Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend in Tbilisi, Part 1: Saturday

Ah, a weekend in Tbilisi! Independent travel to a place one-half hour away from Rustavi!

My hostess and a neighbor kindly escorted me to a marshrutka stand, then talked to the driver to assure themselves I was on the right one.

I got off at "Sioni" in Old Tbilisi, within stone's throw of the glass bridge over the River Mt'k'vari. The moment I disembarked from the marshrutka, I breathed deeply and smiled - I felt like a grown-up again! Don't get me wrong - I hold my host family in the very highest esteem and feel grateful for the care they take to help me be comfortable and safe, and how they integrate me into their lives. For God's sake, they've got a stranger living in their small space, changing everything for them.

At the same time, I am like a baby chick for them, requiring constant attention to make sure I don't get run over in the road or fall into a hole or something.

So anyway, in my moment of debarkation, I absorbed the richness of the architecture, the flowers (flowers!), the trees (trees!), the river, the colors around me, as I walked to the Big Star Hostel, where I would stay overnight. With its air conditioning.

And did I say the heat had broken? Yes. It was heaven.

Some photos en route to Big Star Hostel:

Bridge over River M'tk'vari

Pushkin Street

Church in Old Tbilisi

Pushkin Street

Hotel in Old Tbilisi

Statue in Old Tbilisi
I found the hostel after various stops along the way ... Pushkin Street? Freedom Square? Machabeli Street?  Nice place. Has an open, airy feel - kind of modern vibe. One large bunk room with 10 or so bunks; two rooms with six bunks each. Each room as a full bath. Plus there is an additional shower room and two additional lavatories. A common lounge. Free wifi. Some free basics such as coffee, tea, cold water.  Kitchen privileges. 20 lari per night for a bunk in the larger room; 25 lari for a bunk in one of the smaller rooms. 25 lari works out to about $15 USD and some change.

Met very interesting folks there - a Dutch journalist/NGO employee; an Iranian guy who took the CELTA course in Tbilisi, who teaches English privately while awaiting admission to a master's program in Batumi (on the Black Sea), some Iranian friends - all super friendly.

Called a TLG colleague and we made a plan to meet later at Prospero's, an English-language bookstore and cafe near by. ... I was happily enjoying a/c, meeting these cool new people in the hostel lounge, feeling completely relaxed, and up walk two other TLG colleages, planning to spend the weekend in Tbilisi, as well!

Pushkin Street

Cafe sign on Rustavelli Street

Eventually, we walked over to Prospero's, met the colleague and another there, and passed several hours just talking in the shady courtyard, drinking coffee or whatever. I could not get enough of the greenery and the cool weather. Not to mention speaking English with wild abandon. Loved it, loved it.

Prospero's exterior

Prospero's interior

Around dusk, we walked to a place for dinner. Don't remember the name. Not bad.

The three colleagues went out to walk about town and do some more taste-testing of liquids Tbilisi has to offer while I hung out at the hostel's common lounge talking with the other inhabitants. Met an American who's now been in Georgia twice, and is entering the TLG program at the end of this month. He had great stories to tell about his travels in and out of Georgia.

My room at Big Star Hostel

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