Tbilisi simmers in the summer sun. It’s a vibrant city I’ve come to love in the short time I’ve already been here, a city I knew I would return to time and again after my first visit ten years ago.
I’ve found the essence of a city generally lies with its people, its architecture, its markets, and its bookshops - and Tbilisi is a city that loves books. I bought a translation of Shota Rustaveli’s epic poem: The Knight in the Panther’s Skin from an elderly gentleman – appropriately - on Rustaveli Avenue. He smiled, nodding his approval on my choice. It’s an epic tale of the fight for love, friendship, and devotion – just a few of the characteristics I’ve come to recognise in the Georgian people. A favourite bookshop is just off Freedom Square next to Dadi’s wine bar. Dive in here day or night (with a glass of delicious organic wine) to browse through sepia-tinted maps, cracked records and vast stamp collections. You might even come across the first edition of a Chekhov or Camus if you’re lucky.
It’s best to visit Tbilisi’s main fruit and vegetable market in the early morning, when the trucks arrive in from every region in the country, groaning under the weight of fresh produce. Now is the time for watermelon; these huge, delicious fruits are stacked high in pyramids waiting to be devoured. I’ve never tasted cherries so sweet, or peaches, apricots and nectarines so juicy as I have here. The best thing? Being able to buy them by the bucket.
Renowned for its architecture, Tbilisi is a captivating blend of old and new reflecting the country’s long and complicated history. Byzantine, Orientalist, Art Nouveau and Stalinist styles rub shoulders to create a unique cultural identity making it one of the most original cities in the world. The Georgian language reflects this too; with its 33-letter alphabet, the characters are illegible to the foreigner, but I’m determined to learn it if only to be able to write the beautiful script.