5 nights in Tbilisi Georgia
Day trips to Kazbegi and Armenia
I am writing this post from one of the most pleasant places I've ever opened my laptop. It is 8:30 pm, sitting on a second-floor balcony of the Albatros four room, family run Inn, on the Greek Island of Symi. I see the Greek flag waving on the hill above me. A couple of doors down a harmonica player is entertaining. At the end of the narrow alley, glimpses of the tall ships docked at the harbour come into view. I have a glass of red from the island of Crete in front of me. If words don't flow tonight I'm not sure they ever will :) Cannot wait to tell you about it, but first Tbilisi in Georgia.
On another recommendation from Emma and Simon, we made the journey to Georgia, the second former Soviet country on this leg of our travels. We decided to spend five nights in the capital city, Tbilisi and planned a couple of day trips.
Where to stay in Tbilisi?
The cab driver at the airport quoted us above the going rate so we bailed and hopped on a bus instead of a 1/60 of the cost. It was a short walk from the bus stop to our hotel in the Old Town at Maidan Square. Hotel Rasta was modern, comfortable and had a very friendly and courteous staff. We booked through Expedia and paid just over CAD $100 per night. We would certainly recommend this location in Old Town Tbilisi, which is quaint and in close proximity to attractions.
Things to do in Tbilisi
On the first morning, I ventured out for a walk before the city woke. This is something I have neglected and vow to do more often. Dogs roam freely in the city and for a brief moment, I thought I was being followed by a group of barking dogs. As it happens they had no interest in me and were merely chasing each other.
Later in the morning, we took a gondola to the ancient fortress Narikala, which provides great views of Tbilisi. After coffee we moved on to Tbilisi St. Trinity Cathedral, a Georgian Orthodox cathedral, opened in 2004, which can house up to 15,000 worshippers. The feature photos above is from St. Trinity. It was burning hot but we enjoyed wandering around this enchanting city. Georgia is where Europe meets Asia. Mix that up with impressions from the Middle East and you have an exciting cocktail.
Restaurants in Tbilisi
We enjoyed traditional Georgian cuisine at Culinarium Khasheria at the cost of CAD $15 per person. We sampled coffees, croissants and breakfast buffets at various Cafés at Maidan Square. Prices were reasonable at about CAD $10 per person for breakfast. We often share our main course for dinners. Not only do we save on the travel budget but we often find two main courses will leave us completely stuffed. A favourite here is Khinkali, a Georgian dumpling originated in the Georgian mountain regions. On our day trip to Kazbegi, we tried making our own.
Kazbegi from Tbilisi
Our first day trip went to the Kazbegi District north of Tbilisi. Heading into the Caucasus Mountains we had hoped to see unspoiled nature and perhaps even see the peak of Mount Kazbek, elevation 5033 meters. Emma and Simon had forewarned us about the drivers in Georgia. They are in a hurry and will use every trick in the book to get where they are going as fast as possible. When sightseeing, it did take away from the enjoyment but our driver wasn't the only one in a hurry. In a strange way, traffic just had a different pattern here with cars constantly hanging out in the middle of the road passing other cars with impeccable precision. Even though we were on a two-lane highway / old military road. The road was much busier than anticipated with a steady stream of tourist buses, vans, cabs and heavy trucks from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. This is a major route and a new four-lane highway is under construction to make the journey easier (safer?) and lighten the load on the old road. The highlight of the day was a wonderful Georgian lunch enjoyed at a small guest house in Kazbegi. Di especially enjoyed Khinkali cooking lesson, a new favourite.
Our second day trip went to Armenia. (separate blog post).