After my writing retreat in Greece, I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia for a conference of the Dynamite Circle (DC), an international community of successful location independent entrepreneurs. After visiting over 100 countries, I was excited to visit a new country. I only stayed 4,5 days, of which 2 were the conference. But our host had organized two day-trips and had booked some great restaurants, because getting to know the famous Georgian cuisine was part of the fun. So I feel like I had a very rich experience in this country during a relatively short stay.
I will share exactly what I did, so you can also experience the best Georgia has to offer on a visit, whirlwind or longer.
I arrived in Tbilisi at night, so the next morning it was a surprise to find that my Airbnb apartment had a nice roof terrace and was perfectly located: walking distance of the city center and still very, very quiet.
Just a few steps from the apartment was a pedestrian street with lots of cafes and restaurants. I found Maria, a local girl selling fresh pomegranate juice, which became a favorite stop every day.
I walk around that first day, explored the city. It’s warm, sunny spring weather, so I wear shorts and a t-shirt. Mistake. Everybody still wears their dark, warm winter clothes and stares at me. It is because they are all orthodox and I am showing too much skin? Or is it because officially it’s still not summer and they only switch to their summer clothes after a certain date? Later I find that even young, non-religious people wear (trendy) black clothes. People don’t make eye contact.
The language is not to be compared with anything. Now and then I hear some Russian. Lots of drinking going on in the streets and behind closed doors. In the plane to Tbilisi there were two men with a plastic bag full of bottles. By the time we landed they could hardly stand up. Welcome to Tbilisi!
I noticed that many people smoke. Taxi drivers smoke in their car. People smoke in restaurants, elevators, even at the airport!
There are many small fruit and vegetable shops in the streets. Everything is incredibly cheap. I got some local money (Lari) from the ATM at the airport, but nobody takes the 100 Lari notes (about 33 euro). I have to go into a bank to change them into smaller denominations. 5 Lari (about 1,5 euro) seems to be the favorite banknote…
I don’t know why, but I count no less that 6 bridal shops in the streets around my apartment. Apparently getting married is a thing here…
There is a lot of traffic: the streets don’t seem to be made for so many cars and traffic jams are common. Some people try to avoid the streets completely between 5 and 8PM. To my surprise I find that cars actually stop for pedestrians crossing the road. Try that in Italy, or Miami or many other places….
Architecture in Tbilisi is a mix of Asian, European and Soviet. The houses are a mix of dilapidated, once grand, buildings that have been repaired with bits and pieces, minimalist Soviet architecture, and modern glass buildings.