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A New Life

Buckets of flowers outside flower market stalls
Flower Market, Tbilisi, Georgia

As I’m writing this week’s newsletter, it is quiet outside. My office window is open, letting in some brisk pre-dawn air, and the only noise outside is the occasional car passing on the normally busy street near our apartment.

Soon the sun will rise, and the city will slowly come to life, starting with the churchgoers then, as the morning turns into afternoon, the regular pulse of daily life.

But right now, I’m enjoying the silence, a stark contrast to the cacophony that will slowly build during the next several hours.

It’s fitting. I’ve often said Tbilisi is a city of contrasts.

Corie and I were recently reminiscing about our first 48 hours in Tbilisi. For the most part, flights from Europe and Turkey arrive in the middle of the night when the highway from the airport into the city is oddly deserted.

Corie arrived the day before I did. We had to take separate flights from the States to ensure we could have our two cats in cabin, a long story that I won’t go into again. After I arrived and had a few hours of sleep, we set out on our first exploration walk together through a neighborhood filled with Soviet-era apartment buildings and sidewalks that only minimally met the definition.

I’ll be honest. I wondered that day if we made the right decision. This wasn’t the Tbilisi we had spent so many hours dreaming about with YouTube videos.

Our Airbnb was at one time a stately mansion, cut up into apartments during the Soviet rule, accessed by a concrete stairway that felt more like prison corridor than an apartment (the apartment itself was very nice, however).

No city can be judged by a single neighborhood, especially one with an architectural tapestry like Tbilisi, spanning centuries of complex history.

As one leaves Freedom Square towards the Mtkvari River, Nikoloz Baratashvili Street separates part of the city’s old-town district from Orbeliani, populated by trendy restaurants and apartments housed in stately buildings, many of which are restored, giving one a sense of stepping back in time to an elegant age.

In the spring the air, Orbeliani Square is perfumed with the hundreds of flowers from the row of floral stands bordering the street. Surrounded by children romping in a nearby playground and people resting under the shade of mature trees, the flower stands seem to be in a constant state of motion through the spring and summer as the vendors busy themselves with clipping, arranging, and chatting with customers. Having lived most of my life in dry areas where gardening is a constant challenge, I’m always taken with the explosion of color from the verdant displays outside the stands.

Venturing further, a wide pedestrian street casually guides people past sidewalk cafes to Atoneli Street, quite possibly my favorite block in the city. On one side of the street, 1800s-era buildings loom over the street, on the other side a lush, shady park invites you to slow down away from the frantic pace of the nearby streets.

Corie and I joke that if you are a fan of strict zoning codes, Tbilisi probably isn’t your city. But as we enter our sixth month here in Georgia, we’ve found the contrasts and diversity are part of the city’s charm.

Anoteli Street, Tbilisi, Georgia


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