Sunday, March 13, 2016

Welcome to Tbilisi, Georgia!

Well the cat is out of the bag... we are moving! Our new home sometime this spring will be Baku, Azerbaijan and yesterday we got to visit the city and see some potential houses (more on that in another post!). However, getting a visa (permanent or visitor) isn't walk in the park the first time. We could have gone to the embassy in Sweden and it would have taken three weeks for visas... or we could go to the embassy in Georgia and it would take three days (so we were told...). Since major holidays are coming up in both Baku and Stavanger, we needed to try and visit before March 16 so to Tbilisi, Georgia we went!

My mom was able to fly in with barely a week's notice to watch the girls so I could accompany Jason on the trip. We are so incredibly thankful for her willingness (and braveness!) to watch all three girls by herself to give me this opportunity. She had a wonderful support system from our friends in Stavanger and I'm so grateful for the friends we've made that are willing to help with our children!

So last Sunday we boarded our first solo flight in.... goodness who knows how long! Once the shock of feeling like we left something behind (traveling is so light without kids), we had a great time re-connecting during our time in Georgia.

We spent a lot of time at the embassy... we had to get all of our paperwork turned in and then continually check on the status of our visas. Unfortunately Tuesday was an unexpected holiday and a lot of flight changes were made throughout the week, including extending my stay one more day since we didn't actually make it to Baku until Friday evening. (And even then I'm pretty sure the only reason we got the visas is because we literally sat in the embassy all Thursday afternoon and Friday morning and they were tired of seeing us - HA!)

In between our check-ins to the embassy we did a lot of walking around and exploring the city! Monday afternoon we took the cable car from Rike Park up to Narikala Fortress. We saw the Qartlis Deda Monument and the Narikala St Nikoloz Church.

We took the cable car back down and walked across the Peace Bridge before wandering over to G Vino for some delicious lunch and wine. Two things about Tbilisi - the food and wine are extremely delicious and incredibly cheap. We consumed embarrassing amounts of both throughout the week. :-)

That evening we experienced the traditional sulfur baths, located next door to our hotel. We both opted for the scrub and massage where four layers of our skin were removed and then poor Jason had cold then hot then cold then hot water dumped over his head. Needless to say I couldn't convince him to go back, but I would recommend trying it at least once! We rented a private room and had a sauna, a cold bath, and a warm bath all to ourselves for one hour. We visited one of the oldest in the city and the tile work was gorgeous!

The evening we had a late dinner at Schuchmann Wine Bar and Restaurant - it was by far the best place we ate at in Georgia and we enjoyed it so much we made sure to go there again Thursday evening. (The lack of food pictures is due to Jason making fun of me when I tried to take them - so blame him for not seeing the amazing white tomato soup, khachapuri, khinkali, kebabs, etc. that we enjoyed.)

Tuesday the embassy was closed so we made the hike to Freedom Square and continued on to the funicular that goes even higher above the city.

Halfway down the funicular is the Mama David Church and Mtatsminda Pantheon. We stopped to visit both and decided to finish the walk down rather than catch the tram the rest of the way.

That evening for dinner we Organique Josper Bar. We had reservations as the previous night when we tried to go they were out of meat... and then the entire kitchen closed for an hour and it was already close to 9 pm and we didn't want to wait. So we made reservations for the following night and showed up to be told they didn't have us down for a reservation. They accommodated us and we were grateful, but it was still frustrating. Then they told me they were out of burgers when I tried ordering the lamb burger and I watched three burgers go by to tables that sat down after us... Jason tried to order ribeye and they were out. We tried to order cheesecake and they were out. Overall, we still had some amazing food and a good experience and I'd recommend going here. But if you only have one night in Tbilisi we both agreed we'd recommend Schuchmann!

Wednesday we did a lot more walking (before checking in with the embassy again of course!). We headed to Metekhi Church and Vakhtang Gorgasali Monument across the river from our hotel.

Then we made our way to Cathedral Sameba, past the President's Residence, back across the river to the Justice House and then along the opposite side of the river to the casino and then back to the embassy.

Thursday I made Jason take me to the spa since we were still waiting on our visas. Afterwards we staked out the embassy the rest of the afternoon and Friday morning until they gave us our visas. Then we booked a flight leaving in three hours to get to Baku and raced off to the airport and on to our site visit!

Overall, we really loved Tbilisi! However, I think we would have enjoyed our time more if we didn't have the secondary reason for being there to get on to Baku. The food was amazing, the wine absolutely divine, and the city beautiful. The driving was horrid and I'm pretty sure we only took a legit taxi once (maybe twice), but it was a wonderful experience and a place we will definitely be visiting again since it's a short one hour flight from Baku.

(View of the Narikala Fortress from our hotel room during the day and at night)

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