2016 was a year of random travel and last-minute trips. After an amazing experience in Iran in Feb, a hiking exercise in Nepal in late Apr, a very quiet second half of the year applying for a new role and relocating to Singapore, and a few crazy weeks at the end of Nov-early Dec full of panic, agony and disappointment when all my Xmas travel plans were ruined, I somehow found myself getting on a plane to Georgia. Not Georgia state in USA, but Georgia, the country at the edge of Europe.
I did not know what to expect of Georgia. I heard so many conflicting opinions of the country before the trip. An ex-colleague of mine worked on a project in Georgia a few years back, and seemed to love it. My boss commented ‘Why would you like to go there? It is in ruin.’ A colleague from Russia said Georgia was great. Some questioned my random choice of holiday destinations while I’m practically a short flight away from so many fantastic beaches in Asia. Others simply gave me puzzling looks when I mentioned the name Georgia. But Georgia turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
Situating at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Georgia has been invaded and influenced by dominant neighbors throughout its history – Roman, Mongol, Persian, Ottoman, and Russian empires. Each ruler left their own mark in Georgia, resulting in a melting pot of ethnic diversity and a beautiful symphony of cultural interplay. It is fascinating to see how those contrasts coexist in such a harmony, especially in the capital Tbilisi. Its old town’s labyrinth of twisting narrow streets charms visitors with elegant Art Nouveau architecture, delicate latticework, and crumbling brick houses. Washing lines decorate wooden balconies and empty courtyards, and in many cases are the only sign that people still live in those near-collapsing buildings. Just across the big road on the bank of Mtkavari River stand the futuristic looking Bridge of Peace, Public Service Hall, and Music Theater and Exhibition Hall. Historic sulfur bathhouses sit next to chic boutique hotels. Cars with left and right steering wheels share the same roads. Farmers sell their home-grown fruits and vegetables, plucked chicken and freshly chopped pig carcass on the streets right across a shiny McDonald store. Stray dogs and cats cast lazy looks at passers-by. On the streets, over-speeding is the norm. And smokers are everywhere, even in indoor spaces. Churches are full on Sun morning, while a contemporary exhibition displays photos of youth with provoking captions such as ‘I want to be a prostitute for a day. I want to have sex with Mikheil Saakashvilli (*former president of Georgia). I want to walk the streets naked for a day. I want a guy who won’t make the relationship serious’ :))
A panoramic view of Tbilisi from the top of the funicular
Bridge of Peace at night
View of the Music Theater and Exhibition Hall (a.k.a giant metallic tubes) from the Bridge of Peace
A donation box to raise fund for a church – on the bridge leading to Tbilisi’s very modern Public Service Hall
Beautiful church doors
A local woman kissing a church gate before stepping in
A young priest carrying a bowl of water
Locals chit-chatting around Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition
Various pictures of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary
The contrast between The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi and a crumbling building nearby
The facade of The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi
Window displays in Tbilisi Old Town. Most Georgians practice Orthodox Christianity, so you can see these religious items in many shops.
Gorgeous inlaid jewelry
A beautiful window display at Ambasadori Hotel
Rezo Gabriadze Theater’s charming cafe. The white items are traditional Georgian Christmas tree called chichilaki. It is made of long curly wood shavings topped with a cross and decorated with berries and flowers. After Georgian Christmas (7 Jan), chichilaki is burned, symbolizing misfortunes going up in smoke.
The box office of Rezo Gabriadze Theater
Beautiful wooden balconies Tbilisi Old Town
Not sure what these pipes are for
Graffiti in Tbilisi Old Town
A poster on the street, no idea what it says
A cobblestone street in Tbilisi Old Town early in the morning
Sweets or spices?
The colorful candle-shaped candies in the background are called churchkhela, Georgia’s traditional sweets made of walnut dipped in concentrated grape juice and left to dry. Very healthy and tasty.
A street near Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition full of restaurants and shops
Dilapidated houses in Tbilisi Old Town. I found them really charming.
Washing lines and balconies
I took so many photos of balconies in Tbilisi. They are so beautiful!
The roof top of Tbilisi’s Public Service Hall among old houses
A charming street corner
A more well-preserved part of the Old Town. Domes of traditional sulfur bathhouses are in the foreground.
A restaurant/bar painted in blue looking totally out of place in the Old Town
Firecrackers for sales. Walking the streets of Tbilisi on New Year’s Eve was a terrifying experience for me because of random and fierce firecrackers thrown around by local youths.
Locals selling vegetables, fruits, pickles, cheese and meat on the streets of Tbilisi. These two guys had an axe on the table, ready to serve their customers :))
The gorgeous facade of Fabrika Hotel. This sewing factory-turned-hotel was opened just a few months ago. A really cool place!
Graffiti covering the wall of Fabrika Hotel
Lots of cats in Tbilisi