Day 1- Arrival in Tbilisi
It took us about 5 hours to reach Tbilisi airport, traveling from Saint-Petersburg to Moscow and Moscow to Tbilisi, our arrival flight was stunning as we flew above all of the snowy Caucasus mountains! As we arrived, I bought myself an 8 GB sim-card, valid for a month, for the equivalent of 12 euros, not bad) I, then, went to Avis Car rental, where I got my car rental, the girls were kind enough to give us an upgrade as the car I booked was not available. Instead we got a 4×4 Suzuki “Jimmy”, the same one I got on the island of Crete, Greece, 6 years ago, these cars are very small but very handy and easy to drive and park as they are compact. And so cheap, it was 400 euros for 16 days! Can you imagine!?
As we left the airport, my first general impression was that of amazement. Cheap prices, welcoming and hospitable people and now, driving towards our hotel, I couldn’t help but notice the amazing architecture which I can only describe as a mix between old stone buildings/ monuments as well as modern, and sophisticated constructions. Normally, it is very hard to see a good blend between the new and the old, but in Tbilisi, the balance is incredible.
We booked a hotel about 9 to 10 km away from downtown, located in a new suburb. The hotel itself looked quite new, and we were greeted by the owners, who treated us with the upmost respect and made us feel right at home. Before setting off to visit the city, we were recommended a lovely restaurant called “Bread House” an “Хинкалерия» which had a very large oven and a chef specialized in making large quantities of “Хинкали” of all kinds: meat, mushroom, cheese and much more! I was very surprised at just how cheap this place was (we paid a total of 15 Euros for two people) given that we ate like kings. I’d say that it is probably 2 to 3 times cheaper than Saint-Petersburg, depending on the restaurant you choose of course.
We then walked through the old town, where all the sulfuric baths are located, it has a kind of an oriental style with many round-shaped roofs and cupolas. Given that this country has been invaded many times by both the Persians and the Turks, my guess is that this is where they got their cultural influence for public baths and steam rooms. We walked further through Tbilisi Old Town, which has an Oriental look, with its many stoned houses, there’s also a beautiful mosque with a high minaret in the center of the lower Old Town. The town is constructed in a very particular way, at the bottom part they have a river and the river walk that leads to a waterfall, at the middle they have what is called the “old stoned” building with the mosque and lastly, the botanical garden and the orthodox fortress are located at the uppermost section of the city. The best way that I could describe walking through the city, is like a spiritual journey, the further on up you walk, the closer and closer you get to nature, perhaps it was done on purpose when the city was constructed. We didn’t have time to go to the fortress but we enjoyed a nice long hike and the many ice-cream shops in the botanical garden. As the sun began to set, we decided to head back to our hotel and get a good night’s rest, there was much to see in the following days.