Friday, January 16

Beautiful Tbilisi

Its 20.35 and our train leaves the platform from Baku train station, heading to Tbilisi/Georgia. The city, which I have never been to despite living so close it.

There are two more passengers in the car- Eldar, a pensioner, going to Tbilisi to visit his sister and a young girl who is half Russian, half Georgian. I am traveling with a fine, young gentleman- Jake, whom I have grown very fond of over the course of our friendship. He is going to be my personal guide in Tbilisi, as he visited the city on many occasions before and so, knows Tbilisi as the back of his hand (and if he doesn't he really made feel that way!).

As the train takes off the platform, we introduce each other and the journey begins.

As Eldar was the oldest in our car, he consciously wanted to strike up a conversation every time it would get quiet. So, him and the young girl spoke most of the time, while Jake and I, read, studied Jake's index cards of Russian words (Eldar joined once in a while, in explaining the meaning of the words) and talked about politics, our trip and whatnot…

The train we are traveling with is an old German train, probably an antique left from the Soviets. There is a small table by the window, two ‘couches’ (which are used as beds) and two bunk beds.

Its 6am and we arrive at the first border control. First, the Azerbaijan customs, passport checks and luggage control. During the first control, we discover that Eldar, is bringing some sweets and wine for his sister. The reaction of the custom officer is first a bid of surprise. Then she asks: "Wine? You are actually taking wine to Georgia?" Everybody laughs. Eldar explains that wine is special, from Ganja.

After spending just a little over than 45 minutes at the first check point, we continue our journey. Outside it is starting to light up, there is snow outside...

We soon reach the second check- point on Georgian side. The same procedure- passports and luggage checks. Similar reaction comes from Georgian customs officer. His green eyes widen, he laughs and then says: "I advice you try Semirati No.5- excellent Georgian wine!". We all laugh once again. As the customs officer leaves, he wishes all of us a safe journey.

The journey continues. I am getting really excited as we approach Tbilisi. 

We arrive to the city at around 10:00AM. 

The train station in Tbilisi is old, wore down. Jake and I walk towards the ticket office to pick up our return tickets (You can't get a return ticket from Baku).

The wind is spreading the cold air. There are bits of left over snow everywhere…

We arrive to our hotel- Beau Monde (Beautiful World). Its owned and run by a Georgian family. It is actually an old house, converted into a hotel. There is a great view from the balcony of the room- Caucasus mountains covered in snow.

Tbilisi is beautiful. No, it is gorgeous! The city preserved its natural historical beauty.

There are people on the streets. Everyone seems friendly and polite.

Walking along Rustavelli Avenue, you get to get to enjoy the beauty of the old buildings, some of which converted into banks, hotels and little shops. There is National Opera theatre, movie theatre.

It is rather quiet given it’s a Saturday. At night the streets are glowing- everywhere has been decorated- its around Christmas. There is a festivity in the air.  

Jake and I take a walk. We discover narrow alleys with small shops, restaurants, and cafes. Georgian culture is rich with great food, tasty wine, and friendly people.

I am thinking that I would like to come back for another visit. Skiing most definitely and of course traveling across Georgia.

On Sunday, we get tickets to see a concert at the National Opera House. It is a French conductor- Michelle... and few other French musicians. The performance is magnificent! The Georgian orchestra accompanying the artists is outstanding. All of the pieces performed are from motion pictures. The conductor puts on a quite a show. He sings and even plays the piano. The audience is enjoying the concert- there are 'Bravos' shouted after every piece performed.

Later after the concert, Jake and I stroll down Rustavelli Avenue. We stop at the Mariott's posh cafe- Parmas for a drink. I try my first Georgian beer.

On our last day in Tbilisi we go souvenir shopping. We buy some paintings, some Georgian wine and pick up presents for friends.

And we are back at the train station. This time we have a car to ourselves. It looks nice. No bunk beds though as on our trip there, I am actually a little disappointed as I enjoyed very much sleeping on the bunk bed.

Sitting at the second border control (in Azerbaijan) I am already making plans on when I could come back for another visit…


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I adore Tbilisi too. Incidentally, looking forward to reading more of your blog. Looks promising so far.

Anonymous said...

Arzu, reading your blog has been fun and interesting. We're looking forward to more. I especially enjoyed the post about Tblisi where some of my relatives (Great-Great Grandparents I think) are from.

I will forward a link to Bill and my parents. They will really enjoy catching up with you. People here ask about you all the time and are so impressed with your accomplishments. You might remember my friend Laurie who had daughters in Girl Scouts with Jeannie. Her youngest will be an exchange student in a French speaking country next year. Exciting!

You can check out my blog if you're up for a challenge. I can't remember if we took you to a baseball game while you were here. Even if we did, you'll probably think my baseball blog is written in a very weird English dialect. Indeed, Baseball has it's own language. And blogs like mine have twisted it to new extremes ;-)

Take care!

Tanya, Bill, Jeannie and Will