Part 3: Tbilisi, Georgia
Just a short hop away, neighbouring Georgia is culturally, linguistically, and geographically feels a continent apart.
Georgia is staunchly Christian and it has been so for almost 2,000 years. It’s one of the earliest Christian nation. And nothing speaks more of its history than its Churches.
The interior is beautifully painted and the patina of time is giving it quite a character.
Walking around the Old Town, it has been much better renovated than Baku’s. At least it’s bustling and lively and it’s nice to walk around for a few hours.
It's a very quaint charming place with small town feel and lots of F&B offering which makes it more bustling that the museum-like Baku Old Town.
Carpet seller! Yes, we are still on the Silk Road.
Deeper into the Old Town, there is a small gorge. Who would have expected that this is in the middle of the city. But it is.... and with precariously-balanced houses on top which is a dense neigbourhood.
There is a waterfall at the end of the gorge. It’s not a particularly spectacular place but if you know that this is right in the middle of the city, then one can appreciate it better.
Adjacent to the main touristy area of the Old Town is the Bath District. This is supposed to be the oldest part of Tbilisi and yes, it feels more Turkic / Ottoman era here. There are still a handful of sulfur baths in this area. I didn’t try any though ... it was a hot day and I didn’t feel to get into anything warm.
Tbilisi has a European Russified heart as well. Rustaveli Avenue is its main thoroughfare and yes, it feels European although it definitely feels less wealthy.
Travelling by metro in different countries is always fun and a good way to know the local ways. And Tbilisi’s is no exception. Caution though: there are a lot of beggars, and they can be heart wrenching as most of them are old ladies. The country definitely has been struggling since the collapse of the Soviet Union, not to mention tensions with Russia, and they have other complicated issues such as breakaway Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. There are noticeably much fewer younger population (I suspect a lot of them are working in Europe or Russia). And they are left with these struggling elderlies.
Soviet modernist architecture is hauntingly beautiful
The train is still from a long bygone era. It;s like walking into the past
But it's convenient and clean
I also took a day trip to the old capital, Mtskheta (don’t ask me to pronounce 5 consonants in one breath). Yes, I heard it spoken and Mtskhe is pronounced as it is in One sound.
It’s a sleepy town with more tourists than residents but quite picturesque .
The focal point is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral church (again difficult to pronounce to non-Georgians).
It was a hot day so let’s try a wine ice cream. Yes, wine is a staple here. They even claim its birth here 8,000 years ago. And yes, I love their wines.
Food is another awesome awesome amazing adventure here.
It’s unlike anything we had seen or tasted before. If there is a best description I can give, it’s like French food with spice. The sauces are amazing. Rich and savoury.
As are the dips and in this case, the stuffing like mixture of the top of the fish made from pomegranate.
Just like elsewhere along the Silkroad from China, some sort of dumplings will be part of the national cuisine repertoire. In Kazakhstan, it was manty. In Georgia, it’s Khinkali. It’s a soup dumpling. Here, the skin is a much thicker. It seems the further away from China, the thicker the skin is? Xiaolongbao is thinnest, followed by Tibetan momo, then Kazakh manty, then Georgian khinkali. At least these are the most familiar ones to me.
This is the most famous national dish: Kachapuri. Cheese is also a national obsession. It’s a farmer's country in the hills.
So what’s my impression of Georgia? I thought i like it better than Azerbaijan although I think I still have an issue with the coldness of the people. I also had the worst taxi driver in my life who asked for USD60 on arrival instead of the GEL60 I assumed on boarding. I couldn’t believe people could be such crooks. The food is definitely one of my favourites in the world. The sights are not blockbuster but they have their own charm. The city has a sort of balanced between rejuvenation, dilapidation, realness, and history. It’s not as polished on the surface and as such, I feel more soul here. Would I come back again to Azerbaijan or Georgia, I am really not sure. I quite unlikely although I am sure I would be craving for their amazing food in some time.
So... that’s the end of this trip report. Thank you for reading and I hope it has been an entertaining read to a little-known corner of the world