A Taste of Tbilisi

All of the expats here seem to be a little bit in love with Georgia. The people, the food, the wine, the odd and charming decay. I’m starting to see why. Despite the air quality and crumbling sidewalks, there is something compelling about Tbilisi. It is very much its own place, lively and vibrant and art-filled.

Saturday morning finally arrived and brought with it a sunny, 52 degree day. I almost couldn’t believe it–after a week of overcast skies, rain, and cold. It was time to brave the Metro and go uptown for some exploring.

The Metro was tricky, and I should probably get an award of some sort–the Hapless Yank of the Day–or some such. It took 5 Georgians to help me navigate the purchase of a Metro card and getting through the turnstiles (my helpful guidebook is somewhat out of date, and had great instructions for using the tokens, which are no longer in use). To my credit, I got on the correct train, going in the correct direction, and managed to get off at the correct stop–on the first try. All the signage is in Georgian, so this is no small feat. Being rendered suddenly illiterate and, essentially, mute is both frustrating and exhilarating.

The miniscule amount of Russian I’m able to spit out has been a lifesaver at times, but also complicates things. I’ve learned not to respond to Georgian with “I don’t understand” in Russian (I have no idea how to say it in Georgian). Of course, when you say it in Russian, they merely switch to Russian, fully expecting you to be fluent. So, I lose points for false advertising, I suppose.

My first stop was Rustaveli Avenue, which is a main thoroughfare named after the country’s most famous poet. And here is the man himself:

Monument to Shota Rustaveli, Georgia's Shakespeare.

Just across the street is the famous McDonald’s. All the photos I saw of this one showed it with the sign in Russian, but that’s been replaced with Georgian.

Mickey D's--Georgian style...

From there, I strolled down Rustaveli Avenue toward Freedom Square:

Rustaveli Avenue

Pasanauri Restaurant, very authentic (and delicious) local food just off Rustaveli Ave.

Required reading--Prospero's Books and Caliban's Cafe. I stopped in for a book, postcards, and a cappuccino.

These whimsical little sculptures line the street.

Note the gypsies sitting on the right. This couple had their kids running after pedestrians, begging for money. There are beggars everywhere.

Pro-life protesters outside the parliament building.

Flowers are for sale on virtually every corner.

Freedom Square with its statue of St. George slaying the dragon. (This was Lenin Square during the Soviet era.)

Spices in a market stall near Freedom Square...

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