(Hi visitor from the internets! Did you come here looking for info about 144 Stairs in Tbilisi? Here’s their Facebook page, or you can see a few pictures of it towards the bottom of this post. But do feel free to hang out here a while.)
After our early morning arrival and glorious introduction to Georgian food, the rest of our Tbilisi weekend was a blur of seeing everything, doing everything, and having a super fun time getting to know Sean and McKinze better and soaking up all the Georgia intel our brains could handle.
We visited the new city park that President Mikheil Saakashvili (we preferred his nickname, Misha) opened last summer. The glass-domed presidential mansion, “Misha’s house,” is at the top of the hill, so this new park is essentially his front yard.
We walked across the incongruously modern Peace Bridge at noon and at night.
We came across a free streetside wine tasting and sampled our first Georgian wine (they claim to have invented it 8,000 years ago) while a man alternated between playing his accordion and his organ grinder.
We climbed Narikala Fortress, whose first stones were laid in the 4th century, and within its walls, we saw a portion of a Georgian Orthodox mass in St. Nicholas Church.
We cooled down in a Turkish tea house.
We ate more Georgian food at “the Ossetian place” and piles of noodles and meat at “the Uzbeki place,” where we were treated to an awkward belly dance (is it rude to look, or is it rude to not look?).
We went to the gold bazaar where McKinze bought a silver St. George pendant (he’s Sakartvelo’s patron saint) and Alicia bought earrings.
We went to the regular bazaar.
Sean and McKinze negotiated a great cell phone deal for us (up to this point, we didn’t have phones with us).
We had tea and lobiani (khachapuri with beans instead of cheese) in a cafe where a man played guitar and made up funny songs about the men gathered around the back table.
We climbed the hill to the brand-new Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, surrounded by rose gardens and a palpable sense of national pride.
We visited the statue of Tbilisi’s founder, King Vakhtang Gorgasali, whose hand served as a perch to a real bird (although not the falcon of legend).
We climbed 144 steps to a wine bar of the same name, where we felt like kings as we enjoyed the view of the city from the patio until a thunderstorm drove us indoors. We decided to wait it out, which ended up many long conversations later at 4:30 a.m.
We walked. Everywhere.
All of that in one weekend. Exhausting. Perfect.
On Monday afternoon, McKinze escorted us to the marshrutka station, and translated all the requisite questions that the drivers had for us. Questions that we would answer again and again with every Georgian we would meet.
Where are you from? (America… Iowa.)
Do you like Georgia? (We love Georgia! Georgia is beautiful!)
Are you married? (Yes.)
How long are you married? (Almost eight years.)
How many children do you have? (None). Concerned looks from the drivers.
When will you have children? (Maybe when we go back to America.) They perked up. An acceptable answer.
How old are you? (30 and 33.)
When it was time to leave, we hopped in the front seat, bound for Kamran’s village of Leliani. Who is Kamran? A guy we had never met before. Where is Leliani? Several hours east of Tbilisi, by the Russian and Azeri borders. You can’t find it on Google Maps. But we would soon find Leliani in our memories forever.