We had a couple of days free in Tbilisi before our last big trip in Georgia. We decided that this would mainly be kids time!
I took the boys swimming at the Vere public swimming pool. It brought back memories of the ancient public pool where pool I learned to swim in Cape Town (pulled down at least 30 years ago)- very old, big, concrete falling apart – in addition, there were hundreds of seats in tiers along one side. Clearly, a venue for huge swim meets once upon a time, but now decayed. There were people there – old and young, but we didn’t stay very long.
Our next adventure was to the water park – owned by the same millionaire who had built the park in Batumi apparently. We took the metro – quick and cheap, and exited somewhere in the suburbs – huge apartment blocks in poor condition and small bakeries selling khachapuri all around. Still, it felt completely safe and here and there we asked directions. Eventually we found we found the waterpark – big, ostentatious, modern, a kind of enclave of luxury amongst the poverty all around. The kids had a great time – though more unlike Canada it couldn’t have been – Canada is all about politeness, no shoving or pushing, everyone waits there turns patiently – here, it was survival of the fittest! Still, the rides were fun.
We decided to go to the Ethnographical Museum – located up on a hillside in Vake near Tbilisi Stadium. It wasn’t a place for the kids though – the idea was right – lots of houses from all over Georgia had been dismantled ,brought here and rebuilt again – but the day was hot, the kids were irritated and after about 10 minutes they went on strike so we left. Our final attempt at fun was the small Trurtle Lake park further up the hill – we hired some pedal boats and pedaled around the small lake – this they enjoyed!
We thought of going to the fun fair – but we couldn’t even find out of it was operating! The guidebooks mentioned that the largest roller coaster in Europe was going to be built at the fair! This clearly has never happened – it went bankrupt, changed owners and even tourist information couldn’t give me a firm answer on whether it was open or not. So we scrapped that idea.
We went to the Arts Museum – now, the National Museum has been closed for repairs for about five years – we have been told that this is a standing joke in Tbilisi and asking when it’ll reopen is like asking who the next lottery winner will be. No one is prepared to even give an estimate. So the Arts Museum has taken over the mantle as the primary museum in Tbilisi. We were actually very keen to go – the main exhibition was devoted to the Jews of Georgia and this really interested us.
We bought our tickets and the power immediately went out across the whole central city. As a result we couldn’t go inside, so we went for lunch instead. By the time we got back, power was restored and we went in. The exhibition was great – Jewish life in Georgia goes back 2000 years, and there were fascinating artifacts, paintings etc. Georgians are actually very proud of the fact that the Jews have thrived in their country – as opposed to so many countries. After this we visited the Treasury – admittance is only allowed with a guide and we had a lovely guide who was very keen tp practise her English. The Treasury is astounding – gold, gold and more gold – from ancient times through medieval times, Georgia has a long history of gold and jewelry work. Our guide wasn’t happy though – repeating a theme we had heard so often before, salaries were poor, arts and culture received very little funding (hence the closure of the National Museum) and basically, she was frustrated.
That day we discovered a whole part of the city that we had never seen before – Vake — beautiful boulevards, small side streets, lost of boutiques and stores, and many restaurants. I suppose this is what happens to most travellers – they tend to spend most of their time near to where they stay and this is why we had missed Vake up to now. We were sorry not to be able to spend more time in this part.
That night we went to a Thai restaurant called (I think) Thai Restaurant! – and what a place – it would be at home in any large European or North American city – a beautiful interior, excellent service and wonderful food. More so, they were so excited to see us that they gave us dessert on the house! I’d go back anytime!
Our time in Tbilisi was over – we had really enjoyed ourselves – on the whole friendly people, fascinating architecture, easily walkable mostly, cabs everywhere and despite our language difficulties we managed just fine. Our apartment served us well too. Certainly it was very reasonably priced, had a great location, and was just right for us. A Marriott might have been more comfortable, but here we had a nice garden, washing machine, kitchen – really perfect for a family!