I had always been curious and fascinated with the Caucasus Mountains and the countries and autonomous regions on the strip of land between the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east. As is customary for me, my curiosity led me to a flight to Yerevan, Armenia and an overland adventure through Armenia, the Republic of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Each of these countries was quite different, and the experiences were diverse in their texture. One of my favorite sights and one that quite surprised me was when I visited the city of Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. When most in the west hear the name Tbilisi it conjures up images of the conflict with Russia over territories such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, if people can even place where Tbilisi is.
Founded in the 5th century, for the most part Tbilisi has been Georgia’s capital for almost fifteen centuries. After centuries of fighting and occupation of various groups such as the Byzantine Empire, Arabia, Persia and the Seljuk Turks, in 1921 Georgia was annexed by the new Bolshevik forces who began a process of integration into the Soviet Union.
From its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 to the Rose Revolution in 1993 the result of which President Eduard Shevardnadze was forced to resign to the 2008 military conflict with Russia in which the Tbilisi area was hit by Russian bombs from the air, Tbilisi has seen its share of turbulent times over the past few decades. However, it is now a thriving cosmopolitan city that resembles any in Europe.
An emerging café culture, always a plus for me, frames sites as diverse as the Madison Avenue-like Rustaveli Avenue, Freedom Square, the sight of many of the main events of the Rose Revolution, and the Old Town with its mosques, Orthodox cathedrals and beautifully decayed structures.
The iconic “Mother Georgia” statue can be seen from most points in the city, and one can hike up the seventeenth century Nirakala fortress to get a bird’s eye view of the city. Other sights not to be missed are the Georgian State Museum, the Georgian State art Museum, Mtatsminda/Mama Davit Church [Holy Mountain] and the Sioni and Metekhi Churches.
For current events and for more information on Tbilisi, visit http://www.info-tbilisi.com/.