side.
As usual, I always try to have conversations with the locals, just to see how they think, grasp their mentality, etc… A lot of guys I talked to were called Jorge. At first, I thought it was a popular name, just like there are different popular names in every country. Actually no. All the eldest boys in a Georgian family are called Jorge, in honor of Saint George. Saint George fought against the muslims, before Catholics and Orthodox split up. In some classes at school, there are 20 different Jorge… A lot of girls are called Nino (I would have said it’s a man’s name…), in honor of Nino who brought Christianity in the country. Another thing, in Georgian, you say “Mama” to say daddy.
The streets are bustling with activity, there are people everywhere, a lot of traffic… It’s really hard to cross the street, therefore there are underground passages. You’ll also see a lot of stray dogs outside! I’m not much into animals in general, but it hurt me a bit. Seeing all those dogs wandering in the streets under 35°C (95°F)… And they are literally everywhere! People don’t even look at them, I guess they’re used to it.
Another sad thing. In some areas in Tbilisi, some kids, barely 3 years old, come to me to ask for money. And they follow me for a long time before giving up. And there’s also a lot of elderly people begging for money. I kept wondering if they had any relatives who could take care of them because once again, they’re all over the city.
Don’t talk about Russia or Russian people in general to Georgian people, they hate them. Why? South Ossetia and Abkhazia, officially in the north of Georgia, proclaims themselves independent. Almost no country recognize them as official countries, but Russia supports them.
What about the food? I heard a lot of great things before coming, “The Georgian food is delicious, it’s one of the best in the world, etc…” I’m not saying the food in Georgia is not good, but I didn’t feel like it was anything special when I tasted it. They eat a lot of bread, and a lot of cheese, too! And of course they eat khinkali, Georgia’s speciality. It’s a dumpling filled with meat in general : beef, veal, lamb, but also potatoes, cheese… One day after arriving in Tbilisi, I had diarrhea (yet I took my precautions to avoid it!)”Hahaha! Nobody told you? Tourists usually get sick during their first days here, but it’s ok, it will be gone in a few days!” Nope, nobody told me, I just heard the Georgian food is reaaally good.
As I was walking around in the streets, I saw from afar a big crowd around something, but I didn’t know what. As I got closer, I saw a lot of guys in front of a TV, watching a rugby game. Rugby is the most popular sport in Georgia! They even want to replace Italy in the Six Nations Championship!
What to see in Tbilisi?
The Holy Trinity cathedral. It’s pretty much impossible to go to Tbilisi, and miss this cathedral. This is not one of those cathedrals existing for centuries. Actually, the Holy Trinity cathedral has been completed in 2004, and it represents the revival of Georgia after years of oppression from the Soviets. Entrance is free. For the girls who want to visit inside the cathedral, avoid bare shoulders or shorts. And bring a headscarf. You can still get in with no headscarf, but this is disrespectful and people will all glare at you.
Go to the Mtatsminda park. This park is in the heights of the city. You can get there via the Funicular or for the brave ones like me by foot. A girl went crazy when I told her I didn’t take the funicular to get there, because going up there by foot is definitely not easy, and there are a few hundreds stairs to climb! Once you get on top, you’ll have a nice view of the city! Just walk around and you’ll see a theme park, which looks abandoned.
Another touristic place you can reach via the Funicular or on foot, Mother Georgia. Mother Georgia symbolizes the Georgian national character. She holds a bowl of wine in one hand for the friends coming, and a sword in the other hand for the enemies.
The leaning clock tower only exists since 2010, and it was built with old materials. There’s a show everyday at noon and 7pm (like the astronomical clock in Prague). A boy meets a girl, they get married, they have a kid and they die. The circle of life! There’s also a theater at the bottom of the clock tower and a few signs “Don’t come with high heels, you might fall!”
Another place to see is the Peace bridge, completed in 2009 after a conflict with Russia. Symbolic bridge, it represents the connection between the old town and the future. We also call it “Always ultra bridge” because of its shape…
It’s also interesting just to walk around in the old town. You’ll see a lot of “italian yards”, those places where you have a lot of apartments and a central yard for everybody. This is because Italian rebuilt the country after the last destruction 200 years ago. I guess watching TV is their favorite hobby, there were satellite dishes everywhere. By any chance, if you wanna live there, the rent is around 300 lari (a little bit more than 100 euros) for a one-bedroom apartment.
Tbilisi is a lively city, a mix between old and new, with a lot of things to do. I suggest you to go there if you have the opportunity!
Info to visit Tbilisi
- Are you going to Georgia? Do not leave home without a travel insurance!
- Here’s a complete Georgia travel guide.
- Check on Booking the hotels available during your stay, or on Hostelworld the hostels in Tbilisi. You can also compare the hotel rates on HotelsCombined.
- Check what you can do in Tbilisi.
- If needed, get a travel guide.