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After over a week in the country we finally made it the capital Tbilisi. A modern cosmopolitan city which has still held on to its history (and leafy boulevards that are more Paris than middle Asia/ far Eastern Europe. This you can see as you wander down small side streets and come across churches and quaint courtyards. Tbilisi was also going to be the first time on this trip that we would be staying in a hostel (we’d dodged them so far). Normally we find that as a couple hostels just don’t work money wise. For the same price we always seemed to find a cheaper hotel room (with a proper duvet, pillow, no need to listen to anyone but Alexei snore and a seriously lower risk of catching some sort of fungal infection in the showers). But in Tbilisi hostels were REALLY cheap. For three pounds a night it was a hard to say no. Plus we figured that if it became that unbearable we could easily spend the money we’d saved drinking all night in the pub meaning we would never actually have to stay there (or be so drunk we would never remember the whole ordeal)!

Kids don’t waste time in Georgia – first thing in the morning, head straight down to the local bakery

With a bit of trepidation, we rocked up to the hostel and were pleasantly surprised! It was clean (ish) and in a great location. The guy who was in charge of running the hostel was a little creepy but hey we were not here for his personality! One of the things I find interesting in a hostel are all the characters you meet. There was a German couple who were hoping to travel the world for three years for as little money as possible. They were camping most nights, hitchhiking and cooking their own meals. It turned out that eating out (even in a place as cheap as Georgia) was a rare treat for them. I suddenly felt self conscious as I was sat opposite them when they told me this – I quickly hid my can of Pepsi and Mars bar under the table! There was also a young guy in his twenties who had come to Georgia for a music festival (and to ‘find himself’) and was now debating what to do next.

“Have you enjoyed Georgia so far?” asked Alexei

“Yeah it good place but I can’t find any drugs anywhere! It so hard man!”

“Erm, yeah sure… anyway how long you here for?”

“I leave now”

“Where you off too?”

“I don’t know, I no money so I think I go and sleep other place tonight”

“Oh in another hostel?”

“No. I find a bench or something, I see what happen.. see ya”

And with that he was gone.

There was also a Russian girl who was planning on opening a dog grooming business and had been using the hostel as her second home. Every time she spoke to me it was like being questioned by the KGB. A really loud, in your face kind of KGB. She would bark questions in your face, stare and then abruptly walk off. One day when Alexei was downstairs, she approached him and began apologizing to him for upsetting me (no clue why, no-one had ever been upset) and then continued to ask him if I was ok for the next day. That’s the kind of oddballs we find amongst the generally nice people in hostels.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of time everyone spent doing nothing. Most of the other hostellers had been in Tbilisi for over a week and not a single one could give any tips on what to do. Not wanting to be part of the of “stay at home and die of boredom” crew we headed out to discover the city. This involved a walking tour of the city, as well as attempting to put on as much weight as possible by eating everything, on every menu we clapped our eyes on. Georgian food is that good.

We’ll end our not-that-exciting blog post with a few more interesting shots of the very pretty postcard-like city which we discovered through Tbisli Free Walking Tour, a really good way to the main sights with very knowledgeable and entertaining guides. Hostel-bums, take not, here’s what you too can see for FREE:

Tbilisi Free Walking Tour – a decent intro to the city

Beautiful hidden churches (there’s a LOT of those in this area)

Jesus and the gang

Looking holy

Looking less holy with the man and his alcohol-filled horn

A funky bridge in Tbilisi

Churchkela – the DELICIOUS ‘Snickers’ of Georgia. A must-try combo of nuts covered in thickened grape juice

Tklapi – sun-dried pureed fruit. A very natural fruit roll-up, over a foot in diameter!

Stunning FREE views over Tbilisi – even on a cloudy and miserable day

Mother Georgia – wine in one hand, sword in the other. Sums up Georgia really (ps: Georgia claims to have INVENTED WINE… surely that’s good enough to add this country to your ‘must visit’ list?!)

Moody but still looks good. A bit like Shama 🙂

Full of pretty little buildings. Beijing this ain’t.

Freedom Square in the centre. So free, we ordered 10 khinkali and no-one stopped us.

Tbilisi at night – pretty no?

All the best bits of Tbilisi at night. Shama froze but it was worth it…. I think anyway!

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Like Disneyland. But with a lot more garlic, cheese and alcohol.

The backstreets of Tbilisi by day

A Sunday market by the main bridge

Full of useful items for the average man. Lamp, abacus and stethoscope

Or maybe some paintings of Stalin (born in Georgia) for the living room?

Georgia – great place for fruit and cheerful vendors

And a chance to get that dream haircut at a world class salon!

Kupati – worst dish we ever ate (so far). Beef organs squashed into a sausage, covered with onions and pomegranate seeds to try and distract you from the spicy but dirty taste

Ojakhuri – ‘Family meal’ with fried potatoes, onions and meat

Phkali – a vegetable patè – just puréed veg, garlic, ground walnuts, lemon juice & coriander (cilantro). A revelation, just like Tbilisi!