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.
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.