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Four Photographers Walked Into a Bar...

Stairway, Writer House, Tbilisi, Georgia

A few weeks ago, my friend David, who co-owns a wine bar here in Tbilisi, asked if I’d be interested in hosting some photo walks around the city.

I’ve never hosted a photo walk before and knew nothing about what was expected of me, so I said yes without a clear understanding of what I was getting myself into. I knew there would be a glass of wine at the beginning and end of the walk, so who was I to say no?

For the most part, I’ve always considered photography a solitary endeavor. I enjoy going at my own pace and exploring wherever I decide to go. The idea of strolling around with other photography enthusiasts never really occurred to me.

But last Tuesday it happened. I hosted a photo walk.

As I made my way to my friend’s wine bar, the weather couldn’t have been better for an evening strolling around the city. The weather cooperated until five minutes before the walk was scheduled to begin, when a clap of thunder echoed overhead followed by a downpour of rain.

Even though Corie and I have been in Tbilisi for more than a year, our former desert existence is obvious whenever it rains here, which has been a lot lately. I sat near the front door of the wine bar, gawking at all that glorious water falling from the sky.

Two brave souls arrived, slightly soggy, joining David and me. The first was a woman about my age, an editor from Australia, the second was a man in his early thirties, a freelance sports marketing consultant from Italy. As we waited for the rain to stop, we swapped stories about how each of us came to be in Tbilisi.

There are two things I will always enjoy about this city, and both happened that night. The first is how many people one can meet from all over the world. The second thing I will always love about Tbilisi is it doesn’t matter how many times I walk around exploring, there is always more to find.

My first new find was a couple blocks away from my friend’s bar. We passed an open doorway of a beautiful, ornate building and went inside. We were greeted with an elegant entryway adorned with plasterwork. It was the Writer’s House, a mansion built in the early 1900s with a storied history, a witness to the changes that have swept through the country in the subsequent years, and a shrine to Georgia’s literary tradition.

Walking up the main staircase, one could imagine being transported back in time, surrounded by antique wainscotting and richly patterned wallpaper.

The Writer’s House has been a center of cultural life in Tbilisi since David Sarajishvili commissioned the mansion for his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife Ekaterine Porakishvili. In addition to workshops and literary events, the house is home to the Museum of Repressed Writers to honor and memorialize victims of the Soviet regime.

I was excited to have stumbled into such a place, a feeling shared by the three other photographers. We quietly wandered through the oversized rooms on the main floor admiring the splendid Art Nouveau details.

As we continued down the street, I snuck into another dark entryway. When my eyes adjusted to the light, I was awestruck by the elegantly decorated walls and ceiling.

The entryway was so dark, I had to set my camera on the stone stairs to get a clear photo. To the left of the entryway, an open door revealed a room behind a glass window and a stream of cigarette smoke floating towards a hanging lamp. A laugh track from a television in the room reverberated through the entryway. The door at the top of the stairs was closed.

When I got home, I looked up the building on a map and found out where I had been.

The Tbilisi Chocolate Museum.

That’s right. Unknown to me at the time, I was just mere yards away from creamy chocolate goodness on the other side of the closed door. To quote the Terminator, “I’ll be back.”

The four of us continued winding through the neighborhood until dusk turned to night when we returned to the bar to enjoy a glass of robust Georgian wine and good company.

Woodwork and Wallpaper, Writer House, Tbilisi, Georgia

Decorated Ceiling, Tbilisi, Georgia


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