Sunday, July 9, 2017

[TBILISI] One Day in Tbilisi

Tell anyone that you’re in Tbilisi for just a day and they’ll think you’re nuts, and not without reason! There is so much to see in this city. There is so much to see in Georgia, actually. We’re talking about the country, not the US state. But you can actually connect the two if you are a Philippine passport holder because a multiple entry visa from the latter can act as a substitute for the former. In short, fly in anytime until your visa for ‘MURICA expires. This is also the reason why Georgia got the short end of the stick.

For my introduction to the Caucasus, at least. The original plan was two days in Yerevan and two days in Tbilisi. For some reason, though, it felt like the trains and the planes connived in terms of schedule. Long story short, all permutations led to one country getting three days and the other left with just one. I had to choose which was which, and since it’s easier for me to enter Georgia because of the US visa substitute thingy, I decided to award the three days to Yerevan. And you know how that went.

The important thing is I had to make most of that one day and prevent Tbilisi from being Dallas or Panama 2.0. You know those Amazing Race itineraries of mine where I land early in the morning and take off later in the evening, in zombie mode? For Tbilisi I opted to reserve a cheap hostel bunk that I can crash for a couple of hours before my midnight flight. It worked, I guess. I left my luggage there after lunch, went out to explore the city, and had four or five hours of snooze time before taking a cab back to the airport.

So what did I see? I used the metro stations as landmarks. My hostel was at Marjanishvili. The next stop was Rustaveli. In between the two I saw mostly old buildings that look classy and all that. There is an area near my hostel where the streets are cobblestoned and surrounded by shops and restaurants housed in those old buildings. Good location! I needed a new phone cable and I was able to find one there. And then I headed to the bridge for a closer view of the river. Rivers give me peace of mind somehow. Don’t ask.

The walk to Rustaveli was okay. The highlight was obviously the river. Half an hour was enough. However, I think it’s the walk from Rustaveli to Freedom Square that is packed with notable tourist attractions. Shota Rustaveli is one long avenue with even more shops and cafes. There is a museum called Merab Kostava Memorial House next to McDonalds and the metro station. It’s the monument at the center that usually gets the attention here. Go on and cross the road towards the Georgian National Academy of Sciences.

The campus looks legit from the outside but I think tourists will be more interested in the hawkers and what they are selling along the sidewalk. I saw plenty of souvenirs and art on offer but never really asked how much. I’m not really into buying stuff. Baggage issues. I also saw a hostel or two. I guess this area can serve as a good base if you are staying for a few days. It seems central enough and close to the metro station. The cafes also look hip, although I’m not sure if they are legit or just there as tourist traps.

Moving on I passed by the Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tbilisi. Now this one stands out. The architectural style appears to be similar to those you see in Mudéjar architecture. I haven’t been to Southern Spain but I’ve seen photos. They look alike. The façade has yellow and mauve stripes which makes the building hard to ignore. There’s a huge statue of a guy with what appears to be a book that he's stamping. Must be famous, otherwise why put him there!

A few blocks away is Kashueti Church with its simple façade as well as the Parliament, which I suppose is off-limits because there’s a security personnel guarding the entrance. You will see Republic Square itself from here. There’s an obelisk with a golden statue on top flanked by more buildings that make you feel as though you were in Europe, if you count the Caucasus as part of Western Asia, that is. This is where you get off if you take the bus from the airport. It’s not a bad first impression, I’m telling you.

After my early dinner break at Subway, I took a detour and trailed Lado Gudiashvili Street which has a side street leading to Nikoloz Baratashvili St, which in turn leads to a bridge crossing the river. This, I think, is tourist central. Why so? Well, it’s because you have a clear view of the Presidential Palace on the other side of the river. The entirety of Rike Park is also visible thanks to the avant-garde architecture. The roof of the Peace Bridge looks ultra-modern and there’s another building there that looks as futuristic.

Before you cross the Peace Bridge, you might want to explore the area first. There’s a resto there with a tower that has a golden clock on it. This is a favorite spot among camwhores and locals alike. Before crossing the bridge, you’ll already see the hills that play host to a couple of old churches that you can visit via a short cable car ride. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to go. The view from Rike Park’s side is cool, nonetheless.

The closest metro station is Avlabari, which is a few blocks away from Tbilisi Saint Trinity Cathedral. If you search for images of the city on Google, this church is among the most popular results. I snapped a not so flattering photo from afar but begged off the visit. When you get older, you’ll understand the struggle between enough rest and gallivanting. As for me, I’ll make sure to visit Tbilisi again and plan it better. For now, I’m just happy to have a quick look-see and actually ending up loving it.

[TBILISI] One Day in Tbilisi

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