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Story and photos by
Brad Hathaway
High on Adventure, January 2020

CIA factbook map of the Republic of Georgia
CIA Factbook Map of the Republic of Georgia

The citizens of the Republic of Georgia are probably tired of Americans who wonder if their capital city Tbilisi is in a suburb of Atlanta in the State of Georgia. However, adventurous travelers like the readers of High on Adventure all know Tbilisi is the capital city of a nation located to the ea st of the Black Sea with Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey as neighbors. Indeed, it has been a bridge between Europe and Asia ever since the Silk Road routes first served trade as early as a century before Christ.

Tbilisi itself is a lovely city straddling the Kura River which flows out of the Caucasus Mountains through Georgia and Azerbaijan into the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Kura River scenic
Tbilisi, Kura River

Portions of the city have a very European feel. The City Hall faces on a classic open square with a roundabout in the center circling the Freedom Monument, a pillar topped by a golden statue (actually, gilded bronze) of St. George for whom the nation is named. While it looks like it has stood there for ages, it actually only dates to 2006 when the nation was celebrating independence from the Soviet Union which had imposed a soviet government on Georgia in 1921.

Tbilsi City Hall, Freedom Square, Freedom Monument
Tbilisi City Hall, Freedom Square and Freedom Monument

Facing on the square are a number of interesting buildings, but of most interest to this visitor from America was the triangular frontage of the Information Center on NATO and EU which had three flags draped facing the Freedom Monument: Georgia’s white and red banner, the European Union’s blue backed circle of gold stars and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) emblem in white on blue. Georgia has had increasingly close ties to NATO but is not yet a member as there are complications due to the presence of Russian forces in two Georgian territories that border on Russia.

Republic of Georgia NATO/EU building
Republic of Georgia NATO-EU building

The Georgian flag is flown over the entrance to the National Library and as well tops the National Legislature Building on Rustaveli Avenue, the city’s main street on the west side of the river.

Republic of Georgia National Library
  Republic of Georgia Parliament  
Republic of Georgia National Library
Republic of Georgia Parliament

On the other side of the river, there are areas that also feel very much like typical European cities. Marjanishvili Square, named for a Georgian theater director, glows at night. It is a bustling center both day and night with a major subway station underground. This photo, however, doesn’t show the McDonalds on the other side of the square.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Marjanishvili Square
Tbilisi Marjanishvili Square

A new bridge of steel and glass with light emitting diodes (or “LEDs”) which opened in 2010, spans the Kura. It connects the old town area with a beautiful park in the new district on the left bank. Designed by Italian architect Michele De Lucchi, the glass canopy quite gracefully covers the glass-sided pedestrian bridge.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Bridge of Peace
Bridge of Peace

A Public Services Hall where citizens with business with any of a number of government agencies can get “one stop service” sits on the right bank of the Kura. Designed by internationally prominent architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, the structure has mushroom-like steel canopies over the conjoined office spaces.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisis government services hall
Tbilisi government services hall

Not all the modern architecture has been as successful as the bridge or the services hall. The Fuksases also designed a music theater and exhibition hall that looks as if two stainless steel tubes were emerging from the hillside facing the Peace Bridge. They may look impressive from afar but up close you notice that all the doors are padlocked and there are missing panes of glass. Look through the main glass doors which appear not to have been washed in ages and you see littered emptiness. The project has never been completed and doesn’t seem to have much support for completion in the current government.

  Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Concert Hall   Republic of Georgia Tbilisi padlocked concert hall  
Tbilisi Concert Hall
Padlocked concert hall

The skyline of the modern section of the city has been marked or marred, depending on your taste, by modern towers. The Biltmore and Radisson Hotels are the most prominent - day or night.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi skylineRadisson Hote
Republic of Georgia Tbilisi skyline Radisson Hotel

Churches dominate no matter which neighborhood of the city you stroll through. Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church was just a block from my hotel; the Kashveti Church of St. George was on the opposite side of the river.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Saint Nnicholas Orthodox Church
  Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Kashveti Church  
Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church
Kashveti Church

The oldest church in the city is the Anchiskhati Basilica which dates to the sixth century. The newest major addition to the city’s collection of worship sites is perhaps its most impressive, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the principal church of the Georgian Orthodox Church. It was consecrated only fifteen years ago and dominates the skyline on the hills on the left bank.

  Republic of Georgia Tbilisi, oldest church Anchiskhati Basilica   Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedra  
Anchiskhati Basilica
Holy Trinity Cathedral

At the entrance to Tbilisi’s charming old town stands Rezo Gabriadze’s Marionette Theatre. Gabriadze is a playwright, writer, sculptor, actor and director who turned to puppetry and established his own marionette theatre. Performances are a must-see for adults as well as children. He designed his own theater and built a clock tower where a puppet angel appears above to chime the hours.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theatre
  Tbilisi Marionette Theatre clocktower  
Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theatre
Marionette Theatre clocktower

Within the old town the buildings tend to be small, colorful and often offer a touch of whimsy as is the case with this wine shop.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi old town wineshop
Tbilisi old town wineshop

Public art is impressive throughout Tbilisi. Murals adorn the walls of the underpasses that take pedestrians under major roads and over major bridges. At the entrance to many of the underpasses you can view directories that explain the art … but they are in Russian so they need a bit of translation help for visitors from the United States who are not Russian language experts.

Tbilisi Cyrilic Art Guide
Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Cyrilic Art Guide

But the art itself is impressive.

Tbilisi art in the underground

Of course, there are many statues of historic figures - one, a fairly traditional statue of artist Mihaly Zichy which dominates a lovely park.

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Park Mihaly Zichy monument
Mihaly Zichy monument

Another, a bit more stylized statue of a saint, stands in front of the old city wall.

Tbilisi statue of saint at old city wall
Tbilisi statue of saint at old city wall

Even the pillars supporting balconies of buildings along the major streets can be impressive.

Tbilisi public art pillars
Tbilisi public art-pillars

The parks are filled with sculpture. Dedeana Park has a figure celebrating a child at play. A circle of frolicking peasants is at the entrance to the old city.

  Tbilisi public art-pillars   Republic of Georgia Tbilisi Circle of Frolicking Peasants Avtandil Monaselidze  
Dedeana Park


Circle of Frolicking Peasants
Avtandil Monaselidze


Whimsy seems to be highly valued in the public art of Tbilisi. A jazz club has a saxophonist embedded in the wall of their building and even the bollards on Rustaveli Avenue demonstrate a sense of humor.

  Republic of Georgia Tbilisi saxophonist sculpture   Republic of Georgia Tbilisi whimsical bollard boy   Republic of Georgia Tbilisi whimsical bollard standing man  
Tbilisi saxophonist sculpture
Whimsical bollard boy
Bollard standing man

But my favorite of all is the statue “Lamplighter” by Irakli Tsuladze at the entrance to the old city via Baratashvili street. And, yes, at night it lights up!

Republic of Georgia Tbilisi sculpture lamplighter
Tbilisi lamplighter sculpture

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