City Breaks

A Birthday Trip to Tbilisi

If plan ‘A’ doesn’t work, we still have 25 more letters in the alphabet, right?

Well, our trip to Tbilisi was Plan E (and hey, we still had 21 letters to spare!).

Plan A: Sri Lanka

Plan B: Bansko, Bulgaria

Plan C: Cappadocia, Turkey

Plan D: Budapest

. . . When you are an overbooked freelancer who has had 3 large projects by loved customers surprise you in January, yet you still want to be somewhere abroad for your 25th birthday, you have to do the most responsible thing: just book two super cheap tickets to a nearby, yet still abroad, city.

Thus, plan E: Tbilisi, Georgia

This was our second trip to Georgia in 6 months. Our first trip, to Batumi, was an actual holiday meant for general sightseeing, but our visit to Tbilisi was meant for two main things: 1.) dining in a panoramic restaurant, 2.) going to a theater.

The itinerary:

  • A flight from Larnaca to Kutaisi
  • A transfer from Kutaisi to Tbilisi
  • 6 nights in Tbilisi
  • A transfer from Tbilisi to Kutaisi
  • A flight from Kutaisi to Larnaca

The total budget for two people was 490 EUR (excluding the payments for airport parking, food costs, and taxi fares):

  • 62 EUR – airplane tickets
  • 400 EUR – accommodation
  • 28 EUR – transfers from/to airport

Before packing our luggage we set ourselves up for long transfers. Believe it or not, getting from Paphos to Tbilisi (through the Larnaca and Kutaisi airports) took us almost 12 hours! It wasn’t all bad, though, my favorite part was driving through the snow blanketed scenery in Georgia; for someone who has been accustomed to the sunshine in Cyprus for the past 3 years, it was quite a blissful experience.

Accommodation:

Our process of choosing a place to stay in Tbilisi was similar to our trip to Istanbul: something nice, reasonably priced, and close to the city center. This time, however, as we had much work to do, we were also looking for a place that had enough space for two freelancers to both be able to work and relax throughout the week.

Our winner? Apartment with Sauna on Dolidze Street.

It was a nice two story apartment in a residential district where there were many taxis that would take you where you wanted to go for a fair price. We had everything we needed for a really comfortable stay: a fireplace, a pool, a sauna, and even a grand piano!

Downfalls? The rooms were a bit cold (I also didn’t pack very warm pajamas), the furniture was fairly old, and there was nearly a complete lack of kitchenware. However, if you are used to spending holidays in country houses (like I am), you would enjoy staying here even with its little imperfections.

Also, we intentionally looked for a place without breakfast so that we could sleep in and finish all of our freelance work and fully enjoy our free time.

Dining:

As our apartment had a really nice dining area and was located on a street full of various shops and patisseries, we either cooked at home or bought ready-to-eat dishes from local delis during our busy work days.

On our well-deserved days off, however, we visited four restaurants: Zakhar Zakharych, Xeme, and Pastorali, and Brotmeister Cafe (where we spent a few of our mornings).

Brotmeister: This was a nice place not too far from our apartment. It seemed to be a freelancer hotspot; understandably, as it had a very nice atmosphere, fast Wi-Fi, and a mindful staff that wouldn’t interrupt you as you were working.

The prices may have been a bit high, but other than that we were very happy with it.

Zakhar Zakharych: We went here because I read that they served the best khinkali in the city. Let me tell you, this had to be true- we tried the khinkali with lamb meat, and they were absolutely delicious! Alas, I wasn’t super impressed by the other dishes; next time we will stick to just ordering several different types of khinkali- satisfaction guaranteed.

Xeme: This restaurant was the panoramic restaurant I mentioned earlier- one of the main reasons for our trip. It’s located on the 31st floor of the newly-built Biltmore Hotel and boasts a spectacular panorama of the beautiful Georgian capital. On top of that, it had a romantic, intimate atmosphere, the dishes came in Michelin-style portions, and they gave me a free dessert for my birthday (I’m sure they would give you one, too)!

For slightly more than 120 EUR we got two appetizers, two main dishes, and two glasses of elite wine (the glass of 2011 Usakhelauri was the highlight of my evening). Numbers aside, it was a quite memorable dinner. Next time we visit Tbilisi, we will be sure to reserve a table here again, or just visit their bar on the 30th floor to enjoy a cocktail or two before going to the nearby opera house.

Pastorali: As we were walking through the Old Town searching for a restaurant that wasn’t full of tourists but served traditional dishes, we ran into Pastorali several times. It was a sign- Pastorali was the one.

Right away, we were pleased with their nice, old-fashioned atmosphere. The waiter recommended some of the Megreli-cuisine dishes, and it was a fantastic recommendation- my favorite part of the dinner was the Megrelian khachapuri (a traditional bread full of cheese).

A word of caution: the dishes come in huge portions and the food is quite spicy. Next time, we will probably just order one khachapuri and split one main course for the two of us.

The city: 

Although, with work, we didn’t have adequate time to fully explore the city, we were still able to see a decent part of it and visit some of the local attractions.

We had planned to see the National Opera Theater for The Nutcracker ballet as one of our main objectives of the trip. . . check! As well, we also managed to see the local mall, the Peace Bridge, Freedom Square, Rustaveli Avenue, The Holy Trinity Cathedral, and the Old Town. However, we failed to take a cable ride and go to several of the museums- but hey, there’s always next time!

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How did I feel about Tbilisi? It wasn’t quite as trendy as Batumi, but the vibe was much closer to my native city of Kyiv (which I enjoyed). Tbilisi seemed to be a primarily gray-colored city, but with a vintage flare. Although, it did have a lot of nice parks and streets to admire, as well as many hills with great views of the city.

I could see myself living there to be able to go to the theater every other week, enjoy well-developed infrastructure, and take advantage of low (compared to Cyprus) prices.

Revisiting?

Most likely yes. I would definitely revisit for more panoramic dining or to watch another opera/ballet. However, in regards to gastronomic experiences or a fun weekend getaway, I would definitely revisit Batumi instead- it’s much easier to reach from the airport and is nicer for walking around the city and dining outside.

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