Featured City – Tbilisi: Georgia on my Mind
TBILISI is Georgia’s capital and largest city, and home to over a hundred ethnicities. In the same neighborhood, you can see churches, synagogues, and mosques. If that sounds like a typical immigrant magnet, well, it’s always been that way here. Tbilisi was named for the numerous hot springs here, so maybe that’s why so many different people came and left some baggage behind—Persia, Byzantines, Arabs, and Turks. The 12th century was Georgia’s “golden age,” until the Mongols came in 1236 and stayed for a century. Then the plague hit in 1366, as it did almost everywhere else in Europe (though apparently least in the Slavic countries with banya). After that it was the bone of contention between Persians, Turks, and Russians until the modern era. Pick your master; Tbilisi was a predominately Armenian city at the time by the way.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Tbilisi briefly became capital of a united Transcaucasus of the three republics, then came independence, and then Russia invaded and made it a Soviet Socialist Republic a few short years later. You probably know the rest. Ex-Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze became president in 1993 and presided over a period filled with crime, corruption, and chaos. After a rigged election, the people finally got their “Rose Revolution” in 2003. Things are better now, and it’s a pleasant modern city. Historic sights include the Nankala Fortress, Anchiskati Church, Sioni Cathedral, and Church of Mekheti. This is the connection point between Azerbaijan and Armenia, unless you’re going through Iran. Direct border crossings between them are closed because of Nagorno-Karabakh.
And yes, they’ve got hostels here, too. I wish I’d known that back in 2009, when I walked the city for hours tying to find cheap digs. I ended up paying a lot of money and cutting my stay short. That’s why you need this book, for those last-minute bookings. Or you can reserve in advance with our partner Tbilisi Friends Hostel, right in Old Town, with an in-house bar, kitchen, balconies, and rates that start at only $12. How’s that for a deal?