One of my favourite cities ever!
Trip Start Sep 19, 2009
16Trip End Oct 10, 2009
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So I took a night train from Gyumri to Tbilisi. The trip took some 8 hours, again three times more than with a car but much more fun. Plus I saved a night when I spent it in train. There were two of us in the cabin for four, my "roommate" didn't talk much nor caused any trouble for me. The electricity was out from our room and the train was a bit run-down, but everything went fine, and in the morning I woke up in Tbilisi train station
When I get off the train all I knew was the street I was going to, where Gina's Guesthouse was located on. I didn't know how to get there, or whre the train station was. I was a bit scared wondering in the train station, because I had heard several stories how dangerous Tbilisi. Thankfully, an english speaking guy/taxi driver came to talked to me and said he knows where the street was where I was going to. Surely I had to pay him more than I would pay to normal taxi, but at the moment I didn't care, I just wanted to go to the guesthouse, be safe and sleep a bit. And so i did. Btw, the reputation of Tbilisi being dangerous turned out to be false. I had no trouble there at all, even when I was walking alone at night. And people said the place is safe now, but wasn't before. It felt safe, just like any other major European city. But the reputation was hanging in my mind, which in part probably made me more careful.
Driving from the station along Rustaveli Avenue to the edge of the old town was fantastic. I had no idea that Tbilisi's main avenue, Rustaveli, could rival with those in central Europe
I took a metro (more modern and with much more stations than the one in Yerevan) to Republic Square where Rustaveli avenue started (and where they have the only McDonalds in Tbilisi) and decided to walk it down where it ends - Freedom Square on the edge of the old town where the guesthouse was. I wanted to walk this avenue which was so much more than I expected in Tbilisi. All the houses were renovated, the street was clean and it was bustling with people, restaurants, cafes and shops - and of course some churches, those are the trademark of Tbilisi, churches churches churches. Georgia is the second oldest Christian country in the world, after Armenia
After walking down Rustaveli and after visiting some museum not worth visiting, I went to the narrow streets of the famous old town. And how lovely it was! I most definately wasn't expecting this nice of an old town in Tbilisi. It was nice for a change - it's not a european style old city, it's not an asian style old city, it's not an arabic style old city, it's one of it's kind, it's completely georgian. So it was completely new for me. The houses have distictive balconies which gives them a unique appearence. I am fascinated with run-down buildings (don't ask me why!) so which was especially interesting in the old town was that about half of it was renovated really nicely, and about half was still run-down. Perfect combination. Some of the streets were completely run-down and some of the streets were completely renovated, but mostly it was completely random! Renovated buildings and run-down buildings next to each other, or even one house with upper part renovated and lower part run-down! It was a world of contrasts. The two or three main restaurant and bar streets in old Tbilisi were in excellent condition and one of the most atmospheric and lovely city environments where I have ever been to. But they were only a few, and they were short. Nonetheless. Lovely.
I stayed in Tbilisi the next day and wondered around the city and its attractions. I visited almost all of the main churches - there's a huge difference in the number of churches between Tbilisi and Yerevan. I didn't yet see the new main church of Tbilisi, but the most interesting churches I visited were the oldest church in Tbilisi, Anchiskhati Church built in 6th century and one of the main churches, Sioni Cathedral nearby Anchiskhati Church, which was majestetic, atmospheric and absolutely full of people
Most of the day I spent in the old town and went accross the bridge to the other side, which was kind of a mixture of old town and new town. Mshketi church on the river bank was especially impressive, as was the area surrounding it with lots of small, colourful boutique hotels. Every step I walked in Tbilisi I learned to like it more. There is lot of renovating that needs to be done, but it's well on it's way and, anyway, I like my cities a bit run-down. Or I like them as mixtures of nice and not-so-nice, and Tbilisi if any city is exactly that. Well, the center that is, I hardly explored other areas of the city because the center (old+new) was big enough itself.