Tbilisi: The City That Loves You

Gamarjoba!

Tonight I write to you from Gut’uri, from my home where I have finally set up my Internet, and I will give more on my placement later… but first let me tell you a bit about Tbilisi.

1 church per person…

Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, and home to almost 1/4 of Georgia’s entire population! I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in my life, spending time in numerous capital cities, but I have never seen anything quite like Tbilisi. The tourism slogan is “The City That Loves You,” yet everywhere you look people are frowning. There is a constant battle between old and new, as well as a fine line between friendly and suspicious.

I actually ooh’ed and aah’ed in this city

I walked across the Freedom bridge, a shiny metal sculpture that lights up like Vegas at night (pictured above) and stumbled mere feet into a quiet, classic alley from the 1300s (pictured below).

Then I fell silent in places like this

I rode a modern gondola up to an ancient fortress, I found gated alleyways off of the bustling Freedom Square roundabout, and I dined in a restaurant that featured both traditional Georgian polyphonic singing and beer towers. Georgia has undergone major changes in a short amount of time. The TLG program is less than 5 years old, and 10 years ago many homes had no electricity. There is a really cool oldness to Tbilisi that celebrates Georgia’s place in history, but it is stationed right alongside the displays of wealth and modern architecture that are recently erected or still under construction. Georgia is quickly thrusting itself into the modern world, and Tbilisi is the visual representation.

Both the fortress and the gondola can be seen from all over the city

See that statue on the far right of the picture above? That’s kartlis deda, or “Mother Georgia” and she can probably sum up the atmosphere of Tbilisi better than I. Here’s a close up:

Notice her right hand, now notice her left hand…

The bowl, filled with wine of course, is meant to greet her friends, the sword is meant to greet her enemies. Georgia is known to be very hospitable, which I have been fortunate enough to experience, but there is also a sternness that is tangible in Tbilisi. I rode in a cab where the driver praised my friends and I for coming to teach English, but I also suffered the irritated stares of the waitress who seated the table of 12 westerners in the far back corner. I heard the word “mastsavlebeli” (teacher) spoken through both smiles and clenched teeth. I have never been so confused!

The view from the fortress

As I mentioned before, orientation kept me pretty busy during my time in Tbilisi and there is much more to the city than what I was able to explore. However, from what I saw I can say without question that I will return before my time here is done. I have never been so surprised by a city, and I can only hope that the rest of the country continues to surprise me!

Nahvamdis!

-ქეისი რამი

 

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  1. A Weekend in Bizarre Batumi « A Washingtonian in Georgia

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