Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, is stunning. Dramatic cliff faces plunge into its meandering river, while others staunchly pierce the blue skies above, crowned with steepled churches and rocky forts.
Modern arty structures blend with old wooden cottages. The crumbling, grapevine-strewn, latticed verandas create a picture frame for ancient mosques and bath-houses, solid super-sized Soviet buildings, and gondolas floating through the air.
A synagogue stands forthrightly where it has for over a century, a modern wine shop nearby celebrates Georgia’s proud wine-making tradition, and restaurants boast food from the Caucasus, the mountainous and disputed area to the country’s north. Strings of grapejuice coated walnuts and other combinations hang in windows and make good snacks on the go.
Museums and art galleries, snowy parks and Christmas lights going up all around complete the scene for our early December visit. Warm sticks of bread for breakfast start our days of happy wandering. A priest in a hillside chapel spontaneously gave us a bottle of wine… perhaps to hurry us on our way! The candle-lit sanctuary was a warm break from the cold outside!
Overlooking it all is Kartlis Deda, aka Mother of Kartli – a buxom, statuesque woman holding “a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand [… ] a sword for those who come as enemies.” (Wikipedia) Her aluminium frame stands 20 metres tall and she was erected in 1958 to celebrate the city’s 1500th anniversary (although the region is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th Millenium BC).
Standing on the east-west trade routes between Europe and Asia, Tblisi not only has a long history of strategic importance which continues to this day, but also a charming mix of cultures, cuisines and constructions, coupled with a hearty hospitality which makes this town a real gem not to be missed!
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