TbilisiDay 118 Sunday 15th May 2016 – Aktau to Tbilisi
Old Town centre
Just about leapt out of bed this morning in anticipation of leaving Kazakhstan and moving onto Georgia. Breakfast at the hotel was the usual rubbish so we just settled for a cup of coffee and tea. On checking out “chuckles” was so excited to see us go that she even broke out into a smile, I just wished I had my camera handy for the rare event. A taxi got us to the airport within 30 minutes and we got ourselves checked through without any dramas and was on the plane by 12.40 flying back to Almaty. Had real trouble getting the flights we wanted and the best we could do in getting from Aktau to Tbilisi was a double flight. It is only 50 minutes by plane from Aktau to Tbilisi, but we had to fly 3 hours back to Almaty and then 4 hours from there to Tbilisi – the problem with leaving things to the last minute.
Got to Almaty and then had to go through Border Control to get to our flight and the process to leave the country
Clock Tower outside the Marionette Theatre
took longer than getting in, and I thought they may have been happy to see us off. Had 2 hours wait at the airport for our flight and managed to use up the last of our Kazak money on a couple of beers. I would really like someone to explain to me why food and beers cost at least 4 times more than outside the airport, I can understand a small mark up but nearly all airports gouge to eye watering levels and Almaty is up there with the best of them.
The next flight took off at 6.30 and was only 4 hours and we arrived at Tbilisi at 9.40pm local time. Both flights today were absolute shockers as the aircraft was so stuffy and hot and we both got off the plane dripping in perspiration. Really annoyed how they don’t turn on the humidifiers on in the plane or actually have a temperature set to a more moderate level. The only amusing thing about our flight was an old boy sitting in front of us trying to sweet talk the airhostess in giving him a whole bottle of white wine. Passport control was a breeze
Modern buildings of Tbilisi
with no paperwork, except that the woman at the counter asking me where I had just come from, and being in a tired state and travelled so much she might as well as asked me to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity. Had a complete mental blank and Shelley was behind me trying to whisper the answer when the woman decided to help me and said “was it Almaty”, Eureka yes that was it “yes Almaty”.
Once through customs with our bags the rest of the terminal was utter chaos with lots and lots of people standing around waiting for friends and/or relatives, taxi touts, hotel touts and in fact it felt as if half the town had turned up just to get in the way. Pushing a trolley with our bags through this lot wasn’t easy or much fun but we did manage to get some money from an ATM and get out to the taxi rank. A guy was trying desperately to make us follow him so he could take us into town in his Mercedes but we just wanted a legitimate taxi and so finally got rid of him and haggled a price with a
Dry Bridge Markets
city taxi. The guy with the Merc could have possibly been cheaper but tonight I didn’t want the extra hassle sometimes these guys can give you.
Our hotel is in the centre of the old town and as our taxi made its way through the streets, all we kept saying was “wow”. All the old churches and the city fort was flood lit and the streets were filled with crowded bars and restaurants, it looked incredible. Staying at the Tbiliseli Hotel in a quiet backstreet and we were very thankful that our taxi driver knew the place and was able to get us to the front door without getting lost. Our room is clean and tidy, but tiny and filled with useless furniture, with no room to even put our bags anywhere. We half thought about going out on the town but as it was 11.30 and we were both dead tired we opted to fall into bed. Day 119 Monday 16th May 2016 – Tbilisi
Breakfast at our hotel doesn’t start till 9am so there was no need to leap out of bed early
and we sort of get the feeling in this town everyone parties late and then sleeps in late. I was so tired that I managed to sleep in till 8.30 without any worries before getting up for a fairly modest breakfast. Whilst getting ready we lost power and Shelley then managed to hit her head against some protruding taps in the darkened bathroom after showering, didn’t manage to knock herself out which only goes to prove how thick her head is. Overcast morning and by the time we got out the door it was drizzling. Went for a long walk down the slippery cobblestoned streets checking out all the shops and the vibe. It felt good to be in a vibrant interesting city again except the prices for everything was a lot higher than we have been used to. Shelley walked around giving herself mini heart attacks looking over the prices on jewelleryand souvenirs. 1 Australian dollar is equal to 1.65 Georgian Lari (GEL) so we had to get our calculator out a lot so as to work it out.
It started to rain so we stopped at a café and got a coffee and when it
Rooftops of Tbilisi
stopped we decided to move on. Ten minutes down the road and it started to pour and we had to seek shelter under a shop awning, and it had us wishing we had stayed at the café for another coffee or cake. The rain was torrential for about twenty minutes before it eased and we could continue our walk. Picked up some local pastry “thingys” one filled with meat another with potato which were pretty good, but the clouds came back and so before it rained again decided to head back to our room for a bit.
Tbilisi has a few tourist streets that are free of cars and are lined with restaurants and bars. In the late afternoon we settled into the KGB bar for a few beers and stayed for dinner. I (Scott) settled for the Georgian specialty of a Khachapuri Acharuli, which is a large boat shaped pie/pizza (high brimmed Turkish Pide) filled to the brim with melted cheese and a runny egg and a large dob of butter floating on the top. Absolutely fabulous although it probably should have come with a defibrillator as I could feel my arteries hardening as I ate
it. Day 120 Tuesday 17th May 2016 – Tbilisi
Over breakfast this morning the woman who runs the hotel came into the dining room and declared she was going to give us a traditional Georgian breakfast and then proceeded to give us a large chilled glass of red wine. We had both just finished eating and was about to leave and sat there looking at a glass of red wine thinking “really? Should we have this for breakfast?”, when one of the guests asked "for breakfast" to which she responded "it's good for your blood" - Oh well I guess, when in Rome. And you know by the time we finished it I am convinced the Georgians are on to something, and I think from now on I might do a glass of red every morning, providing I am not driving or operating heavy machinery.
After our merry start to the day we wanted to hit the streets and see the town in total and so went for a long walk up the main drag taking in all the old buildings and sites. Got to see the
ye olde opera house and theatre as well as the old Parliament building. Decided to stop for a coke and a small feed at a café and ended up with a horrid lunch that we wished we hadn’t ordered. Shelley wanted something slightly heathy than what we have been having lately and ordered a simple chicken kebab with flat bread and salad but got a processed chicken thing filled with cheese and a side order of chips – I don’t even bother trying being healthy and just went a cheese pizza and therefore don’t feel disappointed. Whilst we chewed down our food the streets emptied of cars and a parade went past us which was the World Congress of Families doing a walk through the town as they have some sort of meeting in Tbilisi. Never heard of these freaks before and had to look them up on the internet to discover they are a bunch of intolerant idiots that should crawl back under the rock they came from, but I guess they have a right to disrupt traffic. The only thing that makes me happy is that they are such a minority and hopefully interbreeding should reduce their numbers.
Once the circus had passed us we continued our walk and found our way to the Dry Bridge markets which is a sprawling smallish market that extends down a few streets with people selling antiques and bric a brac on the footpaths. There was everything from artwork, to traditional Georgian antiques, to car parts to Soviet military medals. We both saw heaps of stuff we were tempted on trying to haggle on but being unsure of its true value and the thought of trying to haul it home stopped us. We did see mountains of some of the ugliest crockery we have ever had the misfortune to see, and was tempting to buy so we could either rightly destroy or to pass on to family as Christmas presents, but alas will have to find something less fragile to distribute under the Christmas tree.
From here we decided to visit the Nariqala Fortress that overlooks Tbilisi, could have hiked up the hill but some genius has built a chairlift that got us to the top for 1 Gel each ($0.64). The chairlift is a bit of an eyesore hanging over the town but it saved
Statue of Shota Rustaveli
my knees and gives a great view over the town. Once at the top we visited the Kartlis Deda (mother Georgia), which is a 20m high Aluminum statue of a woman holding a sword and a cup of wine. Not sure that alcohol and sharp weapons should be mixed, but the statement that it represents that Georgia welcomes guests yet passionately defends itself against enemies is loud and clear. Next to the tin woman was the Nariqala Fort which is a 4th
Century Persian Fort that was utterly destroyed in 1827 when the Russian munitions that was stored there were ignited. Clambered all over the remains of the ramparts right up to the pinnacle before making our way back into the town.
It had been an extremely hot day so we made our way back to the hotel for an hour of air con before going out to dinner at 6. The place we chose wasn’t exactly the best and had elevator clarinet music playing that was appalling so we didn’t linger long and so headed home early. Thought we were moving on tomorrow but when we checked our bookings discovered we had stuffed up and had
Dry Bridge Markets street stalls
an extra day in Tbilisi. Annoyed with ourselves for making the mistake but not worried about staying here another day; much better here than Aktau, and looking forward to another glass of red wine over breakfast. Day 121 Wednesday 18th May 2016 – Tbilisi
Different woman on kitchen duty this morning so no red wine – damn. Slow start today but once we hit the streets the first thing we did was head to a hairdresser we had spotted yesterday so I could get my mop cut off. The woman who did the job looked like she could throw tractors as a hobby and cut my hair with perhaps the oldest set of hair clippers I have ever seen. I am sure the clippers were a modified set of sheep shearing clippers form the 1930’s and they plucked my head hair more than cut them, but my hairdresser was a professional and she did a great job.
After my hair cut we went on a long walk taking in the city churches. Really love the churches in this city as they have a great atmosphere,
Dry Bridge Markets typical offerings
are not gaudy and dripping in gold like some churches, and the painted scenes don’t depict the murder of saints and scenes of hell but just simple biblical scenes and the heads of saints. Nothing said that we couldn’t take photos but we restrained as people were praying so you will have to take our word that they were very beautiful. On our walk we discovered another tourist car free street that had a marionette theatre and a modern eccentric leaning clocktower surrounded with heaps of cafes and so we stopped for a coke. Mid afternoon the clouds grew darker and it started to drizzle so we headed home, and just in time as it was soon pouring. The rain continued till 6pm, and when it eased a bit we dashed back to the clocktower area and settled into a bar for some beers and a feed. The rain came and went through the evening and predictably as we went it started to pour so we had a very damp dash back home. We have loved our stay in Tbilisi, but it is time for us to see some more of Georgia so tomorrow we head into the country, would
The Old Government Building
be sad to leave this city but in a few days we will be back again.
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