Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Agmashenebeli Renovations

A week into my return, and Tbilisi has at last become wonderful to me again! After some initial disappointments (world's ugliest casino, the proliferation of astoundingly terrible restaurants on once-charming Tabdize street, "unseasonably" seasonable March weather), the skies have cleared, the weather has been restored, and I have begun meeting Thoroughly Interesting People (including, most notably, a thoroughly charming Romantic-poets-reading Augustine-challenging English composer who, if he gives me permission, ought to be the subject of his own Blog Profile) anew. I've started taking Russian lessons (I can now string sentences together of the "This is my green orange. Where is the milk? Do you know if he is working in the square?" variety, and have resolved to name my future kitten the incredible adorable sounding почему ("pochemou" - or "why?")

I have mixed feelings about the renovation of the Old Town. I find the rebuilt streets to be beautiful (the newer crop of rebuilidings rather more successful than the initial) but somewhat lifeless; despite my addiction to brunch at Tartine, it - like much of Chardini St and Median - has become terribly bourgeois when compared to the decrepit-yet-wonderful back streets of Sololaki and Mtatsminda which have become my go-to haunt. (The Black Lion is thus all the more fantastic for its secrecy!) However, I'm enormously impressed by the renovations of D. Agmashenebeli Avenue across the river. Its eastern end remains cluttered with peeling Art Nouveau facades, extravagant bridal stores, the best-kept-culinary-secret Lazi (a hole in the wall restaurant at number 62 with outstanding ostri)and excellent vintage clothing shops (my latest find, an Indiana Jones-eque beige shirt, was seven lari); however, west of Marjanishvili, the avenue has been restored to its former Belle Epoque grandeur: the streets are cobblestoned, the brands high-end (it's very Un-Bohemian of me, but I went into raptures at discovered that the store Jahello stocks Pimkie, the world's only manufacturer of trousers-that-fit-me at prices comparable to/less than Parisian prices), and - best of all - everything remains Overwrought and and Filled With Opulent Faded Grandeur Melancholy as before!

There's a surprising lack of cafes in the area to complement the influx of shops (although I did spy an outpost of Vake's Cafe Canape poking out in a side-street about halfway down towards Tamar Mepe), which is a shame only insofar as the area demands an Opulent Viennese Cafe, but there's quite a few Turkish restaurants in the area, as well as a cluster of restaurants (the wonderfully kitschy English Tea House, a branch of Shemoikhede Genatsvale, a few more expensive option) around Marjanishvili. Certainly I find New Agmashenebeli vastly preferably, as a Promenade and Shopping experience, to either Rustaveli (which can be noisy and overly automobile-centric) or Vake/Saburtalo.

Thus I give my Flaneur stamp of approval.
On an unrelated note, can anyone inform me why the ruins between the Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia apparently belong to the Greeks?


George from Georgia said...

Thank you very much for this update. Another great post! As always! It’s such a pleasure to read your blog. My Tbilisi, my Sololaki, my Vera, my Agmashenebeli, my Abanotubani - all have so much of beauty and charm, and seems like you love beauty and UNDERSTAND it.

Anonymous said...

What was "Lazi" is now called "Sokhumi". The ostri is still the same, though.

Tim B.