What (Some Of) the Rest of the World Looks Like: Georgia

As you might have noticed, posting slowed down markedly here the last few weeks. That’s because I was on a trip to Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia!

Some people have asked for a report, so here you go. One tiny snapshot of what a bit of the rest of the world looks like:

Georgia (the Country, not the State)

The main thrust of this trip was Armenia (no particular reason, and — yes — it’s a bit of a random choice), but you can’t cross the border from Turkey to Armenia for geopolitical reasons. So, I landed in Istanbul, dealt with lost luggage, and met my friend for a flight to Tbilisi, Georgia.

Neither of us had much of a clue what to expect. A law school friend spent the summer in Georgia in 2004, shortly after the Rose Revolution, and we had a vague idea that there were some fairly recent border disputes with Russia, but we were admittedly uninformed, on the whole.

Flying into Tbilisi, we weren’t terrible reassured, as we landed over a bunch of decaying old Soviet (?) era industrial parks. But what a welcome at the airport!

Tbilisi - The city that loves you

Very sweet! And any vague concern that Americans weren’t welcome was quickly put to rest:

George W. Bush Street - Tbilisi

Tbilisi turned out to be a lovely place, full of friendly people and interesting sights. The city is strung out along a river surrounded by cliffs and hills. Perched on top of the hills are a fortress and several historic churches with their distinctive pointy-hat tops.

Tbilisi fortress

At the bottom of the hills, you’ll find my personal favorite amenity (and the source of Tbilisi’s name) — the baths!

Tbilis baths

I went twice; my friend three times. 😉 (That’s a mosque in the background, by the way.)

And what’s not to like about a city presided over by Mother Georgia (wine in one hand, sword in the other):

2013-06-16 16.35.17

There’s a ton of new, modern construction in the city, which our guides and new friends tended to hate. Personally, I like the metal tube theater, although I agree the “Poisonous Mushroom” municipal building is pretty hideous. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo, but it was ugly.

Tbilis new construction

On both passes through the city, we found fantastic local hosts to stay with (thanks AirBnB), which added a nice dose of hospitality and let us fully appreciate the wine-grape trellises that were everywhere.

Tbilisi old town

Sadly, both my Georgian and Russian are non-existent, which made communication challenging with the older generation, but most people under 30 spoke great English.

We didn’t have a ton of time in Georgia, but we did manage one day in the Caucasus Mountains, in the Kazbegi region. Gorgeous!

Caucasus mountains Georgia

A stunning reservoir (no filter):

Caucasus mountains Georgia

The funniest traffic jam ever — sheep! There were thousands of sheep on the main road, blocking any movement for at least half an hour. Apparently each one was worth $100, making this a very valuable traffic hazard!

Sheep traffic jam!

Once we made it through the sheep traffic jam, we hiked up to the Gergeti Trinity Church (you’ll see it at the top of the hill). As a student of architecture, I consistently appreciated the siting decisions for churches and monasteries in the region — top of the hill, far up a canyon, on an island in the middle of a lake? No problem, as long as it was beautiful!

Gergeti Trinity Church

How lazy people got to the top:


But they missed coming over the crest and seeing this! Almost there…


What it looks like when you arrive (finally — this was one steep hike!):

Gergeti Trinity Church

Quite the outfit, no? (And you can’t even see all of the long skirt, thoughtfully provided along with the headscarves for wayward travelers who forgot.)

Gergeti Trinity Church

So, that’s a bit of Georgia for you.

Stay tuned for parts two, three, and four: Armenia (part one and part two) and Turkey.

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