Hello again, Tbilisi, where the culture is a cross between Russian and Middle Eastern with a European vibe but the language, food and wine are 100% Georgian.
On our first visit to Georgia a year ago, it was all touristy. We drove to the snow-capped mountains, cave city, Stalin museum, old cities and old churches on top of mountains. It was fun but also very tiring from all the long drives outside Tbilisi, the capital. We would spend hours on the road, pause for a few photos, and off we were again, always in a hurry to get to where we should be.
I found out about a promo from a FlyDubai email where each round trip ticket cost only AED 880. I paid extra for luggage fees (AED 55 for 20kg) but still I thought that was a steal! We booked for a quick 4-day getaway with ZERO itinerary. We just wanted to enjoy fresh air and good wine. Basically, to master the art of doing nothing.
As a Filipino expat in Dubai, there is no need to apply for a visa. At the airport, they asked for a Travel Insurance as it is now a requirement when traveling abroad (unless you’re going to your home country). It is a small price to pay in case the inevitable happens or flight delays. You can easily request for one easily and hassle-free for AED 55 only through AIG website.
As soon as we arrived, we took a FREE sim card at the aiport. All we had to do was show our passport and pay GEL 10 for 4GB data. This is how we were able to google search certain dishes while in the restaurants, convert currencies (whenever we were tempted to shop), translate useful words and phrases (you never know when “Madloba” will come in handy), and navigate around the city by foot. We also bought local currency at the airport. Our budget was limited to AED 500 each, so we had a total USD 270 on-hand. At that time, USD 1 was equal to GEL 2.696, service charge included.
We booked an entire apartment via AirBnb close to Saarbrücken Square. It cost us, believe it or not, only AED 73 per night. We had everything essential in our room such as stove, hairdryer, hot & cold shower, refrigerator, washing machine, microwave, cable TV, iron & ironing board, and WiFi. The living area is spacious for 2-3 people. Our hostess was very helpful and arranged our airport transfers. Find her property here and click here to open an AirBnb account and get AED 92 travel credit.
Most of our time were spent having good (and affordable) food and wine at Tiflisi Vorontsovze located across the street, just a stone’s throw away from our apartment. They are open 24 hours and wait staff were very warm and accommodating.
We tried a myriad of their dishes but their Khinkali (a staple), Ojakhuri with Potatoes (Rod’s favourite), and Chakapuli (my favourite) stood out. Each stew, barbecue and soup cost between GEL 5.90 and GEL 14.90 good for 2-3 people, while Kinkhali cost only GEL 0.70 per piece. We had a bottle of Alazani Red (GEL 15) with each meal. The outdoor seating was the best part as we got to eat while watching people and enjoying the cold weather and sometimes if we’re lucky, a bit of rain.
On the evening of our first day, we found ourselves having coffee and apple strudel along David Agmashenebeli Avenue, one of the main avenues in the historical part of Tbilisi, known for its 19th-century classical architecture.
The Dry Bridge Market is only a 5-minute walk from our apartment. This was the kind of market where people sell everything under the sun. History lovers can come for Soviet nostalgia. Even if you are not a fan of shopping, wandering through Dry Bridge is an interesting experience. You never know what you might find. I enjoyed looking at the local artwork.
Our second day was as random as it gets. We went inside museums and galleries that we passed by. We were lucky to have seen the exhibition “Bernini’s School and Roman Baroque” at the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery. It showcased the masterpieces of Bernini and other Italian masters of XVII century from the Roman Baroque Museum near Rome, “Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia.” It was overwhelmingly beautiful. Entrance fee was only GEL 7.
The next stop was Georgian Museum of Fine Arts where we navigated 5-storeys of paintings & sculptures by Georgian artists through the glass stairs, floors & lift. I almost fainted from fear of heights – who wouldn’t? Entrance fee was GEL 15. I indulged myself by buying postcard copies of the local artwork. After all the walking, we enjoyed a bottle of Kindzmarauli Red (local wine) and enjoyed Kinkhali (local dumpling) with piping hot soup.
The unique Clock Tower at Shavteli street and Rustaveli Square were about 15-20 minute walk. The Clock Tower is the masterpiece of famous Georgian painter, sculptor, and playwright Rezo Gabriadze. Every hour, you can witness an angel ringing the bell with a small hammer. At noon and 7 PM, you can watch a puppet show called The Circle of Life created by Gabriadze. Too bad the tickets to the puppet show were sold out by the time we got there.
On our third day, when Winter season officially started, we wandered through these areas and to the old town, with a few stops for wine degustation in between. The weather was lovely. We also found ourselves walking to Freedom Square – an audacious and bloody robbery, involving Joseph Stalin, took place in Tiflis (old name for Tbilisi) in 1907. Freedom Square is an enduring symbol of Georgia’s desire for freedom and independence.
A trip to Georgia, wouldn’t be complete without the Chacha, Georgia’s pomace brandy. We each had a shot (GEL 14) at Oxygen Bar on the 18th floor of Radisson Blue Iveria. The 360-degree view of Tbilisi was captivating. Garvi Marjos!
The art of doing nothing – it’s not something I thought we can pull off. It gave us that sense of living in the moment, being fully present in it and not allowing ourselves to miss out on living and feeling all that is beautiful about life.
Sometimes we have to slow things down, breathe, relax and savour the moments. When was the last time you did something like that?