Friday, September 10, 2010

Tbilisi: Catwalk from Hell, Old Tbilisi, & the Touristy Irish Pub District

Staring up at the statue in Freedom Square. It used to be a statue of Lenin, but they tore it down in '91 and put up a badass depiction of St. George atop a horse killing a dragon with a triton

So enough of that morbid shit. Back to Tbilisi, and I’ll try to avoid a day-by-day summary of what went down.

Tertmet’i – When you’re in Tbilisi, you kind of forget you’re in Georgia. They have real coffee, bars with wi-fi, several McDonalds, a Metro (which I’ll get to later), and no farm animals roaming the streets. Out of the 4 million plus people who live in Georgia, over a third of them live in Tbilisi, and I see why (not because of the McDonalds, but other reasons).

Tormet’i Tbilisi reminds me of Pittsburgh  just a little bit geography wise. There’s a river that snakes it way through the city from East to West, but it’s not in the middle of a valley. Both sides of the river slope upwards to the hills that boarder the area. There’s very little flat land (actually less than Pittsburgh  probably) and if you get off the main streets, you can find yourself making a pretty big hike uphill. The elevation change also lends itself to some pretty impressive views.

City Hall at Freedom Square

Tsamet’i – I don’t want to give off the impression that Tbilisi is some oasis of splendor, because it’s not. Once you get out of the Old Tbilisi, Rustaveli Avenue, and Avlabari, the town is filled with what we saw in Kutaisi: old soviet tenement buildings and past it’s due date infrastructure. The apartment that Bill and I rented was in Didube, an area Northwest of city center, and was fantastic for us, but definitely a little sketchy. To get there you had to hop on the Metro and get off at the Elektrodepo stop (one of the only stops on the Metro above ground), walk out of the Metro building and to the opposite side only to go back up steps onto this catwalk, which goes over the rail yard for about half of a kilometer. The catwalk was made out of concrete and was littered with cracks the size of skateboards. There was also zero lighting at night, and beneath the catwalk were tons of stray dogs just waiting for a victim to fall over so they can ravish the corpse (well, maybe not, but that’s what it seemed like).

Bill's and my apartment building, quite the palace

Totkhmet’i – But as I said earlier, parts of the city were really quite nice… almost too nice. Old Tbilisi was my favorite area as it was filled with old churches (including a synagogue and mosque), the streets were cobbled and narrow, and there was a really nice pedestrian walkway that cut along the river with tons of cafes and bars scattered about. It was a little pricey (comparatively speaking) but I think it was money well spent to get a good drink and a refreshing atmosphere. Although Bill and I were both bummed that we couldn’t go to Vault, a nightclub along the pedestrian walkway whose door was just a giant bank vault. We’re pretty sure that instead of having your name on the list, you just have a combination code to get in. Very Euro.

The Catwalk from Hell; or it's literal translation in Georgian, Place of Rape.

Tkhutmet’i – Rustaveli Avenue was also quite classy. The nicest part runs from the concert hall at the top of the hill down to Tavisufleba Square (better known as Freedom Square). There are tons of upscale shops (Zegna, Dior, etc.), fancy hotels, and some of the more important buildings in the city (Ministry of Justice, City Hall, etc.). Though it has a wide and comfortable sidewalk to stroll along, I still prefer the Old Tbilisi area, as it’s more authentic and filled with less douchers (not including Vault).

Ministry of Justice, say what? Little shout out for my Moms

Teqvsimet’i – The touristy Irish Pub district was about three blocks long and only one block off of Rustaveli towards the concert hall and Metro stop. The group tended to migrate there each night, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for on my trip. I went to Florence to go to Irish Pubs (not actually, but that’s what it felt like), and I think I had my fill while there. But we did find a pretty neat locally owned café along the strip (quite out of place now that I think of it), which was filled with art from the owner (even the menus were done by him). The one night we were there, an older group of Georgians were sitting at a table near the piano, and the of the men would play a song every few minutes (he was an excellent piano player) while the lady in the group would sing in Georgian. What made it memorable was how they would stare at each other during the performance, it was intense but exactly what some of us were looking for, rather than Buffalo Bill’s Saloon (yes, there actually was a bar right across the street with that name, pictured below). I told the owner Sandro that I would send out the good word, so if you’re in Tbilisi, definitely frequent the N. Gallery on Akhvlediani Str. They’re actually on Facebook as well, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Bill in front of his bar; I've traveled 4000 miles to a small country in Eurasia, now where's the Goddamn saloon?

Tvramet’i – The Beatles Club was also up in that district, which was a European type dance club in the basement of a restaurant. At first they tried to charge us 10 Lari for cover, but then realized we were American and let us all in for free (oh, the perks of being American, even if they can only be found half-way across the world). We had a good time and many of the volunteers ended most of their nights there, as it was open until 4 a.m. My only recollection was on the first night, while waiting outside the club helping some of the girls get a cab, there was this crazy guy without a shirt on who kept on trying to lift me up (he was about half my size). All I know is that Marissa, a fellow volunteer, has a ton of pictures of me with my shirt unbuttoned trying to be picked up by this nut job like he was carrying a bride to a honeymoon suite. Now I have to blackmail Marissa with pictures of her being molested on the dance floor by Georgian men. We have an agreement. Side note: the girls complimented me on my ability to sense when a Georgian man was creeping on the dance-floor and quickly step in front to dance with the prospective victim. They used a term that I would rather not repeat, let’s just call it the gentleman in me, although I’m sure it’s a skill (or 6th  sense) that I picked up Italy. Ultimatum: no matter where you go in Europe, there will be creepy men on the dance floors, although you could probably say the same for American “dance clubs.”

I didn't really know where to splice these pictures in, but I figured the Synagogue would fit between the creepy Georgian men and the only gay bar in Georgia. 

Tskhramet’i – The only other bar of note on that strip was the sole gay bar in all of Georgia. They are a few gay volunteers in our group, although the one lesbian amazingly already has a Georgian girlfriend whom she met in her small village (what are the odds?). One of the nights, most of the group decided to make a pilgrimage over there (we’re volunteers and we’re accepting of all walks of society; at least that’s what’s Stuff White People Like told us). I didn’t attend, but apparently there was no one in there, and after about 20 minutes, someone told them they should leave. So it’s official; the only impolite people in Georgia are the gays. Talk about backwards. Side note: please do not take that seriously.

This is a street that resembles Old Tbilisi (although I don't think it's actually in that neighborhood), but it's cobbled, narrow and snakes it's way up the hillside

Otsi – The last night in Tbilisi a group of us went to a café along the pedestrian walkway in Old Tbilisi. We picked the place because they were projecting a BB King concert DVD on a giant screen across the walkway; plus they made Irish Coffee Milkshakes. Unfortunately, right as we sat down, the DVD ended and they put in a different one. It was the best of Boney M. And just like that I will end this post as they end every episode of True Blood; overall it kind of sucked, but that cliffhanger makes me want more! As a teaser, I promise to include a photo of me, shirt unbuttoned, with the guy from outside the Beatles Club. Stay tuned...

View from the balcony of our apartment in Didube, Tbilisi

1 comment:

  1. More pictures of Hannukiah!!! My spelling may be off, but many individuals do not know that the menorah holds only 7 candles while the hannukiah holds 9 (one for each night of Hannukah and the Shamesh). I'm officially the only jew in my cohort so that made me feel happy inside. It's incredible how you seem to be living dangerously while also living it up. You've given me the impression that Georgia is this jagged environment that you have to let children run loose in and allow the smartest to survive...