After spending a lot of time on the countryside of Bulgaria, we were happy to spend some time in Tbilisi - the capital of Georgia. We were lucky enough to find the perfect place to stay - a tiny garden house in the old town. Here we had the perfect location for a productive workation and for exploring the city. Read more what we did there and how we spend our time in beautiful Georgia.
Old town - the perfect location to stay
We spend the first days actually in our little home here. Tatiana and her daughter Liudmila were the perfect Airbnb hosts. Liudmila picked us up from the airport, which was very convenient for us. When we arrived at the place Tatiana had already prepared wonderful Chatschapuri, the traditional Georgian cheese cake which was perfect because we arrived quite hungry.
As already mentioned we stayed in the old part of the city close to the botanical gardens. Surrounded by locals it really felt like living in the city and not just visiting it. Kids playing in the backyards, neighbors who bring delicious food once in a while, small stores to buy vegetables and fruits and the typical smell of Tbilisi’s old town. Here we had no traffic, a little garden and a place to sit and work outside. It reminded us so much of our home back in Bielefeld during our study - the “Hexenhäuschen an der Splittenbrede”. The old town has many buildings which are not in good shape anymore.
Poor renovation skills, earthquakes, lack of money and other reasons led to this. But you still can see the glory of the past in many buildings even though they look a bit scary nowadays. And the interesting thing is that people still live in these buildings as long as they can. Impressive and dangerous at the same time!
First thing we actually realized arriving in Tbilisi in the evening were the emissions. Old cars and rush hour are a bad combination. This feeling would not go away. Tbilisi is a nice city to visit but due to this fact no city to live for us.
Walking through the city
We often took some long walks through the city - especially the old town. Most interesting was to discover old mystical buildings, huge courtyards and local people following their routines. Be aware of the potholes and some huge holes on the sidewalks and in the streets. If you look up you could fall down. Happened to us almost a few times and could have ended quite painful. So keep an eye on the roads for your own safety.
We can recommend going to the leaning tower in the city center. It looks beautiful and a few times per day you will see and hear a little surprise coming out of the bell tower. It’s a touristic and crowded place but very characteric and beautiful. The “Bridge of Peace” is recommended everywhere but we think it is less spectacular than you think. Funny thing is that Georgian call it “Always Ultra” - take a look at it and guess why :-)?
Georgian cuisine has plenty to offer. What we liked the most was
- Chatschapuri - the typical cheese cake which is more a bread than a cake
- Chinkali - tasty pasta filled with either meat or cheese
- Tomato Salat with Jonjoli - a taste that is so different to all tomato salads we have had so far. The Jonjoli (Caucasian bladdernut) has a really interesting taste, hard to describe, every tomato salad in Georgia comes with Thai Basil
- Watermelons - You can get only whole watermelons, which is a bit crazy. But they are so cheap, that it probably makes no sense to cut it in pieces for you. Ours was fantastic and we ate for mostly ever dessert
It is possible to rent your own car but it is quite expensive. Only foreign people rent official cars here which also explains the price. We had so much work to do and were not willing to spend that much money so we refused to do a road trip through Georgia. All locals recommended us to take a local driver due to the rough traffic and crazy drivers. We think that it is no problem to drive here as an experienced driver who is used to these driving styles. But being careful makes sense of course. Next time we will just rent a car for a round trip. We regretted it a bit afterwards. But we will come back, so there will be a next time because it is still on our bucket list, at least now we have something to come back.
Restaurants and Cafes
There are a few really nice places and many not so nice places. We will recommend just a few which we really liked. Local cuisine is affordable and cheaper than in Western Europe. For two meals and four glasses of nice wine we paid in average around 10 to 20 euro. We can highly recommend to drink Western wines. The Georgian wines are in our understanding waaaay to sweet. After all the good wines in the Balkan countries this was a bit disappointing. Nevertheless - the overall experience was quite good!
- Volver: A nice Georgian restaurant which we fell in love with. It combines Georgian traditional food with modern elements. We were there a few times. You can sit inside and outside. In the evening the traffic can be huge, sitting inside is recommend.
- Salobie Bia: This restaurant is hard to spot. It looks really ordinary from the outside. When you go in you will find a huge room in the basement and it smells like heaven. The traditional Georgian food is the best you can find in the city. At least that is the experience of us and many other travelers.
- Dinehall: This exclusive restaurant and cafe is part of the art gallery at the national museum. Everything is exquisite and the staff is very friendly
- Brotmeister Bakery: Here you find really good bread, croissants, baguettes and more. After traveling for a while it was so nice to eat these things again. You can also eat brunch here.
Transportation in Tbilisi
- Underground (metro) which connects main areas of the town
- Buses which drive almost everywhere. Good to know: There a eco buses you can take (blue ones)
- Mini-buses which go everywhere. They are quite often super crowded and you need to know where you want to go, show the driver that you want to stop and have the right amount of money for the trip because there is no change. Sadly these buses are a main factor for pollution in the city because they are quite old and in bad conditions.
- A taxi is hard to order in Tbilisi because most people don’t understand English at all. So this was the first capital where we did not drive a taxi at all and had to walk or take the buses.
We have a good co-working space recommendation. In the city center you will find the famous co-working space “Fabrika” where you can work for free. It has great atmosphere, relaxing sofas and a nice cafeteria as well as many small alternative restaurants and bars around. There is a hostel as well in the building which offers different kinds of room. Seems very nice and hip there - go and check it for yourself.
Tbilisi - a few words about the town itself
The capital of Georgia is the biggest city in the country and has a population of more than one million people. The river Kura is a central line that is lingering through the city and you can even do a boat tour. Tbilisi is located in a seismic area and has lost many buildings and lives during the centuries. Tbilisi is rich in theaters and museums, probably due to its history and important geoposition with all the influences from different times and rulers. When you get the chance - take a look at the national museum and the Georgian theater. Dancing and singing is a huge element in the Georgian culture - and that’s why you will find amazing performances in the capital.
We were quite happy about our time in Tbilisi. This has mainly to do with our tiny house which we loved, the good food which we adored and the amazing neighbours who were sometimes bringing us so much food that we skipped our meal plans for the evening. We even had a cooking and baking session with our host Tatiana which was incredibly nice and delicious! The pollution in the streets really sucks and people still don’t know much about environmental friendly ways of living. Our impression from discussions with local people who spoke English is that the people want a lot but aren’t willing to spend that much effort to reach their goals. With more emancipation though the women seem to be a huge game changer and are willing to work hard for the future of their families, city and country. From what we heard we can highly recommend the countryside, especially in the north. Nature must be wonderful here. We do a trip next time and then we will write about it - because one thing is for sure, we will come back!