Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting from A to B in Tbilisi

Morris E. Gatsby, Esq.
Oxford-life has been rather hectic. Between directing a play, attempting to produce postgraduate research (on Kazantzakis's theatre and the novels of Dostoevsky and Victor Hugo), trying to plan out next year while still waiting for a whole host of responses (current options on the table include drama schools in Paris or London; am still waiting to hear on DPhil funding in Oxford and Cambridge), and carting miniature giraffes around Oxford (see right), there's been little time to plan March's upcoming sojourn back to Tbilisi. Which is a shame, as a number of trips (Vardzia! Mtskheta! Kazbegi!) loom on the horizon.

Today, however, I wish to blog about a subject of great importance. Namely, my attempt to get from my home (near the baths) to the phenomenal, Beardsley-themed art nouveau Near Opera cafe off Rustaveli Avenue, my favorite place for Uzbek pilaf and slightly warm iced coffee. Back in the very beginnings of my time in Tbilisi, I lived at 1 Rustaveli Avenue, making my sojourn reasonably simple (continue down avenue, do not trip over makeshift boardwalk, avoid the surprisingly strong clutches of the resident child-beggar, do not get mistaken for a prostitute.) Now, however, due to the labyrinthine nature of the Old Town, my options are more varied, and infinitely more interesting.

Note: map in no way resembles actual route.
View Larger Map

Option One: Via Betlemi
If it's a bright, sunny, and otherwise lovely day, I may decide to take the ostensible "shortcut" through the renovated hillsides of Betlemi, where I will suffer through exhausting ascents in order to end up in one of the loveliest hidden gardens near the Betelmi church. It's a paradise of a hidden garden; however, I have a 50% chance of getting lost and ending up either at the foot of a Zoroastrian Fire Temple located conveniently in someone's backyard or, alternatively, at the top of the Narikala Fortress. From the stairs near the Lower Betelmi Church one can descend into Asatiani Street and continue to Freedom Square via the controversial Gudiashvili Square. At this point I'll get distracted by the pretty Ottoman-inspired architecture and end up going to Pur Pur instead.

Option Two: Via the Old Town
Renovations are, however,
still in process.
This seems like the most direct route - ever since the in-renovations Erekle II square was re-opened to pedestrians it is possible to cross from the KGB Cafe to the Patriarchate without going down by the river. In practice, however, one of the streets near the patriarchate is inevitably closed off, leading to a circuitous labyrinth through Sololaki's vintage clothing shops and mini-markets that invariably drops me off right at the door of the Puppet Theatre and its adjacent restaurant, a restaurant designed and run by said puppeteer. This is too excellent to pass up, and so I will probably give up and go to said Cafe Gabriadze instead. I can also attempt to take the "direct path" via Lesiledze Street, but this easily adds ten to fifteen minutes to the journey time.

Option Three: Along the River
Less scenic (although there are a few excellent sculptures to be found!), this at least gets me from my house to the Baratashvili Bridge in one piece. However, I am highly likely to go out of my way to avoid the Highly Sketchy Underpass (where my mother got groped) near the bridge and hence head all the way to the "market" underpass (with underground bakery!) At this point, I will be near Purseladze Street, making it infinitely easier to give up and go to "East-meets-West"-themed Caravan instead.

However, Caravan is often inexplicably closed and/or without electricity (around 50% of the time, including most of the summer and winter, and including on the days in which they are set to "reopen"), which means that I may be inspired to head all the way to Rustaveli Avenue and walk down to the opera house.

And thus, approximately one in every six times I attempt an outing to Near Opera for wonderful khachapuri and/or mojitos, I actually succeed. Given the various circuitous twists and turns, the 2.5 kilometre walk takes me about an hour from the baths.

Let this be a lesson unto you, O readers. There is no direct way to get from point A to Point B in Tbilisi.


Jennifer said...

I'm counting the days down till I go! Tbilisi just looks incredible, and it doesn't feel quite real that I'll be there for 2 whole months.

After days of studying, I'm proud to say I can read the alphabet now! Although, I do have a feeling I have a better chance of learning Russian than Georgian, but I'm making an effort with both languages.

BTW can you recommend any books about Georgia? I've read an excellent one about the Caucasus, which was really interesting, and I've got an ebook on my kindle about Georgian folk tales. Anything related to Georgian literature would be very interesting.

Fleur Flaneur said...

Ali and Nino by Kurban Said is the "ultimate" Caucasus novel (Georgia and Azerbaijan) and I loved it. I also love "Timeless" by Nikolas Tchkotoua (sp?) - which might be harder to find outside of Georgia...

Wendell Stevenson's "Stories I Stole" is about Tbilisi but didn't resonate with me quite as much; Peter Nasmyth and Thomas Waal's books are also quite well-regarded but I don't know them as well.