Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura River with a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Tbilisi was founded in the 5th century AD by Vakhtang I of Iberia, and since then has served as the capital of various Georgian kingdoms and republics. Between 1801 and 1917, then part of the Russian Empire, Tbilisi was the seat of the Caucasus Viceroyalty, governing both the northern and southern part of the Caucasus.
It is rumoured that Tbilisi has been rebuilt 23 times due to the multiple devasting wars that was fought throughout history. Because of this, Georgia’s capital is anything but orderly. Despite this—or because of it—it’s one of the best, most strikingly original cities in the world.
Because of its location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and its proximity to the lucrative Silk Road, throughout history Tbilisi was a point of contention among various global powers. The city’s location to this day ensures its position as an important transit route for energy and trade projects.
Historically, Tbilisi has been home to people of multiple cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, though it is overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox Christian. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and South-eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
The Georgian language is one of the oldest in the world. It is one of only 11 unique scripts in the world. The alphabet that Georgians use today has 33 letters. The script doesn’t have capital letters, and you can often see three or four and even up to eight consonants in a word. The standard greeting ‘Hello’ in Georgian, ‘Gamarjoba’, means ‘victory’ and reflects the country’s complicated past of endless attacks and war. The word for father in Georgian is “mama” and it is rumoured that it was chosen to bring confusion in enemy ranks!
We were excited to prepare for our stay in Tbilisi. To move across an international border was no easy feat but we managed to make all the necessary arrangements by the end of November 2013. It was winter and we agreed with our friends in Svaneti that we will move into their apartment in Tbilisi, paying a preferential monthly rent amount. Luckily, we did not have to move with furniture because the apartment was furnished.
It was an old building from the Russian era and the interior of the apartment on the third floor was old but functional. The elevator was operated by putting a coin into a slot and then pressing the number of the floor you were going to. It always felt as if it was just one floor away of failing. One day Magda got stuck between floors in the elevator. Our landlord and friend, from Svaneti, was visiting and Magda went out to buy some things from the neighbourhood supermarket. At first, we did not hear Magda call. It was only when I opened the door to put a trash bag out that I heard her call. The landlord speaks Georgian, and he called the emergency number. The elevator technician came, and Magda was released after spending half an hour in a stuck elevator!