Transfiguration in Tbilisi

I can never resist a thrift store.  Walking through a thrift store door is an act of optimism, a confidence that a few minutes of digging through racks will unearth just what I didn’t know I was looking for but what I most desire.  It’s more than finding a treasure;  it’s an act of recognition, of knowing that new buttons and a bit of mending transform a moth-eaten castoff into a luxurious cashmere cardigan.

Tbilisi is like one of the great thrift stores, that one a friend tips you off to and you take an hour train to find on a 90° day.  Tbilisi is simultaneously a mess and a treasure hunt of crumbling, cast-away beauty.

There are fine museums in Tbilisi which you certainly should visit.  The sights are okay too, but the best way to see Tbilisi is treat the whole city as a sight.  Get a map from the tourist information center in Freedom Square and start walking the neighborhoods.  Get distracted by side streets and alleys, poke your head around corners.  Indulge yourself by taking your time about it because this is one of the most endearing cities in the world.


Tbilisi is crammed full but not crowded.


Some buildings are in genteel condition, painted in soft pastels.


Other buildings seem built by layers, with no plan.


The most lovable part of Tbilisi?  Balconies!


There are scruffy balconies.


Once elegant balconies about to tumble into the street.


Lacey-edged balconies jutting out for you to bang your careless head on.


Friendly collisions of balconies.


Private balconies, public balconies, balconies to hang your laundry and satellite dish on.


Tbilisi’s stone structures are ageing gracefully.


Turn of the century grandeur.


Tbilisi is high romance.  Seriously, take your honeymoon here.


Tchaikovsky’s house!


Now, about those facades in Tbilisi….can I get a WTF here?


Oh, and the chimneys will make you lift your eyebrows too.


Please, please can I live in a building with two naked men and a yawning monster over the door?


Tbilisi is full of vitality, but a peaceful, curious sort of vitality.  Our guide book recommended several day trips but all we wanted to do was stay in Tbilisi and explore.


If Tbilisi is a thrift store then Communism was the careless and unworthy trustee of fine possessions.  Communism shoved this exquisite cashmere sweater of a city into the back of the closet, stained and eaten by moths.


Tbilisi is mending its moth holes and steaming out its wrinkles.  Romantic, scruffy, and full of potential, Tbilisi is a city for the most curious optimists.  I urge you to visit, and please, book a guest house with a balcony.


How we got to Tbilisi: flight from Chicago via Munich.

Where we slept: SKAdaVELI Guesthouse.  Price: €35 for a double.  Recommended: highly.






  1. OK, the balconies really do it for me. Maybe a second honeymoon, for semi-adventurous people of a certain age?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A perfect second honeymoon—think of all the toasts on your balcony with the amazing Georgian wine!


  2. WTF indeed! Who knew? It looks completely charming! I’d definitely go there. And looks like I should soon – before it completely crumbles. Beautiful, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks—didn’t you tell me your daughter was born in Ostuni? I think you have a craving for beautiful and unique places.


      1. What a good memory you have! Yes – I love quirk. And you guys have a knack for finding it, don’t you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How beautiful, it reminds me a bit of Cuba, the same mix of grandeur and decay. Your photos really capture the spirit of the place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You’re so lucky to have visited Cuba.


      1. It was an interesting but not entirely pleasant experience. We went in 2006 on what was effectively a package holiday, a week in a beach resort and a few days in Havana. We were some of the very few tourists who actually ventured outside of the gated resort and saw what the real Cuba was like. We were pretty young and found it quite difficult to process the sense of guilt we felt. We’d never been somewhere before where the people weren’t all happy for us to be there and couldn’t understand why the other holidaymakers seemed to be completely oblivious to this. I’m very glad we went though. It was before I owned a digital camera but perhaps one day I’ll get round to scanning the pictures I took and write a retrospective blog post.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tbilisi seems to be the spiritual brother of Porto, and I loved Porto. Now, thanks to these photos I can imagine walking around Tbilisi and loving it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to go to Porto now!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Highly recommended. I’m still enchanted.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Iloenchen · · Reply

    Sooo pretty! I wish I could go there soon because it looks amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks—now that you’ve been to Peru you should see the mountains of Georgia (after Tbilisi of course!)


  6. That twisted chimney was for a bored bricklayer. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting photos, Tbilisi really is a city with a lot of different personalities. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jesper. I can see that you recently visited Georgia as well—did you see the waterfall in Tbilisi (over near where the sulfur baths are)? There are so many surprises!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes we visited Georgia in the begining of June, a really amazing trip. And yes, we saw the waterfalls, both the one next to the baths and also the one in the botanical garden. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. * As ‘Profusion’ said, it reminds me of Havana. * I agree that just walking randomly in any city is the best way to get to know it. * Your writing in this post is a real tribute to Tbilisi and the best of yours I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank for the compliment BuntyMcC. I felt like writing a no shame love letter to Tbilisi so I’m glad you were feeling it too.


  9. I had a very similar idea of Tbilisi. Though, being quite familiar with its history and having experienced the Soviet part of it myself I also had the range of my emotions extended by some let’s say negative-memory-caused feelings. But I do find this city absolutely charming, very underestimated as a potential holiday destination and very ‘balcony-charactered’.


    1. Thank you for your comment—I’m glad we both find Tbilisi charming! What former Soviet country did you grow up in? It is so interesting to hear from people who grew up during the iron curtain, having myself been raised hearing so much propaganda about the soviets as a child in the US.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was born in Belarus, it is still very Soviet-like, it has its advantages, though 😉 my grandparents told me very different stories about those times, their life experiences are often opposite despite the fact they lived in the same country. I find it very curious, indeed


  10. Charming .Many of them look very familiar.What about the graffiti? Did you find it interesting?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We didn’t see a lot of graffiti, but what we saw was really smart, made with stencils I think. Thanks for reminding me—I should post pictures.


  11. How many days would you recommend in Tbilisi?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Three or four.


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