Located on the merchant routes between Europe and Asia, Tbilisi has always been an important centre. In 645 the Arabs conquered the city and controlled it for almost four centuries until Davit Aghmashenebeli (Davit the builder) made it the capital of the unified Georgia (1122). During Davit kingdom, Tbilisi became a multicultural and rich city but the flourishing period was brutally interrupted by the invasions of Mongols (1235) and Timurids (1386). During the XVII and XVIII centuries, the city was controlled by Persians and, in 1762, it became the capital of the semi-independent kingdom of Easter Georgia governed by Erekle II. In 1800 Russia invaded Georgia and Tbilisi became an imperial city with large squares and roads. During the Soviet period, Tbilisi enormously increased its population due to the affluence of people from neighbouring villages and it became an opposition centre against the regime. The rivalries manifested themselves after the Georgian independence declaration and the consequent civil war (1991), when the city of Tbilisi became a war zone. Nowadays Tbilisi has been largely requalified and more and more tourists seem to visit the Georgian capital every year.
We spent three nights at the dream hostel in Tbilisi, so far definitely the best hostel we had; totally recommended! When we arrived in Tbilisi we were very tired because we had slept every day in different places over the previous week (trekking in Svaneti and Tskaltbo) so we decided that we needed a rest. The weather was also quite bad so, taking it as a divine sign, we didn’t even feel guilty and we slept every day until quite late in the morning. However, we managed to visit quite well the city centre, mostly on the second day.
On the first day, we arrived from Tskaltubo quite late in the afternoon, we just went to the supermarket and we had dinner at home. For the first time we could use the kitchen so we didn’t miss this opportunity and we cooked some fish with vegetables…you cannot even imagine how happy we were about to eat some healthy food after one week (or maybe more?) of meat and khachapuri (good is good but not every day).
On the second day we woke up around 11 and, after a lunch at home, we went out to visit the city. Our hostel was located next to Rustaveli street (Rustaveli is an important Georgian poet and its name is very recurrent; in fact every city has got at least one Rustaveli street) and we found out that in those days the road was blocked because they were shooting fast and furious 9. Surprised of the fact that there were other eight fast and furious, we stayed there a bit looking for famous actors and pretending to be famous actors. Well, they didn’t believe us so we had to walk around in order to get to the city centre. The old town of Tbilisi is lovely and in one full day you can visit the most of it. There are few interesting sights and, in our opinion, the clock tower (we didn’t see it but apparently every hour there is an angel coming out from it), the church of Anchiskhati and the peace bridge, similar to Caltrava one’s in Venice, are the most relevant ones.
After a quick lunch at racha restaurant (nice but not amazing, sometimes it’s better not to trust the lonely planet) we went up to the fortress. On the way up we stopped at Betlemi church, which was very nice, and we saw an orthodox baptism, first time for both of us. The mother of Kartli and the fortress dominate the highest hill of the city and from there you can have an amazing view of the Georgian capital. The walk up there is nice and easy but, if you are lazy or not fit enough, you can also take the funicular up to the top. That night we had dinner at home, this time with a German guy, and after we went all together to Dive bar for a couple of gin and tonic in order to experience the famous Tbilisi nightlife.
The day after we woke up a bit earlier, we wanted to go to the cathedral of Tbilisi. We saw it the day before but we were tired and we didn’t want to walk up there. The cathedral is like a symbol of the city and everywhere you can see pictures of it. We went there with great expectations and on the way there we stopped for a acharuli khachapuri (we were looking for it for a long time and we weren’t disappointed, it was probably one of the best food we had in Georgia…you must try it!).
The cathedral is nothing special, it’s nicer from the outside in all true honesty. When were there a couple was getting married, that was probably the best thing there. After the cathedral we went straight home, we had an important appointment at 8pm, the rugby test match between Georgia and Scotland. The guy who would have hosted us in Telavi through Couchsurfing told us about it and we, immediately, rushed to buy the tickets and, for just 6$ in two, we got them!
At the stadium we met a bunch of Scottish people all dressed up like proper Scotsmen and we joined them. After a couple of “aye nae bother pal”, they accepted us as a member of the group and we started drinking beer …one…two…three…at the fourth beer we thought we should get in so we did. We enjoyed the game, we drank another couple of beers, during halftime we managed to sneak into the second row and we also celebrated Scotland’s victory shaking hands to players or shouting random Scottish words. At the end of the game, we met again the couple of Scottish people we were drinking with before the game and they gave us as a present the Scottish flag! Super proud of it, we joined them for the traditional “third period”, the alcoholic one.
The day after, despite the beers, we woke up around 9, we were going to Telavi this time in the Kakheti region, the wine area of Georgia. Let’s go to try this famous Georgian wine!