After being in Turkey for four weeks we thought we’d switch it up a bit and head further East into the neighbouring country of Georgia-one of the three Caucasus countries (Armenia and Azerbaijan are the other two). Georgia’s past (both happy and war torn) has given it a fascinating mix of influences from Turkey, Russia, Persia, Central Asia and beyond, all of which are recognizable in the architecture and the way the people look and the languages they speak.
It seems that anyone over the age of 40 will speak Georgian and Russian…but no English. 40 years old and under will speak Georgian and English as well. This is to do with the fact that Georgia was part of the USSR in the 1920’s during Stalin’s rule. People grew up speaking Russian and therefore passed the language onto their children. Georgia has a terrible past but we were lucky to enjoy Tbilisi as it is now: the atmosphere of Eurasian crossroads, the nightlife and restaurants of a European City and a mix of new and old beautiful architecture.
We only had a few days there as we still needed to get all the way back West of Turkey in time to see Istanbul before our flight on July 10th. Even though Georgia isn’t on most backpacker’s radar, we spent 6 nights in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi and loved it there. It is one of our favourite big cities we’ve ever been to.
We saw lots of sights and spent every day walking around the city. It was nice to be in a country with cafes and bars on the sidewalks. It was my birthday when we were there so instead of having tea and a kebab I was able to have beer, wine and Georgian cuisine. The food in Georgia is pretty fatty…Nick ordered one of the traditional dishes: dough shaped into a canoe and baked with soooo much cheese inside, then an egg is cracked open on top together with basically a block of butter, stuck back in the oven for a minute and served. I opted for spicey meat dumplings and salad.
We went for a wine tasting on my birthday as well. We entered one of the wine stores and saw that there was a huge table full of opened bottles of red and white. Perfect we thought, then it got even better. The owner said we could taste as many as we wanted and the Georgian version of a ‘taste’ is our version of a full glass of wine…needless to say we stumbled out of there, without buying a bottle. It was a great day for the budget backpacker inside of us!
There are numerous churches and cathedrals spread out all over the city and we went inside most of them. There was a fort area overlooking the city and a statue of “Mother Georgia” towering beside the fort. We hiked up there for sunset one night. One of the most noticeable sites was the new modern bridge connecting the areas on both sides of the river.
The best part of Tbilisi though were the narrow alleyways and back streets where locals are everywhere doing their day to day things. We walked and walked and got lost many times, but it didn’t matter, we were enjoying the days.
After an amazing 5 days in Tbilisi, we decided to experience another culture. Again, not really a place that backpackers go, but we were looking for something off the beaten path. We boarded a bus and made our way to the neighbouring country of Armenia!