Georgia: Discovering Tbilisi (Part 1)

Georgia: Discovering Tbilisi (Part 1)

Q: The ultimate in unusual holiday destinations? A: Georgia. In the first instalment of our five part blog series about the undiscovered nation, Amelia finds herself falling under the spell of the captivating city of Tbilisi.


A captivating city...

I start to discover Georgia with Tbilisi, a captivating city and I've already fallen under its spell. The name Tbilisi is derived from Tbili meaning 'warm', and refers to the hot springs that pump out vast quantities of sulphuric water that go straight into the 12oC bathhouses, which are still in use today. The town is surrounded by mountains on three sides and the River Mtkvari meanders lazily through it, making it an easy city to navigate your way around.


The old town...

The old quarter is best explored on foot, and is made up of cobbled streets, alleyways, restaurants, bars, churches and cafes, a few synagogues, a mosque, antique and carpet shops. Dilapidated old houses with elegant lattice work on shutter windows and balconies that appear to be slowly crumbling line the river.

In the early evening, I wandered out to look for something to eat; it was a beautiful evening, lights twinkled, bathing the Sioni church in a pink glow whilst choral singing drifted out of the main door. Blossom trees hung in between the houses, and the smell of street kebabs and hot bread lingered in the air. I found a seat on a bench in an old tram that had been converted into a cafe and sat watching people come and go.

Whilst the Armenians are big on glamour, the Georgians appear more bohemian and artistic, with an effortless easy going attitude. 'We like our women with some flesh' my driver George told me, 'and besides, there are more important things to do than all this running activity like in the west.'


Proposing a toast...

Heading back to my hotel in the dark, I stumbled into a courtyard and a little art gallery where a glass of cognac was thrust into my hand. I was made to sit and then eagerly pressed for my thoughts on Georgia, what Britain thought about Georgia, and what songs I could sing. Mikael brought out a three stringed panduri, which he began to play; singing and endless toasts were made long into the night.

I had been told of the legendary hospitality and lust for food and drink - and found that the Georgians take it pretty seriously. Yet instead of falling over and passing out (which they claim is more of a Russian trait), they appear to maintain composure (just about) and simply continue to sing eat and drink more. When someone proposes a toast, it will be pondered in reverential tones and everyone nods in agreement. Then the drink is downed, glasses are filled, a song is sung and someone else must propose a toast and so it goes on...

For more information on tailor made trips to Georgia, visit Original Travel.