So here we are: the last entry to our travel to Georgia. Georgia is one of the countries I went to that I wanted to go back; the sooner the better. I wanted to see Georgia during spring or autumn. More of the latter, and it’s coming soon. It’s just a very beautiful country and I’m extremely grateful to have seen the country in its winter splendor with friends that I love. I wish I can go back with my family next time. Okay, so our last day in Georgia is the tour of Tbilisi. This time, we were led by our tour guide, Tata. Our breakfast is the same schedule as the other days (and honestly the food are the same as the other days, haha). We were on the same van we used the day before on our tour to Gudauri. But this time, we’ll just tour the city and see the sights we’ve been passing by the first two days of our stay.
We went to the Holy Trinity Cathedral first. This church, commonly called Sameba, is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Tbilisi. It was constructed from 1995 to 2004 and has the distinction of being one of the largest religious buildings in the world by total area. It is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world (the first being the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Russia followed by the St. Isaac’s Cathedral in Sts. Peterburg, Russia). When we ventured inside, there was an ongoing ceremony and we didn’t want to intrude with our cameras so we just gazed at the marble floors and mural paintings. Natural materials are said to have been used for the construction of this church that is built in Elia Hill.
The church complex has the main cathedral church, its bell tower, a monastery, a seminary, and others. But what took our interest (us, being tourists, as usual) is the church ground that provided us with a sweeping panoramic view of the city. It was so good standing up there with the cold wind in our faces. It was freezing up there but it was such a wonderful feeling. We gulped the cold air like there was no tomorrow and enjoyed taking our selfies and groufies (ano pa nga ba, hahaha).
After a few minutes, we bid goodbye to the cathedral and went to the walking part of the city tour. Wear comfortable shoes when you’re already in this leg of the trip because there are some serious walking involved, haha. The strength of our legs were tested here and I realized here that I needed to down more calcium if I want to be able to travel further in my life. Hahah! That, or my huge bruises from the paraglide we did the day before are already acting up. Anyway, we walked to the Rezo Gabriadze Theatre next. Because it was early in the morning, the theatre is closed and we can only breathe in the soul and art of the place from outside. The building is in the heart of Tbilisi’z historic Old Town, which is very apt as this embodies the passion that is put into this small marionette theater. It looked like a hodge podge of all things not from this decade.
The Gabriadze Theater is an iconic cultural institution, not only in Georgia, but the entire world. The company, under the direction of noted artist, writer, and director Rezo Gabriadze, presents mature puppet performances. When we were there, their repertoire included “Ramona.”
We walked further and saw this beautiful bridge from afar. Actually, we’ve been seeing this bow-shaped bridge for the past few days that we’ve been traveling in Tbilisi. We inquired about it with our tour guides and they said we will see it closely once we go on our Day Tour of the city. Ergo, this day when we finally got to walk and cross it. This bridge is known as the Bridge of Peace (Mshvidobis Khidi), a pedestrian bridge made of steel and glass and illuminated with LEDs that connects the riversides of the Kura River, an east-flowing river south of the Greater Caucasus Mountains (if you remember our trip to Mtskheta on our first day, we already saw this river from above). The 150-meter bridge literally connects the old and the new and modern Tbilisi. It features a curvy steel and glass canopy top that shimmers with an interactive light display at night. Seeing it in the morning is just as awesome!
We walked to the nearby Riki Park and “played” chess with its life-sized pieces and our friend “played” the a piano that is larger than life! Just walking in this park with the fresh and crisp air around us feels sooooo good! We love the atmosphere of the place but don’t be surprised if beggar children come running to you. They don’t easily give up, guys. Anyway, we walked towards the cable car station and we were giddy with excitement. Again, we’ve been seeing the cable car from afar since Day 1 and now, we finally get to experience it.
What a wonderful view! I’ll let the pictures do the talking for now.
The cable car leads to the Narikala Fortress which overlooks the city of Tbilisi. Before exploring it though, we went to see Kartiis Deda, a statue designed by Georgian sculptor Elguja Amashukeli and erected in 1958 on top of Sololaki Hill to commemorate Tbilisi’s 1500th anniversary. The 20-meter aluminim figure of a woman in a Georgian national dress symbolizes the Georgian national character: her left hand is holding a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies. How’s that for hospitality? We come to admire the Georgian’s gentle and daring nature.
After seeing Lady Georgia, we followed our group to a steep slope. We were walking up wondering what beautiful, amazing view is awaiting us after we navigate ourselves with so much effort in the slippery slope. We had to walk arm in arm with friends just to be able to keep ourselves from sliding down the sandy, gravel-ly path… only to come up and discover that we were going to a… toilet. Hahaha! It turned out almost everyone in the group wanted to use the restroom already. The friends and I proceeded to the walled section of the Narikala Fortress. The fortress was established in 4th century. It was a bit dangerous climbing the walls because they look unstable. It provided a good view of the city though. We wanted to go inside the recently restored St. Nichols Church and decorated with frescoes but there was an ongoing mass and we didn’t want to disturb just so we can take photos.
By this time, we were already tired and hungry and Tata, our tour guide, informed us that we’re going down already. Uhmn, you mean riding the cable car again?! No. Walking! Climbing down stairs that are steep with uneven steps. Woohooo! Again, we had to check on each other to keep ourselves from being clumsy. It’s hard when you’re trying to go against the force of gravity you know, haha. When one of us stumbles down, who knows what will happen to the rest? Haha! Again, we were in the last of the pack because we know, we’re slow and we will slow the others down if we’re in front. (I cannot stress “use comfy shoes” enough.)
After traversing the downward steps, we come to an even landing: a souvenir shop in Meidan Square, the heart of the old Tbilisi town. We took quite some time picking out souvenirs for families and friends.
After that came some more walking to the ancient Abanotubani district where the famed sulphur baths of Georgia were. The baths have domed rooftops and inside are sulphur springs that, according to legend, enticed King Vakhtang Georgasali to settle in the land and declare it as a capital city in the 5th century. Sulphur baths are believed to be relaxing and healing. I knew we should experienced a sulphur bath in Georgia (to match the hilariously awkward Moroccan bath we had in Marrakech) but we didn’t have ample time to do so. I am clingy with my winter wear and don’t want to part with it, haha!
We visited a frozen falls and along the way we saw a small bridge loaded with love locks. Awww so nice! We didn’t have locks during that time and we weren’t with our husbands anyway so it seems not necessary to leave our names on locks there. Haha! There were many people in the falls and we couldn’t get a nice picture of the frozen water so we just spent a few minutes and left. Also, our tummies are rumbling and we can’t wait to EAT!!! Haha!
We walked back to Meidan Square (along the way, I couldn’t help but order a huge glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice… SO SWEET!) and guess where we ate? The restaurant that eluded us on our first night: Machakhela. It is quite a popular restaurant with tourists because of its Tbilisan interior featuring reproductions of Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani’s works. We settled on table in the basement and ordered and ate to our hearts’ contents again. The table of my friends’ and I were filled with food, we were already getting stares from other diners. Hahaha, kiber?!
After a hearty lunch, we were driven to the nearby station of the funicular. The Tbilisi funicular takes people up to Mt. Mtsaminda. For those who are afraid of heights, you can do this! Haha! It gives a spectacular view of the city but it can give you knots in your stomach too. Relax and enjoy the views!
The Mtsaminda Amusement Park will greet you at the end of the funicular station. It has lots of rides and attractions for adults and kids but they are best enjoyed in the spring or summer. During winder, the paths are icy and slippery and us, your lolas of Riyadh, haha, were slipping once in a while. Good thing, we didn’t end up landing in our butts. We only rode the ferris wheel in the park. This ferris wheel is one of the few things you can see far below in the city center. Anyone can ride this (I mean it’s no match for the paragliding we did) but it can still make those with fear of height tremble. The ferris wheel turns slowly so guests can enjoy the view. After riding here, we met up with the rest of the tour group and rode the funicular again to the city below.
We also walked in the Rustaveli Avenue where most stores of designer brands are. There was nothing much to see apart from a demonstration in the middle of the street. There were tv network vans and cameras every where. We were on the other side of the street and we were looking on like the outsiders that we are sighing in relief that we are not in the heart of that demonstration… until Tata led us to an underground tunnel to cross the street! Lol. When we went out on the ground, we were already in the middle of the crowd inching our way to the stairs leading down to the Tbilisi’s underground metro. Their station was so deep that looking at the escalator going down made me light-headed. We couldn’t afford to stop or think first of what we’re doing because everyone was walking so fast! And the crowd behind us were already moving towards the escalator pushing us along. There was not a moment to be missed or else, the crowd will drown you. We were instructed that if any of us gets lost, we need to come back to the same station and look for a sign. By the way everything’s moving so fast and the crowd getting bigger, there was a huge possibility that we’ll lose sight of each other. Thankfully, we managed to get into the same train carriage and also go out. Whew!
The Metro experience was our last activity of the day and we ended up pretty early. We had a few more hours to kill so we asked the driver of our van to take us to the mall (of course, lol). We roamed around looking for souvenirs and also visited Carrefour there to take home some frozen sausages, khinkali, and chocolates! Yes, chocolates. For some reason, chocolates in Georgia are very cheap. The wine too, but of course we can’t take those back to Saudi Arabia, haha. We also ate in their food court and called it a night after a few hours.
We slept soundly and the following day, we were already in a flight back to Riyadh. Our Riyadhlity.
I apologize that it took me so long to complete and finish our entry in Georgia. Georgia is a beautiful country and we feel really blessed to have been given the opportunity to visit it. Every money spent in this country was well-spent. There was a moment the day I got back to Riyadh that all I can ever do was stare at my huuuuge bruise from the paragliding accident I had. My husband was really surprised to see how big it was, with minor bruises on my knees (equally ugly to look at). But will I go to Georgia again even after that? A RESOUNDING YES! If only I have the budget again to travel, and with the husband of course, so that he can see what made me smile while looking at my bad ass bruises.
My bruises are healed and long gone but the beautiful memories we had in Georgia are still in our minds. And hearts. Thank you, Georgia! And thank you to the lovely people we met.
Look back at our Georgia entries: