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TBILISI, (The Republic of) GEORGIA

Georgia is a small country on the Black Sea, below Russia and above Turkey and Armenia.  The small country is one of the 15 former Soviet republics, and one of the first to declare its independence from communist Soviet rule in 1990.  Georgia is known for its delicious food (my favorite dishes are khinkali,  a giant soup dumpling which is waaaay bigger and better than the Chinese version, and khachapuri adjaruli, a flat bread dish filled with melted cheese and raw eggs that cook from the heat of the bread and cheese). The country is well known to wine enthusiasts for its wine-growing region, Kakheti.

Until recently I was unaware of the country of Georgia and its delicious food.  I visited Tbilisi this last September as a side trip from Moscow with my travel bff Alex.  We spent just 3 short days in Georgia to visit our good friend, Boris Portnoy who was in town to put on an art event (which we unfortunately left before the opening).  In those days we casually walked around the city, bought vintage Soviet maps and posters from a flea market, bought grapes for homemade wine from a farmers market, took an (intense high-speed) car trip to a 1500 year old cave monastery outside the city, ate a ton of dumplings (so many that I made myself sick), and visited and droned the amusement park at the top of the funicular overlooking Tbilisi at night.

Tbilisi is rough around the edges, yet charming, a very eclectic mix of very old, very Soviet, and very modern buildings.  Because of the Soviet style architecture and monuments Tbilisi reminded me in ways of Moscow, but culturally it felt almost Middle Eastern (although this was the closest I had actually been to the Middle East). The hillsides and funicular reminded me a little of Valparaiso, I always love the opportunity to climb a hill riding a funicular.

Vistited September 2015
Photos by Renee Lusano shot with DJI Phantom 3 and on film with Contax G2

The Mother Georgia statue sits on the hillside overlooking Tbilisi.

Modern buildings along the Mtkvari River in Tbilisi

We were admiring this man's collection of Soviet postcards and maps for sale, and I asked to take his photo.  He wanted me to take his photo with this prized photo of him in his military uniform meeting a famous politician.

Flea markets and farmers markets are my favorite places to visit and take photos when I travel. 

We visited a small farmers market in a suburb of Tbilisi where Boris was looking for grapes to make wine.

These ladies at the Tbilisi flea market invited me to drink cognac and eat cake with them (they insisted!).  They didn’t speak a word of English, but Alex was able to converse with them in Russian.

Soviet architecture at its finest.

We took a day trip from Tbilisi to the David Gareja Monastery at the Georgia/Azerbaijan border. Built in the 6th century, the monastery includes several caves carved out of the hillside.

Drivers are some of the coolest friends you’ll make while traveling