Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back in Tbilisi

The problem with blogging about Tbilisi is that when I finally arrive, strung out on Diazepam and muttering softly to myself about the various inadequacies of Air Pegasus, I immediately allow myself to become swept up in the city (and in eight hours daily of revising for finals, which has replaced Hegel-izing as my Distraction Du Jour). I must therefore update scantily, focusing on

Highlights of My Return

a) The Market at Orbeliani Street
April 9 Park
If you need to acquire something random in Tbilisi, be it goods or services (spinach, which bizarrely Populi never stocks, or trainers...), you'll probably be told one of two things. If you look like a clueless foreigner (which I do), you may be told to go to Goodwill/Saburtalo/Vake/one of the many expat enclaves where Cheerios are imported and people's housekeepers do their shopping. Or, if you look like a clueless-foreigner-with-no-money (which I also do, especially when wearing my gym clothes), you may be told to head to the bazaar at Vagzlis Moedani, which is enormous and terrifying and somewhat overwhelming.

But I have discovered, gentle readers, that nearly anything in the world (LL bean shorts! Nike trainers! Garlic and onion on braided ropes! Obscure vegetables!) can be found cheaply and relatively easily at one of the stalls between April 9 Park and the large Populi! Ditto cheap food, flowers, cobblers, key-copiers, and more! (Except for framers, whom I consult frequently to house my ever-growing set of antique prints torn from old-book pages. They live on the steps of the Academy of Sciences.)

I *love* doing errands in Tbilisi! Where else could getting simple things done make me feel so clever and accomplished? What do you mean every Georgian woman manages to buy spinach and get her prints framed and trainers bought cheaply? I feel special!

b) My new favorite restaurant

The Chaikhana has been closed for the past three days, which is worrying; much in Tbilisi seems to be subject to Sudden Closure Syndrome. However, while little will ever replace the Chaikhana in my affections, I have discovered my New Favorite Novelizing Haunt. This being Sheriklebi, located on the right side of the Academy of Sciences, a bizarre vintage-film-meets-19th-century-meets-Pirosmani (really! I think each section of the restaurant is meant to represent a different century) Georgian restaurant with an owner who, upon discovering I spoke Italian, rushed into my arms and kissed me firmly and joyfully on the forehead. There is also an adorable puppy who lives outside. Lunch was 15 lari for lobio, mchadi, pkhali, and bottled water. 

c) Theatre in Tbilisi is Amazing
At the moment I'm disappointing myself by failing to leave my wonderful, toasty flat for a production of Jean Anouilh's Antigone, at the Marjanishvili Threatre (I directed it in high school, which gives me a shot at understanding it in Georgian!). It's one of my favorite plays, but I am alas recovering from post-Couchsurf-hosting-exhaustion-syndrome, and need a day to stretch out in my flat and reclaim ownership of my study!

This is all the more of a failure, however, because the last play I saw at the Marjanishvili - a wonderful Belle Epoque theatre on the Other Side of the River (ie, Too Far Away) was one of the best pieces of theatre I've seen...ever! This is a new adaptation of Bocaccio's Decameron, told in a mixture of commedia dell'arte and intense, visual-metaphor-laden physical theatre, which was gorgeous in exactly my preferred style (over the top, Grand Guignol, velvet-curtain-and-hooked-nose-mask, people throwing roses on the stage at the curtain call, theatre). I understood the vast majority of the plot(s), despite having no Georgian whatsoever! But amorous men and virtuous women are telegraphed the same the world 'round.

(Incidentally, I also went with my New Friend N., a writer and translator (and future co-Oxford student!), whom I met through this very blog! So write me a comment if you're reading this and in Tbilisi - I can drag you to bizarre interpretive theatre too!)

I do want to make it to Antigone (playing in repertory) at some point, as well as Robert Sturua's Twelfth Night at the Rustaveli Theatre, which is on tomorrow, as well as My Hamlet, La Ronde, and Private Lives.

I have an unexpected weekend in Tbilisi, due in large part to the windstorm overtaking Borjomi (I was meant to go horseback-riding! Alas!) What on earth should I do with my Sunday, other than a trip to Sioni Church for a proper Orthodox service. (a mixture of finals-revision and another tiptoeing step towards proper conversion...)

1 comment:

Mixho said...

If you love pure and authentic food do visit the patriarchate food shop 50 meters on the side of the Sioni cathedral. There you will find a natural variation according to season and it is ten times better than ordinary hole food and organic stores. The products from tkveli, naduri, chajo, arajani, karaki to rze, eggs and bread, wine, chacha, arraki and what is possible in vegetables is produced by monks. Right now they have even great spinach, stapilo and much more. Also some smoked meat and Katami from time to time. Yo also find all natural powerful variations of sourdough bread directly from heaven. Everything is so pure and price is better than other places where evil people (vake expats) shop at goodwill and populi to by lowest level from the German market dumped here. The people who work there are also very nice. I think I have tasted almost everything and never ever have been disappointed. Happy you who have still this to find out. Start with the ten variations of tapli that are produced and sorted according to if it is mountain or valley honey etc. Made by monks (and bees I think).