So you have two days as a tourist in Tbilisi???

I hope that readers of this blog will contribute their ideas about activities for tourists in Tbilisi. The following is my list, with the most important activity at the top:

Gabriadze (puppet) theater ( Every night adults (children can attend, but the primary audience is adults) can see a very creative performance. I prefer The Battle of Stalingrad, but everything is great. New Yorker magazine voted it the best theatrical performance of the year when the Tbilisi group performed in New York City. Subtitles are in English.

Sulfur baths (Abanotubani district) ( I don’t know where else in Georgia you can go to a public bath and get a massage, and it’s well worthwhile, so do it while visiting Tbilisi. The baths are clean and safe, but not luxurious. You’ll come out feeling very refreshed.

Old Tbilisi ( If someone paints Tbilisi, it will show the houses with balconies that overhang the street. The architecture in very interesting all around the Sulfur baths district.

Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral ( This is the largest Georgian Orthodox Church, and if you visit Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning you may say the Patriarch (equivalent to the Pope), but if you can’t visit Sameba, visit another church. With any luck, you’ll see a baptism and hear polyphonic singing.

Georgian National Museum ( . See the gold jewelry from the 8th century BC to more modern times. It’s right on Rustaveli Ave., the main street, so when you finish with the museum, rest and then walk along a very interesting street.

Dry Bridge art and antiques open-air market ( Susanna and I like looking at the art every few weeks. We also enjoy talking with people. It’s like a big flea market but more interesting because the stuff is not from your neighborhood.

St. David’s Church. This is one of many beautiful Georgian Orthodox Churches, but this one is on Mt. Mtatsminda and it provides a great view of Tbilisi, especially at dusk, when the city lights glow against a purple sky.

Foods. You can eat Georgian food anywhere in Georgia, so I’m not sure of any special restaurants or dishes that can be found only in Tbilisi. Before you leave Georgia, however, you must eat khachapuri (flat bread with cheese inside), khinkali (dumplings with meat, mushrooms, potatoes inside), trout, and eggplant with nuts (walnuts).


The power of Patriarch Illia II

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Ilia II is the current spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He was elected the new Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977. At that time, Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, and the Georgian Orthodox Church was suppressed by Soviet ideology. Even before Georgia gained its independence, Ilia II began a course of reforms, which enabled the Church to regain its former influence and prestige.

At the end of 2007, Georgia had one of the lowest birth rates in the world. In a move to reverse the country’s dwindling birth figures, Patriarch Ilia II came up with an incentive. He promised to personally baptize any baby born to parents of more than two children. The result was a national baby boom because being baptized by the Patriarch is a considerable honor among adherents of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Sameba Cathedral is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church and it is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world. In May 1989, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and the authorities of Tbilisi announced an international contest to design a new cathedral in order to commemorate 1,500 years the Georgian Orthodox and 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus. After a winner was selected, six years of civil unrest delayed construction. The foundation for the new cathedral was finally laid on November 23, 1995, St. George’s day. Patriarch Illia II consecrated the cathedral nine years later, also on St. George’s day.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Sameba cathedral

Sameba Cathedral and the “White House,” where President Saakashvili lives; copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.

When Susanna and I climb the hill home in the evening, and then turn around, facing east, we see Sameba cathedral, as well as Georgia’s “White House,” where President Mikheil Saakashvili lives. The cathedral is also known as Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. Built in 2004, it is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Tbilisi, and is the third largest orthodox church in the world. The idea to build a new cathedral to commemorate 1,500 years of the Georgian Orthodox Church and 2,000 years from the birth of Jesus emerged in 1989, a crucial year for the national awakening of the then-Soviet Republic of Georgia. In May 1989, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and the authorities of Tbilisi announced an international contest for the project of the “Holy Trinity Cathedral.” No winner was chosen at the first round of the contest, but architect Archil Mindiashvili finally won. The subsequent turbulent years of civil unrest deferred this grandiose plan for six years, and the foundation was finally laid in November 23, 1995. Mostly anonymous donations by several businessmen and common citizens paid for construction of the church as a “symbol of the Georgian national and spiritual revival.”

Sameba Cathedral; copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.