After an all-nighter and a 5:00am taxi to the airport, I was treated to a beautiful sunrise before departing Baku. It was such a break to have a room just waiting for me in Tblisi so I could crash for seven hours to be followed by a glorious dinner accompanied by a table of Georgians who broke out into for part harmonies intermittently for the better part of two hours. It was a great start to a Georgian interlude.
The food and music were both exceptional, and exceeded any experience in Baku by a damn sight. The other important difference here is staying in a guest house as opposed to an AirBnb. Just my host on the premises has made all the difference in the world. It’s just a lovely little low key place with all of the essentials like A/C, a nice large desk and a comfy bed which was a great place for slipping into a coma this afternoon.
There’s a reason Russians go out of their way to visit here, and why they also feature many Georgian restaurants in their major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
I have six days left to explore, immerse myself in the culture and eat, eat, eat.
SKADAVELI GUESTHOUSE – Scruffy on the outside, cozy on the inside. Many of the structures in Tbilisi would have been long condemned and demolished in Europe and the United States, but here they just add a few timbers or steel girders to prevent a wall from falling over and just call it a day. Thankfully the Georgian cuisine is more robust than some of their housing.
SAKHLI NO.11 – TUESDAY NIGHT LIVE – Four-part harmony Georgian style. Amazing voices and incredible food.
THE STEEL GIRDER ON THE LEFT IS KEEPING THAT RAMSHACKLE CLOCKTOWER FROM COLLAPSING
TBLISI IS MUCH PRETTIER AT NIGHT GIVEN ITS SOMEWHAT UNKEMPT NATURE
PEACEFUL BACK STREETS
OLD CITY WALL EXCAVATION
OLD CITY WALL
FREAK SHOP – Hairstyling and piercings – I would love to see the results.
BRIDGE OF PEACE
Sariyya, my guide from Baku, took a selfie on this very spot today. She was in Georgia on business.
BRIDGE OF PEACE
Realizing that it’s hopeless to try and compete with the “Bridge of Peace”, the sculpture pops its welds, plummets into the river, sinks to the bottom, and is never seen again.
VARDZIA is a cave monastery site that was constructed in the second half of the twelfth century. The caves stretch along the cliffs for about five hundred meters and reach up to nineteen tiers. The Church of the Dormition dating to the 1180s has an important series of wall paintings which are currently being restored. The church is literally filled with scaffolding so unfortunately, I will not be including photos of the paintings.
The site includes a total of 407 rooms which include dwellings, chapels, 25 wine-cellars, a meeting room, reception chamber, pharmacy, a refectory with bakery and a forge. Infrastructure includes access tunnels, water facilities, and provisions for defense. It bears some resemblance to the prehistoric cliffside cave dwellings in the Dordogne region of France, which you will be treated to in September.
On the first stop on our all day tour, it became immediately clear that we had a couple of idiots that were going to make everyone’s’ trip a little more challenging. Usually, it’s someone who shows up late to the minibus, is just plain obnoxious, or doesn’t listen to the tour guides instructions. This pair covered all three criteria.
This was made even more challenging by the fact that it was a five-hour drive each way. The characters in question were a father and a young boy of nine. In most cases, throughout the day it was hard to tell the difference with their ill-fitting Madras shorts and mutually childish behavior. It was easy to give the kid a pass, but there was no excuse for the father.
We had to adhere to a strict schedule or else we would miss out on the other two attractions. To make matters worse we had a young lady who was on her first tour as a guide. It was easy to deduce that the two trouble makers were from a Muslim country due to their accents and complete disregard for female instructions. No matter what she said or did, these two ignored the time restraints, and ran off or got caught up taking selfies. A place such as this could make it almost impossible to find cretins such as these.
IN THE SPIRIT OF AUSTERITY, RELIGIONS DO INSPIRE SOME STRANGE RITUALS AND BEHAVIORS
From the splendor of Papal apartments to simple cliffside dwellings. Religions take dramatically different approaches from one another, although all lay claim to unseen deities, and often kill one another over these unsubstantiated claims. Masochistic behaviors, bizarre dietary restrictions, silly rituals, strange costumes, senseless rules, barbaric punishments, superstitious activities, delusional thinking, repetitive self indoctrination, and endless prayers make up this strange world of wishful thinking.
BUT THESE CAVES ARE PRETTY COOL
CHURCH OF THE DORMITION – Here on the outside you can get an idea of what the paintings are like inside. As you can see they are in need of restoration just as they are in the interior.
Five monks still live in this mountain. Every morning at seven they ring the bell in the high arch.
Here’s a spot where our two irritants fancied themselves as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and disappeared into the cave. They managed to delay us by 15 minutes on this particular occasion.
NATURAL WATER POOL
Sitting and waiting for Tom & Huck to emerge from the cave next to the church.
Because of our late arrival at this site, I just about had enough time to use the toilet and dash around getting the few shots you see here.
Most of the remaining time was dedicated to wrangling that child and his latter-day prepubescent father. Again the tour guide was faced with the impossible task of herding a couple of desert cats. After she insisted that they head to the bus, they once again dashed about in a mad flurry of last-minute selfies.
It was at this point that I formed an O with thumb and middle finger shoved them in my mouth, and let out a good solid NYC whistle. This got their attention long enough for me to make an angry gesture to follow the rest of us. My theory that they wouldn’t listen to a woman was confirmed when they followed like a couple of obedient dogs. When they arrived at the parking lot they resumed their selfie activities. Bloody hopeless.
THE PLAZA WHERE MY WHISTLE FINALLY GOT THEIR ATTENTION
It seemed more than likely our time would be further rushed in our final destination so I settled back in the minibus and fantasized about multiple “death by selfie” scenarios. These have become quite commonplace in recent years due to the proliferation of the dread selfie-sticks or narcissisticks as I call them. Every year a few dozen stick-wielding tourists tumble to their deaths off of the Cliffs of Mohr in Ireland. How embarrassing for the families. Almost as bad as electrocuting yourself in the bath while texting and charging your iPhone.
As the clouds rolled in, we headed off for some much-needed peace and quiet in the Borjomi National Park.
We never made it. No, the twin terrors didn’t distract the driver with their sticks and cause an accident. Our new Mercedes minibus decided to break down and create the ideal end to a perfect day and leave us stranded for an additional hour and a half with the Katzenjammer Kids.
Fortunately, I was sleepy and just took a nap. When the crappy replacement for our ride showed up, it started raining which made it even harder for the driver to see through all of the cracks that snaked across the windshield as he navigated the windy roads at breakneck speeds. We arrived back in Tbilisi just before midnight. I counted myself lucky to arrive at all.
I set off the next day for a highly recommended restaurant beginning with a one-mile walk up Rustaveli Avenue. It wasn’t long before hunger and fatigue set in due to the oppressive heat.
Lightheaded, starving and hangry, I finally managed to find the dead end street upon which the notorious Georgian restaurant was allegedly located.
There’s the end, but no sign of a restaurant. Desperation begins to set in.
Nothing to give the indication that there is anything edible nearby, but I hang a right and push onward.
After taking a left at the sandbags I find a tunnel and decide to give it a try and turned left when I exited.
I found this scruffy looking place which ended up being a quite cozy restaurant on the inside.
KETO & KOTE – This place gets rave reviews, but how anyone finds it I’ll never know.
It is worth the effort once you get there. My delicious salad with grilled vegetables and Georgian cheese. Now bear in mind that this was preceded by one of the most scrumptious mushroom soups I have ever eaten. I was unable to restrain myself sufficiently to take a picture.
CHARCHO – This beef soup was my main course. Is was much richer than other interpretations of this dish that I have been served. Those are not mashed potatoes, but some sort of grains to go with my charcho. How I was supposed to finish all of this food, I didn’t know.
That plate with the things that look like pizza slices is called chachapuri. It’s basically bread with Georgian cheese inside. I’ve got a long row to hoe, and hoe I did. Clean through the rest of the salad, all but one slice of the chachapuri, and all of the charcho. I couldn’t eat another thing, not even a wafer-thin mint. In fact, I needed to sit and settle for about fifteen minutes. After getting the check it was necessary to walk it off a bit just to feel okay. I think I could have done with one less item in retrospect. In fact, I wasn’t hungry again until 1:00 am.
WHY IN HEAVEN’S NAME DID THEY PUT THAT EVERGREEN TREE RIGHT IN FRONT OF THAT SCULPTURE?
LUCKY SHOT AT A BUSY ROUNDABOUT
Machine Gun with your doughnuts? – This Dunkin Donuts didn’t serve jelly donuts! That’s like Cinnabon not serving cinnamon rolls.
NICE CLASSIC ROLLS ROYCE
CLOCKTOWER ABOVE GABRIADZE PUPPET THEATER
KULIANI – Coffee Time – 2017
OLD CITY WALL
MOMA – TBLISI
MOMA – Don’t worry people, this is a real modern art museum and not a disaster like the one on Baku.
BORIS KACHEISHVILI “POLYPHONY”
Boris KACHEISHVILI – A Walk
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Utensil
Boris KACHEISHVILI – White Woman
Boris KACHEISHVILI – My Georgia
Boris KACHEISHVILI – End of the World
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Firebreak
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Artist’s House
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Floating
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Pearly Gates
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Double Portrait
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Georgia
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Flower
Boris KACHEISHVILI – Skirts
ZURAB TSERETELI COLLECTION
Zurab TSERETELI – Wassily Kandinsky Composition
Zurab TSERETELI – Henri Rousseau
Zurab TSERETELI – Vincent Van Gogh
Zurab TSERETELI – Pablo Picasso & Modigliani
Zurab TSERETELI – Henri Matisse
Zurab TSERETELI – Marc Chagall