Tbilisi Dry Bridge
16 October, 2014
Tbilisi Dry Bridge
As I sat going through ‘wires’ this morning, I could not find anything very hot and juicy in the news. So in an attempt of not letting my pen go dry, I hurriedly made for the famous Dry Bridge – the ramshackle old corner of the Tbilisi historic town, a few hundred meters down from Rustaveli Avenue, falling to pieces and hardly standing on its last legs. The Dry Bridge Bazaar is a genuine market of memories and identities, where people
are buying and selling the past, as one of the frequenters of the place has wittily noticed. At this open-air market, you could get anything to buy – the rarest historical objects from Tsarist Russia to USSR for bargain prices, usually sold off by hard-up old folk, living almost on the breadline and hawking handmade jewelry, traditional tourist trinkets, magnets, wine jars, glossy drinking horns, moth-ridden fur hats, soviet paraphernalia, including, military medals, and even the occasional gas mask, antique furniture, fine Chinese porcelain, Russian silver, old propaganda posters, anthologies of old-edition short stories, carpets, candlestick, oil lamp, dishes, cameras, lenses, watches, old cassettes and music players, curious drawings, Georgian, American or old Soviet flags and many paintings of soviet dictators Stalin and Lenin, scarves, hats, bags, socks, beads and earrings, all kinds of knick-knacks and charming miscellanea, original art, decorative drinking horns and daggers, shaggy hats, accordions, glass and silver ware, antiques, jewellery and various funny bric-a-brac, twenty-year-old batteries or an old toothbrush, bolts and nuts, all kinds of utensils and tools. Most of these things are laid out on the ground, often carefully arranged on sheets of paper or fabric, sometimes sitting on dilapidated old stalls or set upon numerous wooden stands. Some people have a successful business here, which assumingly could be called something like an Antique Show, but actually, nothing they are trading is more than 30 or 40 years old. This flea market is swarmed by the clientele, full of curiosity and desire to get something for memento. In the aftermath of the broken-up USSR, people started leaving the country, and all of them needed quick money to travel. As a result, they used to sell their expensive stuff for peanuts, thus giving an unanticipated chance to those who could afford buying up all the reaches, accumulated by fleeing families in years. Finally, all those antiques were found displayed in the Dry Bridge Market to be sold for several times as much as they had once been purchased. Today, as the rumor has it, most of the curious accessories or luxury goods on sale are brought either from America or Europe. So the Dry Bridge got adapted to new times and circumstance. One of the most businesslike fixtures of this lively trade spot, which is open every day, including the weekends, is the buzzing crowd of brokers and their clients, making quick deals orally and selling houses or land plots. This extraordinary place can definitely keep us entertained for many hours, especially if you are ready to play and haggle with the permanent residents of it. You can hear any language spoken here on the level of making the momentary verbal deals that make both sides happy enough to return to this lovely trade polygon in a while. This is all so contagious and mesmerizing that you will even forget about movies, concerts or casinos. Having once been only a desire to make a little cash, it today is the commercial enterprise which attracts thousands. I have read somewhere that that the Dry Bridge a.k.a. Mikheil Small Bridge, is roughly 160 years old and was built by the Italian Giovanni Scudieri between the years of 1849 and 1851. One might think that I went there this morning to find something new that I wanted to drop in my small box of antique tidbits. No way! Well, I certainly do that on an occasion. As often as I go for it, I always make some friendships there which usually end up in a talk about political goings-on. Political comments, thoughts and opinions on the Bridge are just as plentiful motley as the goods that are being sold here. As a matter of fact, if well listened to, the heartbeat of the nation could be heard here without a stethoscope. Funny as it may sound, one can even feel the belonging of the Bridge dwellers in various political directions – some are in favor of the bygone ones, some support the current administration, some are neutral, some are radically poised, some of them keep mum, not desiring to be exposed and some are even more outspoken than our politicians, often blazing on the box. All the feelers are out and sharpened on the Bridge, and I am not surprised. This is the section of our society, where you can find people with higher education, representing any possible profession. For many of them, trade is either a favorite pastime or just another means of making money. There could also be the ones who are supporting their families with the help of this special endeavor, but the bottom-line is that a keen eye will easily notice a current pattern of electorate on the Bridge. Yes, they have their own strongly formulated political opinions and clearly-cut electoral intentions. They know what they want and what they are talking about. They even have special nicknames for every major local or foreign leader for the sake of conspiracy – who knows who is listening to them. Dry Bridge has a unique personality to it, including features like cultural, social, psychological, economic and political. And all these features count at the moment of electoral decision making. Entertainment that could be enjoyed on the bridge is one thing, and the pulse of the nation that you can feel is another. In my case, both are valuable, with only one difference tough: I am normally paying for the gimcracks I am picking up in the bazaar, but the information coming from those folks is free of charge, and that, I think, is a considerable relief for my thin pocket. It is so good to know how the public – not the mass media or the politicians – feels about the major headaches like lost territories, fight between formers and currents, European Union, NATO, Russia, America and what not. Would you like to hear all that? Go to the famous Tbilisi Dry Bridge, perk your ears, open your eyes and listen in! That’s all you want to do. I swear!

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