Tbilisi’s Right Bank

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June, 2023

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Sightseeing in Tbilisi - Part 2 - The Right Bank

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We spent three nights in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi and enjoyed both a guided tour and free time.

The Right Bank of the River Koura is home to the city’s major sights and Historic District which is on the UNESCO tentative list. The labyrinth of narrow streets had beautifully converted pastel coloured buildings with wooden balconies and hidden courtyards, whilst in complete contrast, others were in a state of disrepair with vines growing through them. It will be fascinating to return in 5 to 10 years when the entire area has been renovated.

A cable car from the left bank, took us to the Narikala Fortress on the right of the river. There is now only ruined walls to see, but we took a short walk along a path lined with souvenir sellers to the twenty-metre aluminium statue of Mother Georgia erected in 1958 to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of Tbilisi. Wearing Georgian national dress, to symbolise the national character, she holds a bowl of wine in her left hand to welcome friends, and in her right hand, a sword for those who come as enemies.

On the steep walk back down into town, we looked out over the National Botanical Gardens which appeared to consist mainly of large trees rather than plants, and as time was limited, we decided against visiting. Instead we focused on the views of the city and in particular Juma Mosque, the only one left in the city, and the domes of the sulphur bathhouse in the Abanotubani district. These use the naturally warm water from the hot springs in the area, and although they are popular with tourists and locals, we passed by and continued along a decked area with bridges to the 22m tall Leghvtakhevi Waterfall.

On the right bank were several religious buildings of all denominations: the Great Synagogue of Tbilisi; the Zion Cathedral named after Mount Zion in Jerusalem: an Orthodox Church with a chanting priest and singing ladies, and the Anchiskhati Basilica, a 6th century three-nave church.

The Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theatre had a higgledy-piggledy tower and looked old although it was modern and focussed on adult political satire rather like Spitting Image. Unfortunately, we were too early/late for the angel who pops out with a small hammer to ring the bell every hour on the hour. A nearby hotel had several fabulous bronze statues outside, all with film connections. One was of an actor called Dodo Abashidze, who in the 1975 film, The First Swallow, played a gifted and enthusiastic sportsman who created the first ever Georgian football team which eventually faced an English club, although I’ve struggled to find out the result.

Georgian’s have a great love of food and wine and the pedestrianised Erekle Street was lined with bars and restaurants and as this was close to our hotel, we visited frequently. I particularly loved the Tamada or Toast Master statue and hearing our guide’s stories about Georgian supras (feasts or parties), when the Tamada introduces each toast, of which there are many. The country’s approach to wine drinking was summed up by a picture of Frank Sinatra on the wall of a wine shop with the quote: ‘Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy’. A sentiment I can wholeheartedly endorse.

See also:
Sightseeing in Tbilisi – Part 1 – The Left Bank
Sightseeing in Tbilisi – Part 3 – Rustaveli Avenue

Helen Jackson

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