Last day in Tbilisi

Trip Start Sep 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 10, 2009

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Last day in Tbilisi

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

One more day in Tbilisi before I go a spend a few nights somewhere else. Time to leave this city, although I could spend weeks here!

Well, the last day it was raining constantly. I went to Money museum near my room, situated in a bank, and it was a surprisingly interesting (and free) experience. They had coins and notes from all the periods of Georgian history, oldest ones dating back to BC. The Mongolian period coins were especially fascinating! In addition, they had a rather large collection of notes around the world, and going through them was a worthy time for a rainy day. A very good museum, I recommend for everyone interested in foreign currency and the history of money! After that, I walked around bit by bit, mostly in the old city, hoping the rain would stop. But it didn't. So I went for lunch to a Chinese restaurant, and reinforced my believe that Chinese food outside China is never nearly as good. Then I just did café/bar hopping, about every other place I had a coffee and every other a beer. Healthy lifestyle! Well, I did go to a few churches in the old city, to buy some religious souvenirs, so that compensates, right? Finally I found myself in one of the trendy bar streets in old city and tried few of them out. They were indeed nice, something really different than anyone would think about Georgia! It was totally like in any other European cities. I especially like the bar CCCP where everything was decorated in old soviet style, the walls were filled with soviet style posters and even the bar desk was covered all around with old soviet money. I really liked the atmosphere! I was, however, alone in the bar, but maybe noon is not the time for bars to be busy.

The rain faded a bit, so I decided to walk to the other side of the river and finally see the one church I hadn’t seen yet, the main church of Tbilisi, a huge cathedral built few years ago. When it comes to churches, they never seem as interesting when they are new, they don’t have the same appeal nor the same feeling. I don’t know why, but it is difficult to get a "holy" feeling when a religious building is not old. Maybe I think religion is dead and churches are graves of religion where the real thing can still be felt? Anyway, holy or not, the new Sameba Cathedral, finished in 2004, is very impressive in all its glory. It is the largest religious building in South Caucasus and must be the biggest church I have ever seen after St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican – I think it must be larger than York Cathedral, but I’m not sure. Probably not actually, but that is the feeling I got! It is beautiful and impressive, very majestetic and stylish. Very well done, Georgia! There are also a smaller church next to it. The Cathedral was crowded with people, again reinforcing my observations that Georgians really are religious people and church plays a big role in their lives.

The Sameba Cathedral is built on a hill on Avlabari, which is a part of Old Tbilisi, but on the other side of the river as the “real” Old Tbilisi. It is MUCH more run-down than on the other side, it actually looked really poor, more so than any other area in Tbilisi. That also made it really interesting. I walked around the old scary streets of the district and felt a bit unsafe. I think it is weird that it is in this district that they build also the ridiculously impressive presidential residence – there is a huge contrast between the residence and the area surrounding it. Security must be really strict! It must be said that Avlabari is run-down especially in the area where the Sameba Cathedral and the presidential palace is, whereas Avlabari around Metekhi Church is restored and in really good condition, one of the loveliest parts of Old Tbilisi. So, there is no doubt in my mind that the rest of the district will be renovated rather quickly. But for the time being, I felt a little bit unsafe to answer my phone – probably also because of the false reputation of Tbilisi being dangerous.

I decided to see one more sight in Tbilisi before leaving to another place the next day – I climbed to Narikala Fortress which overlook Tbilisi on a hill in the old town. The fortress was founded in 4th century and expanded many times later. The name “Narikala” comes from Mongols, who named the fortress “Narin Qala”. The best part of the fortress is the great views when walking on the wall, Tbilisi really looks nice from up there. There is also an interesting, atmospheric church, St. Nicholas Church, which was recently renovated. It didn’t take more than half an hour to walk up there, so it was all worth it, even though it was still raining. On the way down the hill I also found one of the loveliest church I saw during my trip, an Armenian church called Norasheni. The atmosphere was really quiet, the church was almost empty unlike other churches in Tbilisi, and I really enjoyed it.

After my trip along muddy streets (it had been raining all day!) to the fortress, my feet were all covered in mud, so I just went back to my room. So much for this lovely city for now – I decided to head towards Sighnagi the next day!  
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