Based on the media coverage that Georgia has recieved in the past few months, most people imagine the country as a heap of smoldering rubble. It is true that Russia has been bullying the small nation around, but luckily the military clashes have been isolated in two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are located in the north of the country. The rest of the nation is unscathed and going about their business as normal. In fact, I have found Tbilisi to be a fairly calm and quiet capital city.
Not only is Tbilisi calm, it is located in an incredibly beautiful setting; mountains surround the city and the Mtkvari River (how is that for a consonant cluster?) runs through the center. There are ancient churches of all kinds (Armenian, Georgian, Zorastrian, Muslim) scattered throughout the city. There is a little bit of a Soviet feel in the outskirts of the city, but the center does not appear to be Soviet at all, but much older. Despite the ubiquitous historical monuments, the city is very cosmopolitan and is Westernizing at a very rapid pace.
I scored big with my couchsurfing arrangment - I have a huge apartment with a balcony overlooking a main street all to myself! My host has moved out but still has the place for the remainder of the month, so until tomorrow morning it is all mine. It has been good to catch up on some sleep after a week of traveling. My night train from Batumi to Tbilisi involved a four year old with access to unlimited Fanta, candy bars and chewing gum. Needless to say, it was not a quiet night and I didn't get much sleep.
I spent the day touring the city and taking pictures of the main landmarks. Unfortunately, I am an unskilled and unenthusiastic photographer with a sub-standard digital camera. Thus, my pictures make Georgia look grey and dull. I assure you that everything I have photographed looked twice as good in person. Now that you are excited to see my pictures, here they are.
Tomorrow I head East on a mini-bus for Gremi Village in the Kakheti region to join the Temi-Community for a month of grape harvesting. The village is fairly remote, so I don't know if I will have any internet access, so there may be an extended lapse in my postings. Hopefully there will be a nearby internet terminal so that I can get at least a weekly information fix and stay in touch.