Twenty-one years ago when I first arrived in Tbilisi, the city looked grim. That year my taxi driver needed an advance payment so that he could buy some petrol, then he drove through a dark city on pot-holed roads to get me to the only good hotel in the city,. Then most people had only a few hours of electricity each day, there were no tourists and few stores. I was pleased to see that in 2018 the city was completely transformed. My flight arrived after midnight, At the airport I bought a SIM card for my phone so that I could make calls and have internet access and a taxi drove me to my hotel, a small inexpensive place on Tbilisi's main street, just a block from where I had lived twenty years ago. Though it was after 1 AM, the lights were all on and the streets were hopping with tourists. I had two days before the beginning of my tour. I started by finding my old house which was little changed though the neighborhood now had three big hotels and lots of expensive real estate
My Old House
I was impressed by all the new buildings. Apparently Mikheil Saakashvili (the president shortly after Eduard Shevardnadze) went on a building spree that included public buildings, highways, bridges and public squares.
Public Services Building, the place to go for any permits or business with the government
After checking out the main streets I went up the funicular to see the view of the city and explore an amusement park on top of the mountain.
View of Tbilisi from the top of the funicular
While walking across the Peace Bridge I was invited to sign up for a short cruise up the river. Of course I agreed.
Sunday I took a bus to Vake Park and went up the cable car to Turtle Lake
Not for me!
Monday morning I joined the group that would tour much of Georgia over the next two weeks. There were only seven of us in the group including three from England, two from Italy (one of whom was really Belgian) and an Australian. We began with a walking tour of Old Tbilisi. Our first stop was the Metekhi Church of the Assumption completed in 1284.
From the plaza in front of the church we admired a statue of King Vakhtang I Gorgasali who built a church here 600 years earlier and the view across the river to the old fortress.
Then we walked across the river to explore the old town. We saw what gave Tbilisi its name: In Georgian Tbilisi means warm and there are hot springs right in the center of the city that have for centuries fed bath houses.
Next we visited an old synagogue. The guide explained that Tbilisi had long had a significant Jewish population but that many families have left since independence because the economic situation has been very challenging in Georgia and they can freely go to Israel.
This area of the city continues to have homes in the old style with many balconies.
A large clock tower offered a parade of puppets as the clock struck Noon.
We found many public places with old and new statues.
We got in our bus for the first time and drove to the top of the hill
where the statue of the Mother of Georgia looks down on the city. In
one hand she offers a cup of wine to her visitors while the other holds a
sword to discourage others. We took the cable car back down to the river
and had lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Tuesday morning we piled into our bus and headed for the cave monastery called David Garedja.