In our armchair travels we have arrived in Georgia, a county at the intersection of Europe and Asia. This is a former Soviet republic that is home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. We are visiting Tbilisi the capital of Georgia. This is an amazing capital with diverse architecture, impressive churches and Soviet Modernist structures.
Gabriadze Theater was founded in 1981 and became the first puppet theater in Georgia. This impressive building is decorated with a wonderful clock tower.
The Clock Tower looks like something out of a fairy tale and was built by puppet master Rezo Gabriadze.
On the hour an angel pops out of a door near the top and strikes the bell outside with a hammer.
Old Tbilisi is a wonderful place to explore. You’ll discover that the main sites of the city are located here. This area is also known for its sulfur bathhouses that are fed by natural hot springs. Close-by is Shardeni Street where there are many modern, popular restaurants, open-air cafe-bars, trendy nightclubs and art galleries.
Anchiskhati Balilica is the city’s oldest surviving church. It was built by King Gorgasali’s son Dachi in the 6th century.
This is a three-nave basilica with weathered frescoes and walls built of big stone blocks.
Erekle II Street is lined with cafes and galleries.
The street gives access to the Peace Bridge which is an impressive glass-and-steel footbridge, stretching over the Mtkvari. It was designed by Italian Michele De Lucchi and opened in 2010.
A major highlight of The Museum of Georgia is the Archaeological Treasury, displaying pre-Christian gold, silver and precious-stone work from burials in Georgia dating back to the 3rd millennium BC. On the top floor is the Museum of Soviet Occupation.
At one time Meidan was the site of Tbilisi’s main bazaar. Today this place is busy with traffic and lined on both sides with cafes adn restaurants.
It opens to the Metekhi Bridge over the Mtkvari with Narikala Fortress hovering over it.
Narikala Fortress dominates the Old Town skyline. This fortress dates back to the 4th century at which time it was a Persian citadel. The best way to reach it is by cable car from Rike Park or walking up from Meidan. The views over the city are spectacular.
Rike Park is located along the eastern riverbank with lovely flowers, winding paths, pools and fountains. The Peace Bridge joins it to the west side of the Mtkvari.
At the north end of the park you’ll find two large metallic tubes which are a concert hall and exhibition center. They were designed by Italy’s Massimiliano Fukass.
The National Botanic Gardens of Georgia was formally known as the Royal Gardens and became the Botanical Gardens in 1845. The gardens are located below Narikala Fortress with a river flowing through it, dividing the 128 hectares.
View of Narikala Fortress from the botanic gardens
Here you can see displays of 4,500 species of flora from Georgia and all around the world. These are wonderful gardens where you can walk for hours under trees and waterfall-dotted gardens.
On the way up to the gardens you’ll go by the only Mosque in Tbilisi dating from 1895. The interior has lovely frescoes and visitors can enter as long as they remove their shoes.
From Narikala Fortress you can take a wonderful scenic walk west along the Sololaki Ridge. The main landmark here is the statue of Mother Georgia a 20m-tall aluminum symbol of Tbilisi, holding a sword in one hand and a cup of wine in the other.
This is a classic metaphor for the Georgian character, warmly welcoming guests and with passion fighting off enemies.
Past the statue of Mother Georgia you’ll come to the ruins of the Shahtakhti Fortress. The fortress once housed an Arab observatory and then became the huge private residence of Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was Georgia’s richest man and Prime Minister.
The landmark Metekhi Church has a strategic place on a rocky outcrop above the Metekhi Bridge. Beside it is the equestrian statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali.
This was the place where the king built his palace. In the 5th century was the first church here and the present church was built by King Demetre Tavdadebuli (the Self-Sacrificing) between 1278 and1289.
The highlight of the National Gallery is the hall of wonderful canvases by Georgia’s best known painter Pirosmani (Niko Pirosmanashvili, 1862 – 1918). He is well-known for his animal and feast scenes. There are also portraits and rural life canvases. Other artwork displayed are by top 20th century Georgian artists Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze.
One of the most thrilling rides you’ll take in Tbilisi is by cable car. This was newly installed in 2012 and takes visitors from the south end of Rike Park, up high over the Mtkvari River and the Old Town right up to Narikala Fortress.
Another ride not to be missed is by Funicular up Mt. Mtatsminda. The views from the top are awesome and you can relax, eat and drink in the Funicular Complex restaurant.
Baratashvili Bridge is a traffic and pedestrian bridge that was built in 1966.
The railings of the bridge are decorated with bronze, life-size people figurines. It is particularly lovely at night.
Just a short walk south from Meidan you’ll see a collection of unusual brick domes rising up from the ground behind a small park. These are the city’s famed sulphur baths known as Abanotubani. Both French writer Alexander Dumas and Russian poet, playwright and novelist Alexander Pushkin bathed here. The domes are the roofs of the subterranean bathhouses.
Turtle Lake is a popular place to be during the summer and is located to the east of the Ethnographic Museum and above Vake Park. People enjoy picnicking and relaxing in the cafes overlooking the lake with wonderful views of the city.
Vake Park was opened in 1946 and is a popular meeting place. There is also the interesting Memorial of Glory. There are monumental stairs which lead uphill and from there you can get to the open-air museum in 30 minutes by foot.
The Open-Air Museum of Ethnography has a collection of traditional, wooden houses that have been collected from all around Georgia. They are spread over a wooded hillside that offers great views. In the lower section are interesting exhibits with buildings that have traditional furnishings, rugs, utensils and attendants will explain in English. While here a good idea is to have a Georgian lunch at Rachasubani.
Tibilisi Sea is officially known as Tbilisi Reservoir, an artificial lake opened in 1953. It is the largest lake near the city and a place both locals and visitors enjoy in the summer.
There is a free public beach here and for a fee you can enter the Tbilisi Sea Club where you can have a refreshing drink.
The Museum of Fine Arts displays a collection of icons, crosses and jewelry in precious metals and stones from all over Georgia and old Georgian churches. Here you can see the lovely little pectoral cross of Queen Tmar that is set with four emeralds, five rubies and six pearls and is the only known personal relic of the great 12th century monarch.
Mtatsminda Park is an amusement park atop of Mt. Mtatsminda. There are family and kid zones and a thrilling roller coaster. There are video games, carting for kids, water slides and other attractions. Both kids and adults enjoy a ride on the big Ferris Wheel that is perched on the edge of the hill for spectacular views over Tbilisi and to the Caucasus Mountains.
Tavisuplebis Moedani once Lenin Square is now Freedom Square. Here is a busy traffic hub. The highlight is the golden St. George spearing a dragon which was a gift to the city from Georgian-Russian painter, sculptor and architect Zurab Tsereteli.
St. George and Dragon Monument is a golden statue of Georgia’s patron saint, St. George. He is standing on a pedestal in the middle of heavy traffic spearing a dragon.
Rustaveli Avenue begins at Freedom Square in the center of the city. Here you can see many government, cultural and business facilities. As you stroll down the avenue you can observe daily life in the city, take a look in the shops which sell both international and local brands and have a bite to eat.
Armenian Cathedral of St. George is a large cathedral just above the Meidan and was founded in 1251. The present building dates from the 18th century. The interior has colorful frescoes. King Erekle II’s famed Armenian court poet Sayar Nove was killed here during the Persian invasion of 1795 and his tomb is just outside the main door.
The most recognized bridge was named after the part of the river that dried Dry Bridge. It is about 160 years old and was built according to the project of the Italian Giovanni Scudieri. Today it is a popular place because of the flea market.
Dry Bridge is home to a well-known flea market where you can find art exhibitions and antique items for sale. You can find Soviet memorabilia, handmade jewelry and even personal keepsakes. It is open daily in good weather.
Agmashenebeli Avenue is one of the longest and most beautiful avenues in the city. Here you can stroll and see gorgeous historic buildings, painted entryways and distinctive architectural ornaments.
Tsminda Sameba Cathedral was consecrated om 2004 after a decade spent building. This is a massive and lavish expression of traditional Georgian architectural forms in concrete, brick, granite and marble. The cathedral rises 84m to the top of the gold covered cross above the gold covered central dome. Inside you can see richly decorated icons. The cathedral has five aisles.
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