Didube station: urban chaos
Svetlana, my host in Gori, is really the businesswoman she promised to be at the first glance: sanguine, robust, raven-hair and an imperfect but flawless English accent, organizes for me the transfer to Tbilisi. A collective taxi, stopping just outside her house’s gate, takes me to the city for only 5 GEL – the “ordinary” marshrutka from the station costs 3.5! – in just 45 minutes apparently. Everything perfect, even if I have to admit that on the last point she was just a little bit… imaginative.
Getting to Didube station in Tbilisi is like entering a market in Calcutta’s old town: millenarian chaos, hundred of cars, marshrutkas, motorbikes, people who sell everything, each one screaming for profit.
The profession of marshrutka driver, but also of taxi driver, is a men-only job. Big, fat, coughing, the average Caucasian driver is full of testosterone, his age is hard to guess but probably he’s not as old as he seems. He gathers in groups with his similars, getting lost in animated and screaming conversations but without missing a beat in trying to attract new customers’ attention.
Mtskheta, the ancient capital
I will spend my last 2 days in Tbilisi, that’s why in the afternoon, together with A., I organize a trip to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Georgia between the third century BC. and the 5th century AD.. We get here by marshrutka at the usual astronomic price of 1 GEL.
Mtskheta is one of the first places of Georgian Christianity, proclaimed as “state religion” right here in the year 317. The day is terrific, sunny and with ana Amazing blue sky: we enjoy a lunch in front of Svetitskhoveli cathedral, where according to the legend Jesus Christ’s tunic has been buried, after a Roman centurion has sold it to a Georgian Jew. A few steps further, we visit the small nice Samtavro convent, where some nuns dressed in black sell honey and souvenirs to the tourists.
Jvari Monastery. The curious case of the lost driver
We negotiate with a driver the transportation to Jvari monastery, an amazing monastery on the top of the hill standing over the confluence of Mt’k’vari and Aragvi rivers… and here’s where the day’s adventures start! We ran out of money, so we arrange with the driver to go to see the monastery and to withdraw money for him when coming back to town. OK. We have 10 minutes to see the monastery… 10 minutes later we reach the parking… and the driver has gone. Completely disappeared, btw without being paid, he probably found some chicken to pluck that did not speak perfectly Russian like A. Therefore, we start to walk down towards the state highway, the idea is to cross the path of the marshrutka returning from Mtskheta Tbilisi, but it’s at least an 8-km walk and it’s getting dark. A very generous Georgian family is our savior: dad, mom and son offers us a lift and takes us to Didube station. Here, another misadventure: some guy committed suicide by throwing himself on the tracks, therefore the very efficient line subway is out of order. We keep waiting, for biblical time, bus 46 that should take us to Rustaveli… Meantime caravans of buses, loaded like cattle cars, are passing by, until the unhappy glances of the passengers convince us to go home by foot.
wine & spa in Tbilisi
I finish the day with an evening of well-deserved relax: wine and thermal baths.
Tblisi, considered the lively “clubbing” destination in Eastern Europe, also hides some alternative places like Zoestan, an underground bar managed by a French Georgian folk lover who often organizes live-music events. Last but not least, I spend one hour basking in the sulphurous spas of the old city, my choose Gulo’s Abano, that is incredibly open until 3 am. The thermal baths in Tbilisi is an ancient tradition tracing back to very old times: the meaning of “Tblisi” is in fact “hot”.