Learning about the past while looking forward in Tbilisi - Fiona Beyerle
Various languages swirl through the air. It is extremely hot outside and still people find it in their hearts to be kind. I made the decision to come to Georgia almost out of convenience (relatively cheap for an American, especially one from southern California) however, I had no idea the depth of stories I would hear during my time here. Despite having many generations of friends who are truly adventurous travellers, I did not know of anyone who had been to Georgia. As soon as I arrived at the airport, my driver *G began the first chapter of the story that would be continued over several days with various narrators and points of view.
“If you had come to Georgia five years ago, you wouldn’t recognize it now. If you came to Georgia again in five years, you still wouldn’t recognize it.” G explained as we drove past a seemingly mismatched jigsaw puzzle of a city filled with both old buildings and new ones blending architectural styles from Soviet times, islamic influence, christian influence and more.
The next morning, I woke up able to see Tbilisi with fresh eyes. Despite being nearly 100 degrees outside, I set off to continue to devour the story of a city that seemed to be never ending and filled with editors notes on every street. I knew there would always be so much more to learn, but like the bibliophile I am, I set off trying anyway. Through my first scan, I had missed so much so the next day I went on a walking tour. As corny as it sounds, I knew I would need lots of assistance to further dive into this book of a city. My tour guides covered much ground in three short hours and inspired further exploring. There seemed to always be a surprise on how old some buildings were, while others were built to look old. Furthermore, the city of Tbilisi possessed as much charm as I had hoped, but also dark secrets and stories from Soviet times hoping to be forgotten or moved on from. However, despite all these dark times, I could see in my tour guides’ eyes the strong desire to move forward. I pulled one of the guides aside ( I had the benefit of being around the same age as the tour guide) to ask about what it was like growing up here. She told me that she still remembers the panic during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. Furthemore, it was especially prevalent as she told me that Georgians feel for Ukrainians and want to help them as much as they can.
I wish I had a complete ending to this story, but to say I had gotten a strong grasp on Tbilisi and Georgia as a country would be a false statement. Seeing how much history pieces together this city and how much hope for a better future works its way into the narrative, I can only think of what my driver G had to tell me as soon as I arrived : “If you had come to Georgia five years ago, you wouldn’t recognize it now. If you came to Georgia again in five years, you still wouldn’t recognize it.”
*Full name omitted for privacy.