Footloose In Tbilisi


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It is only a 10 mt. walk from Narikala Hill to Sioni Church. At the entrance to Sioni Street, an odd looking bronze statue sits glistening in the morning sun. It is the Tamada, the formidable toast master of  the traditional Georgian feast, the Supra, where phenomenal quantities of food and wine are put away.

The statue is a blown up version of a tiny 7th century BC Colchis Kingdom gold Tamada found in the town of Vani in Western Georgia. The seated figure holds a Georgian drinking horn in its right hand. The horn, an instrument still in use at Supras, is filled with wine for each of the endless number of toasts, and downed in one go.

A short distance down Sioni Street is the imposing structure of Sioni Cathedral. Named after Mount Zion of Jerusalem, it used to be the main Georgian Orthodox Cathedral and the seat of Catholiocos-Patriarch of all Georgia until the Holy Trinity Cathedral was constructed in Tbilisi in 2004. The original church was started in the 5th century but had to be rebuilt many times after successive invasions and earthquakes. The altar is supposed to contain the grapevine cross of Saint Nino who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century.

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Just past the cathedral, there is a row of old shops selling colourful carpets and rugs. Recently, the women who run the shops have been evicted, Tamara said, but they continue to do business, living in little tents on the other side of the street.

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Next is a pedestrianised area with smart restaurants and side walk cafes. It was lunch time but there were hardly any customers.

The path led to another small square at one end of which stood Anchiskhati Basillica, the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi, dating from the 6th century.

 The cafe at the other side of the square was playing loud rock music and was crowded with young men smoking and drinking beer. An apparently disjointed clock tower opened its doors and an angel came out to strike the hour. We took the cue, crossed the road and walked to the riverside restaurant for lunch.

On the way back to the Old Tiflis after lunch, we crossed Freedom Square and walked along busy Rustaveli Avenue past Prospero’s Books to the National Museum. The Treasury which contains many ancient gold objects is interesting but we didn’t spend much time there. We needed a good rest before the evening tasting at Ghvino Underground Wine Bar.

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