Like any other European city, walking along the old city of Tbilisi is one of the must-do’s. Doing so provides you with a glimpse of what was in the past while discovering how it marries into the present.
That we made sure to do in our short stay in Georgia’s capital as we also have planned trips to other Georgian cities. Offered free courtesy of Envoy Hostel, our residence in Tbilisi, it was our first activity from arrival. Envoy Hostel is located right smack in the middle of Old Town and is one of the best places to start the tour from.
We had an energetic, bubbly and knowledgeable tour guide who showed us around.
Descending the cobblestoned road from our hostel, we passed by an Armenian church (with green-roofed tower in the photo), but it was closed so we didn’t drop by. Our guide said there is a big Armenian community in Tbilisi. We reached Meydan Square, a popular meeting point which is dotted with restaurants, travel agencies, souvenir shops and a supermarket.
From Meydan Square, we crossed the Mtkvari River through the Metekhi Bridge. Right on its edge is a cliff where the Metekhi Church and the statue of King Gorgasali stand. Here is a good vantage point of Old Tbilisi on the other side.
This is the statue of King Gorgasali. Legend has it that Tbilisi used to be woods. When King Gorgasali was hunting, he wounded a pheasant. The pheasant didn’t die immediately but flew, until it fell into a spring. The spring was hot, and thus was named Tbilisi, which means warm.
On the right hand side of the cliff when facing Meydan Square is Europe Square. We walked passed it to Rike Park which I reckon is a good place for family picnics or outdoor concerts. Here is also where the tram station to Mother Georgia is.
On one edge of the Rike Park is also where another modern structure was erected. Our guide said that it was meant to be used for the Tbilisi Philharmonic but the next government did not like the plan, and this building has no definite purpose at this moment. On top of it is the Presidential Office.
We walked up to Peace Bridge, which is also called “Always Ultra” by the locals at is is shaped like a woman’s maxi-pad. The bridge has been designed by an Italian and the materials have been prefabricated and shipped abroad and only assembled and installed in Georgia.
We crossed the road across an elite casino which was a hot issue for a time as it was erected very close to a Catholic institution. It was built anyway. Tucked behind the main road are cafes and restaurants lining a street. It was neat and probably has a good nightlife. We never got to check out though.
We made way to Sioni Cathedral, a Georgian Orthodox church, named after Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. Right in front of the church is a famous underground bakery selling delicious Georgian bread. For 1 Gel, it is a steal. There are no signs leading to the bakery, but its aroma will lead you the way.
I love Tbilisian street art that pops out randomly as you go for a walk.
This is a tamada sculpture holding a kantsi with our tour guide. A tamada is famous in Georgian culture. He is the “head” of the feast who is very good in making a toast. Unlike the Western way of a toast, the Georgian way is almost somewhat a speech, as the topics can vary from as simple as family, to country and anything in between. That’s why a tamada has to be entertaining and knowledgeable.
We then walked towards the Abanotubani area, famous for its sulfur baths. Sulfur baths range from 10Gel for a public bath to 100Gel for a private bath.
Here is a sculpture of a pheasant in a small square in the area, commemorating its significance to Tbilisi (or at least its legend).
We continued walking towards the back of the sulfur baths area. Our tour guide was hinting about a surprise for us. Wonder what could it be. Tadaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Waterfalls!!!
There is also a lovelock bridge which probably has just started to be such as there were just a few then.
Looking up, we can only marvel at the cantilevered houses which are a lot in Georgia.
Going up the hill, we passed by a mosque.
It was a 2-hour walking tour and quite a challenge as we went up the Narikala Hill. From the Narikala Fortress, we were afforded a fantastic view of the (old) city as a summary of where we have just been earlier.
We went down the hill afterwards and the road was just where our hostel was.
Indeed, time-tested travel tips could not be disregarded. Despite the scorching heat, I enjoyed Old Tbilisi as most I saw were somewhat new to me. Highly recommended!