Nine years in Georgia: the good and the bad.

Every September, I reflect on moving to Georgia, the country not the US state (it needs qualifying every time). I am often asked do I like Georgia? Well, my answer is “Yes and no”. Some things I like, some I don’t (as with any country, there will be the inevitable few, who will say the tired “if you don’t like it go back to where you came from!“). I’ve been here 9 years now, on balance I’d say I’m happy here and have no plans to move. This inevitably will be a very personal viewpoint, I realise others will have different likes and dislikes.

So let’s look at those likes and dislikes in more detail:

I love the fantastic light. Lots of clear sunny days make for good photos. Coming from England, where sunny days are rarer, this is a great blessing.

Light

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light in the stairwell of our old block in Varketili

Mountains

The mountains are spectacular, some are higher than any in the Alps (Mont Blanc is 4810m, Mount Shkhara in Svaneti is 5193m). As a drawcard, I think this is what can really attract tourists to Georgia.

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Khevsureti mountain scenery

Women

I might get into trouble for the next observation; but I find Georgian women are very pleasing on the eye, strangely many Georgian men seem to fantasize about Ukrainian women.

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Georgian model in Old Tbilisi

Georgian Cuisine

Georgians rave about their cuisine, one list places Georgian Cuisine as 4th out of 48 European Cuisines ranked behind only Italy, France and Spain. I am not so impressed and miss English roast dinners and puddings (UK cuisine was ranked 13th) . I don’t really like khachapuri, their signature dish, a cheese filled pastry, I find it too salty. Georgian meals are important events and most birthdays and holidays are marked with a feast or “supra”. Georgians are also proud of their wine and claim to have been the nation which invented wine back in the mists of time, some 8 000 years ago, a claim for which there is substantial archaeological support in the region. Georgian Wine

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churchkhela (walnuts in a grape jelly)

The Georgian Language

The language is a real nightmare for me, using a different alphabet and having long words with tricky consonant clusters. I lived in France for six years and can get by reasonably well in French, but Georgian is a different story. I explore this in a separate blog :  The Georgian Language is one of the most Difficult to Learn detailing my travails with the language.

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Georgian signs

Rubbish

One thing that saddens me is despite the Georgians singing so much that they are proud of their country, so many of them litter with abandon.

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Litter near the roadside

Cars

I’m crazy about cars, though strangely I don’t drive here (see traffic later in the post). I love seeing the old Soviet cars around.

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Can you see three Moskvitches in this Tbilisi street?

Work

I can work here quite easily as an English teacher, many people want to learn English and there are not a lot of native English speakers. I have taught English since 1994, first in France, then England and now Georgia. The cost of living is relatively cheap, particularly public transport and accommodation, which are much cheaper in Tbilisi than in London, but wages are also much lower.

Safety

Tbilisi feels a safe city, I have had no troubles, apparently it hasn’t always been like this, in the 1990s there was a lot of street crime. Walking around late at night in an English city on a Friday or Saturday night is more intimidating than walking around Tbilisi at night.

Public Transport

The public transport, though cheap can be very overcrowded.

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on the bus

Traffic

The traffic is scary at times, the drivers have little respect for pedestrians and won’t stop just because you are at a pedestrian crossing. When asked by Georgians what I don’t like I usually say “the traffic !” and they nod in agreement, though apparently it is even worse in Iran.

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there is no guarantee cars will stop for pedestrians on a crossing

Religion

Religion is important here, despite the Bolsheviks trying to stamp out religion in the past, there are many new churches and most Georgians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. I have been baptised into the Orthodox church but I find their intolerance of other denominations rather un-Christian. For example: Georgian Orthodox church takes aim at Armenian Church. My wife is quite devout and prays twice a day, every day.

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Metekhi Church

Smoking

Smoking is very common here, it is cheap and many smokers seem oblivious to those around them, it pains me to see people smoking around children.

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Do they have to smoke around a young child?

Biltmore Hotel

The newly built Biltmore Hotel doesn’t fit in with the Tbilisi City Scape, there are many other examples of modern architecture at odds with the city skyline but the Biltmore really stands out like a sore thumb.

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Biltmore Hotel…

There are many other positives and negatives, maybe I will expand this post next September as I celebrate a decade in Georgia. Please add your thoughts in the comments.

A Canadian ex-pat who has been here even longer than me expresses his reasons: here

Laughing doves building a nest

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Laughing doves building a nest

Spring sees many birds building their nests. This pair of laughing doves is building their nest in the entrance to a business centre in downtown Tbilisi. The nest is a very flimsy platform of twigs built in a low bush and sometimes in crevices or under the eaves of houses. Both parents build the nest with males bringing the twigs which are then placed by the female.

Laughing dove (Spilopelia senegalensis).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted

This week’s photo challenge is Twisted (click on the link for other interpretations).

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Twisted

Here is the picture I took today of the twisted Axis Towers in Tbilisi. These skyscrapers at 147m are the highest buildings in Tbilisi (though not in Georgia as Batumi on the Black Sea Coast has higher buildings).

The towers twist in opposite directions, creating an illusion of a moving building.

The towers are similar and yet different at the same time. One is glazed with dark glass and the other features natural white stone cladding.

 

 

Remembering 9th April 1989

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9 April …remembering 9 April 1989…when Soviet troops attacked Georgian demonstrators with clubs and sharpened spades. The clashes left 20 people dead, mainly young women.

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9th April 1989. The Berlin Wall was still standing, the Ceausescus were still breathing and events in Tbilisi which included hunger strikes reached a climax. The events of 9 April 1989 were the culmination of weeks of demonstrations for Georgian independence and against separatism of Abkhazia. 

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The demonstrations were mostly peaceful. At their peak, about 10,000 people are estimated to have been present. 

Minutes before 4am on 9 April, General  Radionov told his troops, who had been requested by Jumber Pastiashvili, first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, to clear the square, in front of the Georgian government building, on Rustaveli Avenue, by all means available. The Soviet troops attacked the demonstrators with clubs and sharpened spades. The clashes left 20 people dead, mainly young women.

Images of the twenty dead. Images of the twenty dead.

An hour before the attack the Georgian Patriarch, Ilia II, begged the crowds to leave the Square.

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A year later…

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Weekly Photo Challenge : Tour Guide (Tbilisi)

Tour Guide is the theme for this week’s photo challenge (as usual, click on the link for other interpretations of the theme).

The challenge calls on participants to “share with us an image, or two, or three, (or more!) of where you live. For bonus points, tell us what it is about the photo(s) that you love.”

I live in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia (that is the country not the state, yes, I know it can be confusing!)

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De Tomaso Pantera and Kashveti Church

Georgia has many old churches, it was the second country to adopt Christianity as its national religion (Armenia was first). Here I’m using Kashveti Church as a backdrop for my Matchbox DeTomaso Pantera.

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Georgian flags at Lokomotiv Stadium

The Georgian flag adopted in 2004 is an old design. The first mention of the five-cross design dates back to the middle of the 14th century, when an unknown Franciscan monk wrote that the kingdom’s flag was “a white-coloured cloth with five red crosses.” In prior centuries, Georgian kings had marched into battle brandishing a simpler flag, similar to the English flag—a single red cross, on a white background.

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St George’s statue

Georgia wouldn’t be Georgia without St George, a relative of St Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th Century. St George’s column can be found in Freedom Square (Tavisuplebis Moedani), it replaces a column dedicated to Lenin when Freedom Square was Lenin Square back in the days of the USSR.