Tbilisi - the city of liquid gold
18 January, 2016
Tbilisi - the city of liquid gold
A Polish Georgian blogger Krzysztof Nodar Ciemnolonski writes about his impression on Georgia.
“It is through the scent and flavor that we may get to know most countries in the world. We travel in order to, at least for a second, feel and understand the inhabitants of a particular region and enjoy what they experience on a regular basis. The colorful old town or impressing skyscrapers, the richness of flavors, the unknown alphabets and languages.Monumental, old Europe, Asia Oriental, far-distant
Australia, the world. It is easy to describe many cities using some key words: bourgeois and lush Vienna, colorful and fashionable Paris, heterogeneous New York City, bikes in Amsterdam, green Bydgoszcz. This is how it works.

What works for other cities, it won’t work for the Caucasus. The capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi, is different - it’s extrasensory and it’s everything at once. When you see it for the very first time, even if it’s from the airplane window, you see a liquid gold that is poured on serpentine-like valleys and on the overlooking them mountains. Tbilisi is also like a ship swinging on the waves heading for the oncoming dawn. Fountains, flashing lights and illumination are the trademarks of Tbilisi. Tbilisi cannot be mistaken for any other city, like can you name any other city having over one-thousand-year-old amusement park? Many objects in the city shine so bright that it, for sure, must be visible from the outer space.

It’s four a.m., the local time, when the airplane from Warsaw lands in Tbilisi. The flight takes three and a half hours so it is too late to go to sleep and too early to get up. More and more tourists are coming here each year and the most dominant nationalities are Russians, Germans, Jews, and Poles. Georgia is both distant and close at the same time. In every area, be it social, cultural, political and historical, Georgia is like a point of contact for both Europe and Asia.

Spending a couple of days in the capital city helps you to imagine what the whole country looks like. Mountains and valleys, numerous rivers and creeks, even lakes, architectural mixture of every single style you could wish for, blaze of colors, flavors, scents and noises. There are contrasts everywhere in Tbilisi - the brand new SUVs and sedans, Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus next to old Soviet bangers like Lada, VAZ, and Volga. In the eleventh-century tserkov, you can meet monks in black habits, fancy dressed women wearing a full makeup and sky-high stilettos, weddings and christenings every single day. Decaying hovels contrasting with modern steel and glass buildings, great poverty, and fancy and well-attended restaurants. Affluence can also be spotted. What comes as a surprise is lack of traffic jams. Tbilisi is a place, where everyone can slide through, cut in line, go bumper to bumper or go on the sidewalk. There are six cars on every lane and still, there is enough space for everyone. On the surface, Tbilisi city traffic can be compared to a fight for life, because everybody honks and uses high beams, but aggression is nowhere to be found. Quite the contrary, you can spot ballet and harmony!

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Tbilisi can offer you sunny days from May to October, storms with lightning in July and August, the beauty of the nature, trees, parks, plazas and forever joy of life - fireworks every other night. Eclecticism, for which Georgians are renowned for, is a key to a deep understanding of the Caucasian spirit. Those, who already visited Georgia will agree. However, it may be difficult for the accuracy since there is always an exception to the rule.

Tbilisi is one of the most important cities in the Caucasus and a symbol of Georgia since the fifth century. In the fifth century, the country was divided into separate and fighting against each other counties, which were constantly invaded and conquered at the hands of Turks and Persians. Nevertheless, it was distinctive and unique language and script that always united all Georgian tribes and nations. What is more, it is worth mentioning that Georgian alphabet is one of the fourteen distinctive alphabets in the world. Christianity was adopted by Georgian rulers as a dominant religion in 337 A.D.

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Photo by Murad Osmann

The legend of the city foundation has it that during the royal hunting, a hawk seized a pheasant and both birds fought until they plunged into the sulfurous lake in a valley. The water was so hot that, to the astonishment of the ruler and his suite, the birds got boiled. “Tbili”, in Georgian, means “hot” and so the name of the city of Tbilisi shall be translated as “hot springs”. The ruler of the Kingdom of Kartli, one of the cradles of the today Georgia, the king Vakhtang I Gorgasali (446-502 A.D.) came to decide to shift the capital of the country from Mtskheta to Tbilisi, distanced by twelve kilometers. His son, Dachi, put the plans of shifting the capital into action. Apart from the access to sulfurous springs, Tbilisi was assumed to be strategically better located than Mtskheta, which was situated on the flatlands. Tbilisi, on the other hand, located atop the hills and in the valley, was a much more secure place because the only possible way to get there was across the Mtkvari River. What can be considered as Tbilisi treasure is public baths in the oldest district of Abanotubani, at the bottom of the ruins of the fortress of Narikala from the sixth century, which is believed to be one of the rarest “witnesses” of the contemporary Georgia. Over fifteen centuries of being handed down, fights and invasions, countless attempts to regain sovereignty, Persians, Turks, Mongolians, the army of Tamerlane (who is also known as Timur the Lame) and finally tsarist, and then Soviet, Russia have ruined the vast majority of the testimonies of the rich Georgian history. In the times of peace, Georgia flourished in the Silk Road as it was overhauling other countries in terms of civilization. The most prominent prophet of the country, Shota Rustaveli, lived at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and so Georgians welcomed the Renaissance two hundred years sooner than Europeans.

Georgians often joke that there is nothing impressive in the seventeenth- and eighteenth- century monuments as they can boast about a large number of monuments from the sixth, eighth and eleventh centuries. At large, Russian secession from the second half of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century social realism, which I myself call for my own purpose “social-block”, are what characterize Tbilisi the most. Luckily enough, there are also places embellished with Persian, Turkish, French, and Italian styles - both mess and beauty.”

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