The fountain in Freedom Square is no longer covered with boards and the water is running, but when I arrived it didn’t feel like spring. A cold, wet rain greeted me in Tbilisi. But as the week progressed, first we saw clearing skies with freezing temperatures, then warming weather and now, temps in the 60s, buds on the trees, blossoms on fruit trees and masses of flowers for sale on Rustaveli St at the Metro stop. The streets have also blossomed with street performers, artists, craftspeople and an outdoor book market. Spring has arrived in Tbilisi.
One of my favorite restaurants in Tbilisi has added a sheesha (hookah) menu. It not only features flavored tobacco, including pear, but your choice of the medium through which it is drawn, red and white wine (seems like a waste of good Georgian Wine, unless it’s the stuff they export to Russia), whiskey and, the most expensive, cognac. Actually, before I leave I may try a pear tobacco filtered through Cognac, but for the equivalent of more than $50 I probably will pass. But the one that gets me is smoke through energy drink. What a wake up that would be, nicotine and caffeine, concentrated. Too bad they open at 11. What a jet lag cure! In the US, with restaurant smoking bans, we won’t see that!
My first Saturday night here I went to get a haircut. The place was crowded and I was about to leave thinking, perhaps tomorrow, but the barber, who had one person in the chair told me to wait. The shop has a large staff, a male hair cutter, a female cutter, a hair washer and a pedicurist. There were a lot more folks than that in the shop. It’s their inexpensive Saturday night out, watching the flat screen TV, some romantic drama, drinking coffee, and commenting on the action. They gave me my coffee (Turkish) and when the one person was out of the chair, I was in. After the haircut the hair washer got absorbed in the drama and my shirt was soaked. With many apologies out came the hairdryer, to dry my collar. But the attention on the drama continued. The barber finished up, and handed me my bag of groceries. There’s a kettle and a fridge in the room so I buy juice, yogurt, bread, no need to pay hotel breakfasts. I came to the barber from shopping. Then I was off into the rain, where my shirt got wet again. And then there is the mystery of the grocery store. They have an ATM that only gives large bills, but the clerk never has change so you can’t use the bills you get from the ATM.
My second Saturday night Bud Stiker came to Tbilisi to work with me at some of the radio stations. He wanted to know if there were any tours of Tbilisi we could take. We found a hop-on-hop-off double decker bus (who knew? I had never seen it before) and took the tour of Tbilisi. We had front row seats on the top level and were the only customers on the bus which had two tour guides, a conductor and a driver. The English language tour guide sat behind us, gave us the commentary and answered questions. (The Russian guide sat behind her.) The conductor sold us our tickets. I saw nothing new but seeing it from the top level of a bus gave me a completely different perspective on Tbilisi, especially on the flea market at Dry Bridge. It would help if the company cleaned the windows on the bus.