Another surprisingly good layover that I had was in Tbilisi. I was fortunate enough to fly there during our airline’s first month of operations in the Georgian capital, so the crew was excited to explore the city.
We booked a tour for the following day with our hotel’s concierge. Our group opted for a Tbilisi and Mtskheta day tour. It normally takes eight hours for the tour, but we asked for just a 5-hour one because we’re flying out in the evening (#crewproblems). Luckily, the tour guide (I forgot his name) was really nice, and he made sure to choose the more important tourist spots for us to visit.
By six in the morning, we were picked up at our hotel. It was still dark out, and we were tired from the previous night’s flight, but everyone was ecstatic! Well, I haven’t had my coffee yet, so I was just the right amount of excited. Hehe.
The drive to Mtskheta took almost an hour. Our first stop was the Jvari Monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The setting was perfect! We got there just in time for sunrise, and it gave a beautiful view of the place. I can only describe it as, “The Sound of Music, post-war Russia version”. Hahaha!
After saying our prayers, we headed next to what they call the “old town”. The area still has old houses and structures that are functional. It’s unbelievable how well the area was preserved, especially the cobblestone roads. There were even old stone ovens, and wells that they still use.
The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the second largest church building in Georgia. Beneath the church is a crypt where Jesus Christ’s mantle is preserved. It’s the robe he wore before he was crucified! Visitors are not allowed to enter the crypts, but there were plaques on the wall, describing the history of how pieces of the mantle were passed on from one Orthodox church to another. They were written in Georgian, so all this information came from our tour guide. 🙂
We decided to have lunch in Tbilisi, because all the establishments in Mtskheta are closed on Sundays. Everyone was starving since none of us had breakfast, so we chose the restaurant nearest to our next stop. I don’t know if I was just really hungry, but the food was amazing! Whenever anyone asks what to do in Tbilisi, I always say, “Eat kachapuri!”:)
Our hotel was situated right in the heart of the city, so almost everything was within walking distance from there (including McDonald’s!). There’s a natural hot springs spa, reminiscent of a Turkish bath, shops, restaurants, and this awesome park which transforms into a market! Not sure if it’s only during weekends though. Part of the park was lined with paintings from local artists. On the other side were stalls of souvenirs, locally made items, and old Russian army uniforms and knives. Too bad they only accepted cash, in local currency, and I did not have enough with me. 😦 In retrospect, that may be the coolest tiangge I’ve ever been to.
Oh, and Georgia is a visa-free country for Philippine passport holders, yey!
Tour was provided by AKA Group. You can visit their website at www.akagrouptravel.ge, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org