A visit to the Republic of Georgia has been way overdue! Becky visited in 2003 for work, but didn’t have many chances to explore outside of the Tbilisi area. We were originally scheduled to visit on our upcoming overland trip, but with a change in itinerary, the Rep of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were cut out. So we decided to hop over on our own pre-overland trip. As luck would have it, Becky befriended a lovely Georgian lady (Sofi) in Afghanistan and we were invited to be her guests if we ever visited. We happily accepted her kind offer and made plans to spend about two weeks exploring here.
After flying into Tbilisi, we were met at the airport by Shota, Sofi’s nephew. Despite the late hour, the driver offered to take us through the Old Town so we could see the city lit up at night. Afterwards, we pulled up to Shota’s apartment (Tbilisi outskirts) where we met his welcoming family. Tamari (mother), Vacho (father) and Ani (sister) made us feel welcome and we were shocked to discover that a late night feast was awaiting us, complete with wine and vodka. We couldn’t believe that the family waited until close to midnight to have their dinner meal in order to welcome us properly to their country. Such hospitality! And forget about saying no to alcohol…that is sacrilege in a Georgian household. Several hours later, we were more than ready for bed when it dawned on us that Tamari and Vacho had given up their master suite for us to sleep in! They had relocated to the computer room in order to give us the best room in the apartment. Such kindness! We were complete strangers and yet were made to feel like family.
The next day, Shota offered to be our Tbilisi tour guide and we caught a marshrutka into town. We walked from Marjanishvili Street across the bridge and up to Shota Rustaveli Ave. From there, it was onward to Freedom Square and then to the Old Town where we hiked up to Narikala Fortress (amazing views of Tbilisi). Afterwards, we hopped in a taxi for the short ride over to Sameba (the Holy Trinity Cathedral), which is a massive Georgian Orthodox Church. After exploring, we walked downhill and hopped on a metro to Rustaveli where we caught another marshrutka over to Mtatsminda Park. Marshrutkas are excellent value by the way. Its essentially a shared taxi and local rides are a mere 0.50 GEL. Since we were the first to board, all 3 of us scored seats and snoozed on the winding drive uphill to Mtatsminda (which is a huge amusement part popular with families). We were there for the views overlooking all of Tbilisi and to check out the iconic TV tower. Afterwards, back in the Old Town, we got news that Sofi had finally arrived from Kutaisi so we linked up with her at Freedom Square before heading back to the apartment for another massive dinner. Tbilisi is a beautiful city and we can’t wait to explore some more once Lars joins us later in the trip.