My friend Risto has been working in Georgia (the one very very far from Atlanta) for 3 years and he’s been inviting me to visit him ever since. As he is leaving the country already this summer for a more interesting place, I decided to use the last chance and make a quick visit to Tbilisi.
I understand why Tbilisi is sometimes called the pearl of the Causasus (as are Baku and some other cities in the region too – they have many pearls). It is a truly beautiful city with nice old town and other historic sites, yet you could also see very modern architecture here and there. You could tell that being the only democracy in the region, the country has been doing rather well.
The traffic culture is substandard. Pedestrians should be really careful here – nobody, I mean nobody, stops their car in front of pedestrian crossing. When there is green traffic light on, most of the cars do stop to let you cross the street. But you’re still better off watching around carefully and moving rather quickly. The cars do not follow even the “Give way” signs – if you still have enough time to brake, I can make my manouver whatever it is. I also saw multiple situation with cars going the wrong way on one way street.
To my surprise I found that my Russian language is good enough to manage and even hold conversations about politics with taxi drivers. My modest level in russian language has been holding me back in travelling in former USSR region, but now I realised that it has been yet another ghost problem really. So there will be more former Soviet countries coming soon. Taxi drivers love Ivanishvili by the way.
We went for a jog with Risto a couple of times. There are some parks where you can do that and you see there also other runners. All of them are foreigners though – running is not something that georgians would do themselves. During my stay I did see a few georgians run – while crossing the street. So they do care about their health to some extent.
Local food is…different. In the couple of times we went out I had the opportunity to try most of the local stuff out. Hinkali is meat-lovers dream – a giant dumpling full of minced meat. Hatšapuri is basically a pizza with cheese as the only topping it has. And it has a lot of it. Big Mac is for sissies, McDonalds would envy if they knew how many empty calories can Georgians pack into single dish of Hatšapuri. I was polite and finished the only piece I took.
Today we went to walk around a bit in the mountains near Aserbaidzan border and tomorrow there will be celebrations. It’s the birthday of Republic of Estonia, after all.