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’ :))

***

IMG_0535 iPhone

A panoramic view of Tbilisi from the top of the funicular

IMG_0089

Bridge of Peace at night

e97cd36a731a2556c0a12176ca4018f3

View of the Music Theater and Exhibition Hall (a.k.a giant metallic tubes) from the Bridge of Peace

IMG_0688

A donation box to raise fund for a church – on the bridge leading to Tbilisi’s very modern Public Service Hall

IMG_0110

IMG_0115

IMG_0302

IMG_0144

Beautiful church doors

IMG_0149

A local woman kissing a church gate before stepping in

IMG_0310

A young priest carrying a bowl of water

IMG_0314

IMG_0317

Locals chit-chatting around Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition

IMG_0538

Various pictures of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary

IMG_1397

The contrast between The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi and a crumbling building nearby

IMG_1406

The facade of The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi

IMG_0270

IMG_0320

Window displays in Tbilisi Old Town. Most Georgians practice Orthodox Christianity, so you can see these religious items in many shops.

IMG_0339

Gorgeous inlaid jewelry

IMG_0196

A beautiful window display at Ambasadori Hotel

IMG_0439

Street deco

IMG_0198

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.

IMG_0168

IMG_0170

The box office of Rezo Gabriadze Theater

IMG_0122

IMG_0123

Beautiful wooden balconies  Tbilisi Old Town

IMG_0202

Not sure what these pipes are for

IMG_0223

IMG_0241

IMG_0259

IMG_0454

IMG_0546

Graffiti in Tbilisi Old Town

IMG_0247

A poster on the street, no idea what it says

IMG_0249

A cobblestone street in Tbilisi Old Town early in the morning

IMG_0258

Colorful signs

IMG_0264

Sweets or spices?

IMG_0267

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.

IMG_0434

IMG_0279

IMG_0288

IMG_0332

A street near Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition full of restaurants and shops

IMG_0230

IMG_0348

IMG_0361

IMG_0364

IMG_0365

IMG_0422

IMG_0425
IMG_0428

IMG_0430

Dilapidated houses in Tbilisi Old Town. I found them really charming.

IMG_0347

IMG_0373

IMG_0381

IMG_0384

IMG_0400

IMG_0413

IMG_0514

Washing lines and balconies

IMG_0588

IMG_0489

IMG_0521

IMG_0530

IMG_0543

IMG_0544

IMG_0660

IMG_0662

IMG_0661

IMG_0672

I took so many photos of balconies in Tbilisi. They are so beautiful!

IMG_1384

The roof top of Tbilisi’s Public Service Hall among old houses

IMG_0582

A charming street corner

IMG_1424

A more well-preserved part of the Old Town. Domes of traditional sulfur bathhouses are in the foreground.

IMG_0705

Christmas market

IMG_0350

A restaurant/bar painted in blue looking totally out of place in the Old Town

IMG_0467

Freedom Square

IMG_1413

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.

IMG_0486

IMG_1412

IMG_1414

IMG_1416

IMG_1417

IMG_1418

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 :))

IMG_1347

The gorgeous facade of Fabrika Hotel. This sewing factory-turned-hotel was opened just a few months ago. A really cool place!

IMG_1350

IMG_1419

Graffiti covering the wall of Fabrika Hotel

IMG_1389

IMG_0352

Lots of cats in Tbilisi

Advertisements