Today was a bit of a free day. Our meetings were over so most of our delegates would be leaving today. Though I didn’t set my alarm clock, still woke up early and headed for breakfast with the team.
Since the others had their own plans, I decided to use this time to go and find the bigger grocery store, Carrefour. Hotel told me it was walking distance so I was up for the challenge. It was hard to find! It was somewhere near Freedom Square but hidden behind the buildings. Kept on walking and saw the fanciest ATM ever, a panaderya aka bakery selling their local boat-shaped bread, and an old lady selling veggies. After asking around – and after checking out this small clothes store which had some ukay-ukay vibes – finally arrived at Carrefour, which had no sign. Haha!
This is a much better grocery store as there is more variety and more options – from chocolates to cheeses to sausages to toiletries.
I went around and just chose stuff that looked interesting, mostly chocolate bars (so cheap at 2.5 gel each) to coffee sachets and wafers (my colleagues wanted some) to of course, cheeses and sausages (ranging from 5-9 gel). My bags were so heavy that I took a taxi going back to the hotel (5 gel). It’s very easy to get a taxi in Tbilisi and good thing the driver understood me. For all my items, I only spent 43 gel (the additional 20 gel worth of items was from my officemate who asked me to buy stuff for her).
Back at the hotel, my colleague wanted to go to the Tbilisi mall because she needed new rubber shoes. So I accompanied her. Took a taxi (20 gel) since it was a bit far from our hotel, about 20-30 mins ride. Saw this very interesting jenga-like building. Once at the mall, we parted ways and I just walked around. Unlike Manila, the mall was deserted. Haha! There were only a few shops, some were international ones while others were local brands. I didn’t find anything interesting so I just stayed in a local coffee shop called Moka & More since I haven’t eaten lunch yet and was starving. I ordered their ham and cheese crepe, cinnamon and mint frappe and bottled water (total of 20 gel).
At around 4pm, my friend who will soon become my personal tour guide messaged me that his meeting was over and that we would meet up in about half hour. Met up with him at the big bike and thus started a day of adventure. We grabbed a taxi going to the Aerial Tramway located at Europe Square which would take us up the old fortress. Was greeted by this pretty tree structure.
My friend insisted on paying for everything so now I don’t know how much the expenses are. He kept on telling people either my lari was fake or that he should be the one paying since he is a man, all in Russian so I couldn’t argue with them. Haha! I think the cable car was around 2.5 gel roundtrip. I highly recommend it as it takes you across the Mtkvari river where you can see the whole of the city on the top of Sololaki.
At the top, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the city with the wind on your face. Don’t I look so happy in the second photo? It’s basically because the wind kept whipping my hair.
We walked a bit and found the Kartlis Deda, meaning Mother of Georgia. I couldn’t get a decent photo but we could see she was holding a sword (for protection) and a bowl of wine (for friendship).
There were some interesting plants surrounding the area, one of which was Juniper and another acorn-like tree.
On the other side, we saw a vast forest and right in the middle was a lone modern mansion. He teased me that that the man who lived there was someone I dated before and I retorted by saying I dumped him because of our toxic relationship. Haha!
On the other end was the old castle called Narikala Fortress. We couldn’t find the entrance going there (or we were too lazy) so we just took photos then went back down via cable car. More photos of the chocolate-colored river.
Once on ground level, we walked around the nearby Bridge of Peace and an old abandoned concert hall, per my friend. It was such a waste for the concert hall since it looked so pretty but he explained that there was a lack of investment so it was never used.
Went through the Bridge of Peace again and appreciated its design.
We went down a flight of stairs because I saw a pretty graffiti wall of butterfly wings. Walked forward and saw a rotunda with the Georgian and EU flags. See also my poging friend turned tour guide. It’s not obvious but just take my word for it. Hehe.
We then walked towards this old small cathedral called the Metekhi cathedral where the monument of King Vakhtang Gorgasali was also located.
We arrived just in time since the church was already closing up. Took a quick peek inside then visited the King as well.
We headed back down and just walked around the area, enjoying the views and the small streets. Everything to me was interesting!
We walked some more and headed towards the Sulfur Baths.
Further down, we saw a small bridge with locks, a souvenir store, restaurants and three men just sitting nearby, playing their instruments and singing. They didn’t even have a box or hat where you could ‘give’ money. I think it’s really because they just love their music. Amazing.
Gorgeous cave like walkway!
At the end is a small water fall. I cannot believe all of this is in the city center! A moment ago, we were in the middle of a busy street. Just a few steps more and you’re transported to this gorgeous raw nature-inspired place. Amazing.
Of course, cannot resist the obligatory ‘I love Tbilisi’ photo.
With much of our walking, I was so tired and thirsty that I practically begged my friend for a pit stop. He teased me that it was because I had short legs and that he was a better ‘walker’ because he’s long legged. I consider myself a great ‘walker’ but gosh, he was unstoppable! Finally, he let me buy a drink at a small store selling fresh pomegranate and orange juice. I’ve been meaning to buy the pomegranate juice since I’ve been seeing these small stalls scattered everywhere (just like the churchkela stalls). I chose pomegranate, he got the orange juice. I wasn’t able to finish my drink – it was a bit sour – so he finished it for me and paid for our drinks.
When we got tired, at around 800pm with still some sun out, we decided to have some dinner at Stelzen. I wanted to try the kachapuri again but this time in the more traditional boat shaped bread with an egg on top, which I’ve been seeing online. He ordered some pork kebab, chicken salad (which looked more like a viand; think ginataang manok), and more khinkali (gigantic dumplings). I only ate one piece of chicken salad, one piece of kebab then feasted on the kachapuri. I like the kachapuri with egg on it since the egg downplays the cheese a bit. He ordered some beer and ginger lemonade while I had the orange lemonade (so good!).
By the time we finished, it was already 930pm. Good thing we checked the time since I really wanted to see the Holy Trinity Cathedral at night. I’ve seen photos of it online and it was gorgeous. I wanted to pay for our dinner, I even had my 100 gel inside the check book already, but he again spoke to the waitress in Russian. The waitress turns to me and says to me in English, “He’s the man” and gives back my 100 gel. I kept arguing with him to let me pay for something so once our taxi going to the hill reached the cathedral, I quickly placed 5 gel on the driver’s hand and went out. My friend had no choice but to keep his change. Score!
Upon seeing the cathedral, it looked so luminous and overpowering. It was washed in gorgeous light and made the perfect backdrop.
The cathedral was huge inside as it was outside. Every corner there was a different saint or artifact. I noticed a lot of Georgians kissing each of the paintings then making a sign of the cross. My friend said Georgians are very religious. Perhaps just like Filipinos. We walked a bit outside and as it was super windy, I started freezing so my friend lent me his hoodie. They have winter in Kyrgyzstan so he’s used to the cold, he explained. When the security told us to leave, we made our way back and got a cab, going downtown.
Back at the center of the city, he really wanted to eat some ice cream so we went in one of those small local shops we always passed by which was always filled with people. We were lucky to snag a free table. I ordered some Nutella ice cream and café latte while he had an espresso and pistachio ice cream. Again, my money was worthless as he paid for our dessert. The ice cream was too rich and creamy for me (and didn’t taste anything like Nutella) so I gave the rest to him, which he willingly ate. I also didn’t finish my coffee and he kept teasing me I had a tiny stomach.
We then headed out and walked around different small side streets. He knew his way around since he had already been there. Even though we didn’t have a fixed destination and kind of just let our feet drag us wherever it wanted, our eyes just simply enjoyed the view while enjoying each other’s company. Passed by parks and buildings and even the Bridge of Peace (still gorgeous even at night) until finally at around midnight, we made our way back to the hotel.