Tbilisi is a nearly 2,000-year-old city with a 21st century vibe. Built on two sides of the Mtkvari River, surrounded by mountains on three sides, it has almost a village-like feel, with people living and working in the narrow alleys and crumbling houses in the old town, and in elegant 19th century and Communist-era buildings in the newer areas. Looking down on it all is the "Mother Georgia,'' offering protection and a national welcome, symbolized by a generous bowl of wine.
The Pur Pur restaurant, below, is a good example. To find it, you wander down a street past rows of what look like abandoned buildings with peeling paint and broken out windows. Across the street is a park where kids kick soccer balls, and men play backgammon in the afternoons. To find the restaurant, you enter a tall open doorway and climb of flight of slanted wooden steps. Walk past a broken mirror and through another
Many of the old town shops are underground - literal holes in the walls! This is a bakery where goods are passed to customers through a little window. Other shops - small grocery stores etc. - are entered down a flight of steps.
Speaking of the "Georgian Kitchen," this dish has become one of our favorites. It's called Khacapuri Acharuli, a boat-shaped piece of bread, filled with melted cheese and butter and toped with an egg which you "scramble'' with your fork, then eat by breaking off chunks of bread and dipping. Since we hardly ever eat bread or butter at home, we're giving ourselves permission to induge!
We spent several hours wandering around a flea market that takes place daily in a park near the Dry Bridge. Tom was searching for a tradtional silver-rimmed wine cup made from a bull's horn. He and this vendor had a good time hagging over the price which turned out be about $8.50.
Next: Into the countryside for lunch and dumping-making with a Georgian family.