A few things I've learned in my first 3 days in Tbilisi. I wrote a post like this after the first 12 hours and most of those things have since been proven wrong, so these are all subject to change ;-)
It's not a meal without bread.
Bread is the tortilla of Georgia. It comes in many forms - stuffed with cheese, topped with an egg, shaped like an oar. Breakfast, lunch and dinner - it's all got bread. (Patricia, if you're reading this - Georgia may be your happy place!)
|Lobiani (beans in a clay pot, topped with dense cornbread - bread #1); khachapuri (bread stuffed with cheese topped with more cheese - bread #2; tomato and cucumber salad (for bread relief); not pictured: pork shashlik (kebab), served with bread #3. |
They love Americans.
|This place sells bread and popcorn out of a basement for 80 tetri (less than 40 cents).|
Today in the market, I got a thumbs up when I told a lady I was from America. This is a new one for me! Often when traveling, Americans will claim to be Canadians instead because of the reputation that America has around the world. Not in Georgia! I asked a Georgian about this, and he said that, ever since living under Soviet Occupation, they have always seen American democracy as the dream - the opposite of Russian Communism. The former president was such a big fan of America that he named a highway after George W. Bush (there's a big billboard with his face on it... first thing I saw on the way in from the airport. Cab driver pointed it out proudly - "Do you recognize him?". Maybe the only place that GW is not reviled.)
Georgia does not feel like a Developing Country.
The classification of countries - first/second/third world, developed/developing - is problematic, but nonetheless Georgia is technically classified as "developing" according to their GDP. While Georgia is still certainly working on improving their economy post-occupation, they already appear to have made great improvements in quality of life, at least in Tbilisi. Tap water is safe to drink, the metro is cheap ($0.25 per ride) and easy to navigate, the city feels safe (no men with guns outside of banks or Baskin Robbins!), wifi is everywhere. Perhaps my favorite (aside from the tap water) - they have these kiosks all over the city where you can pay your electric bill, top up your mobile phone, and do all sorts of other things without having to go to 10 different places. Brilliant.
It's actually the perfect combination for foreign travelers right now - safe and accessible, but still incredibly affordable.
Everywhere is uphill.
|An old Soviet apartment block, with a metro station in front and a new cathedral behind. |
Less insightful, but important to know. Everywhere in this city involves walking up fairly steep hills. Both ways. In 90+ degree heat. I didn't pack well for this weather. But I am very much appreciating the views from above!
|The road to my hostel, and to the Fortress.|
|view from the hostel roof|
|View of Old Town Tbilisi from across the river.|
|View from the rooftop at night. The church on the right was built in the 4th century; the one farther back on the left was built after the Soviets left and Georgians were allowed to practice their religion (Georgian Orthodox) again. I love the contrast of the old and the new on the skyline. |
So far, I'm really enjoying learning about this new place, wandering the cobblestone back streets of Old Town, and practicing my Georgian with unsuspecting market vendors! I have a couple more days in Tbilisi, and then later this week I'll head up to the mountains to escape the heat and do some trekking.
We are loving your pictures! Any sense of how women are treated in the country? Will you ride the tram? I have seen no meat mentioned. I imagine it's a big part of the Georgian diet. And do they like Obama? So many questions! Stay safe! <3ReplyDelete
As seen in Instagram last night, meat is a big part of the diet here - but it's also quite easy to eat vegetarian since bread, dairy and eggplant are other staples. Even the dumplings come in vegetarian versions, with mushrooms or potatoes. Will not ride the tram - I walked up there today instead. So sweaty! Not sure yet about the gender or Obama questions - will have to do some research! No catcalls, though, which is nice!Delete
I'm insanely jealous. You have no idea. Absolutely no idea. Please find a courtyard where fifteen people are collected with bottles of spirits, everyone playing squeezeboxes and tubas and singing their little hearts out, and stay until the wee hours. For me.ReplyDelete
l can totally picture you here, Brendan! Cheap liquor served in smoky dark restaurants, and plentiful cheap vegetation food! I will do my best to find a tuba for you.ReplyDelete