What’s in a name? Years of confusion for the country of Georgia, for starters. Although the small mountainous country forged its independence from Russia 15 years ago, there are still a few stumbling blocks when it comes to getting its name out there. For one, it’s the same moniker as a southern US state, where peaches and the world’s largest fake peanut lay their claim to fame. Stepping out of the shadows of a difficult political past has also proved to be a constant challenge.
At the intersection of Europe and Asia, with Turkey at its southern border and Russia at its north, the former Silk Road stopover has historically been somewhat of a grab bag for surrounding empires. Now, emerging from the shadows of centuries of oppression, Georgia is finally spreading its wings. With so much creativity concentrated in the capital, Tbilisi, we’ve gathered a plethora of places to visit if you’re in the neighbourhood. (Do yourself a favour and get in the neighbourhood).
As the first co-working space in Georgia, Vere Loft is our pick of places to work in Tbilisi. The space opened up in a former maternity hospital in January of this year, and, along with children born in the former hospital dropping in and declaring it their birthspace, digital nomads of all vocational persuasions are welcomed. In fact, sibling owners Eka and David Tushishvili even open the space 24 hours a day to accommodate those who work for international companies – perfect if you need a space with no barriers to finish off that last-minute project.
Vere Loft is also cleverly divided to accommodate co-workers who perform different jobs: if you need quiet, try the Minimalistic space, if you’re after collaboration, take a seat in the Urban area. If you require equipment, the Industrial Zone has enough space to accommodate it. Prices start from 300 Georgian lari (about AU$170 per month) for the Minimalistic space.
Breathing life into a former Soviet sewing factory that operated up until the ’80s, Fabrika Hostel and the burgeoning creative space bordering it is set to provide the capital with a much-needed hub for its edgier endeavours. Near the edge of the Plekhanovi district, the former factory, which will open its accommodation this month, is already fast becoming a place for fresh ideas.
There’s a wealth of young visitors frequenting the courtyard DIVE Bar for late night bevvies and it was also home to the recent urban art festival, Fabrikaffiti, which celebrated local artists and graduating students from the local Creative Education Studio, with an accompanying flea market.
An eating experience in Tbilisi wouldn’t be complete without a meal from the hand of Tekuna Gachechiladze, the country’s resident rebel chef who developed her craft at New York’s Institute of Culinary Arts. Considered to be a bit of a gastronomical troublemaker due to her modern take on traditional Georgian cuisine, Tekuna’s restaurant, Cafe Littera, (nestled in a Euro-Georgian art nouveau house in the Sololaki district) is an absolute must-visit. Bonus: the top chef visits every table personally.
Tbilisi is said to have been built around the city’s thermal waters (the word ‘tbili’ means warm). In the heyday of the city’s famous bathhouses, there were said to be over 60 bathhouses, now there are only five. While Bathhouse Number 5 is the oldest in the city at almost 300 years old, and certainly worth a visit, we’d take a stop at the Orbeliani baths even for an outside glance. Its entrance is as intricately adorned with blue and white mosaic tiles as any city gates you’d expect to find on an ancient Silk Road.
Read our full feature on Georgia in Issue 37.