New York Times: The California of the Caucasus

The Bridge of Peace, which is illuminated at night by 1,208 LED lights, spans the Kura River from Rike Park to Old Tbilisi in Georgia. Credit Nata Abashidze-Romanovskaya, Aug 19, 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia

If you know nothing about the former Soviet republic Georgia and its capital Tbilisi, go no further than an article published online by the New York Times Style Magazine to learn about the sights, sounds and taste of the small, humble country.

Author Gisela Williams describes how Georgia, back when it was behind the Iron Curtain, was fancied as the California of the USSR.

Fast forward 25 years and in some respects, not much has changed: Georgia has impressively diverse terrain, fertile country that produces exceptional fruits and vegetables, superb wines and talented filmmakers.

In the piece, published online on August 18 and printed in T Magazine from August 21, Williams describes how "gutsy little capital” Tbilisi is increasingly attracting visitors.

Having survived civil war in the early ’90s, then a peaceful, pro-Western revolution in the aughts, Tbilisi has rebounded mightily, and newfound ambition is visible everywhere. You can see it on the leafy, Paris-style boulevards that parallel the Kura River, now spanned by Michele De Lucchi’s bow-shaped showpiece, the Bridge of Peace; in the proliferation of new restaurants featuring the country’s Persian- and Asian-inspired dishes; and in an electronic music scene that some say rivals Berlin’s.”

St. Nicholas Church sits above Old Tbilisi, within the ruins of the fourth-century Narikala fortress. Photo/Nata Abashidze-Romanovskaya.

According to legend, Tbilisi was founded in the fifth century on thermal springs, and its cobbled streets are still scented by sulfur, though only a handful of the traditional bathhouses remain in the ancient neighborhood of Old Town, writes Williams.

The city is a fanciful, often romantic hodgepodge of architectural influences that offers a brick-by-brick timeline of occupiers: Persians, Byzantines, Ottomans, Russians and Soviets. A medieval fortress looks out over Art Nouveau mansions, Brutalist monuments and the modern villas of billionaires, some floating above the city like U.F.O.s,” she writes.

The roots of the local cuisine stretch back almost as far, to the sixth century, when Tbilisi was a trade stop on the Silk Road.

"You can taste the world in the local dishes; the more traditional flatbread is baked in clay ovens, similar to a tandoor, and khinkali, broth-filled dumplings, rival Hong Kong’s. Georgia’s grapes are even older — the oldest known location of cultivated vines is in the South Caucasus — and several winemakers are bringing back and refining the 8,000-year-old kvevri method of production, which involves storing wine, often underground, in clay vessels.”

She then goes on to describe where to stay, places to see, things to do and cafes to visit where you can sample traditional Georgian wine and cuisine.

Read the full article here: