Rediscovering the Charms of Tbilisi

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BY ELENA KOSOLAPOVA
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITER

Tbilisi is renowned for its extensive history, diverse culture, and awe-inspiring landscapes, making it a cherished getaway destination for Azerbaijani tourists. A trip to the city is a true delight, offering a plethora of incredible attractions and activities that cater to every taste. Whether you’re a culinary enthusiast, an art connoisseur, a history aficionado, or an adrenaline seeker, Tbilisi caters to all interests. Proximity to Baku and excellent transport connections make the capital of Georgia a popular option for both weekend getaways and long holidays. Having visited this mesmerizing city seven times, I once believed I had uncovered all its secrets – only to be proven delightfully wrong.

Vake District
Unlike my previous trips, when I chose hotels in the Old City, this time I stayed in the Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers located in the Vake District. Regarded as the city’s wealthiest neighborhood, Vake is a testament to Tbilisi’s modern aspirations, featuring a skyline adorned with new luxury apartments, burgeoning office spaces, and the diplomatic presence of numerous embassies. In contrast to the bustling touristic hubs, Vake offers a unique perspective that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the authentic pulse of the city. The air is filled with the rhythm of daily life, resonating through the streets lined with upscale boutiques, fine dining establishments, and the hum of a thriving urban community. The Vake District stands as the epitome of elegance and prosperity. Strolling through its streets, I marveled at the juxtaposition of modernity and tradition, where sleek glass facades stand beside charming local establishments. A must-visit place in the district is Vake Park, which is just a five-minute walk from the Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers. This enchanting green oasis nestled in the heart of Tbilisi boasts a myriad of beautiful trees and plants, accompanied by captivating statues and distinctive fountains. Open throughout the day and free to enter, the park welcomes enthusiasts of various activities. Whether you prefer cycling, hiking, jogging, or yoga, Vake Park provides the perfect backdrop for a range of recreational pursuits. The serene ambiance and well-maintained pathways make it an ideal escape for both locals and visitors seeking a moment of tranquility amidst nature.
For avid hikers, Vake Park is home to another thrilling adventure: a scenic 3.9-kilometer out-and-back trail from the park’s highest point will expose you to the breathtaking beauty of Turtle Lake. Alternatively, a more leisurely approach to the lake involves a cable car ride that conveniently starts near Vake Park and provides an aerial perspective of the picturesque surroundings.
Turtle Lake stands out as one of Tbilisi’s premier spots for nature enthusiasts and those seeking active lifestyles. Frequently visited for exercise and relaxation, the lake area features bars, a sport-recreation complex, and a cultural-recreational hub with amenities like a mini-football stadium and a children’s playground. Additionally, a professional concert stage set on a pontoon hosts various events throughout the season, creating a vibrant atmosphere. At Turtle Lake, the Open Air Museum of Ethnography stands as a cultural gem. Spanning 52 hectares, the museum showcases traditional Georgian architecture and ways of life with 70 meticulously preserved structures, including houses and churches. Whether you prefer a serene boat ride on the lake or an exploration of cultural heritage, Turtle Lake and its surroundings offer an unparalleled experience for those enchanted by the intersection of nature and history.

Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers Hotel
This very first Pullman hotel in Georgia has truly brought a new level of sophistication to my travel experience. Located in the iconic and highly visible Axis Twin Towers, the hotel’s central location makes it the perfect hub for the exploration of Tbilisi. With its spectacular design, stylish rooms, artful culinary offerings, luxurious spa and fitness facilities, and pool with retractable glass roof, this hotel sets the standard for a seamless and unforgettable stay in the heart of Georgia’s capital. You start enjoying the city the moment you enter the main hall. The cosmopolitan lounge transcends the traditional concept of a lobby, resembling a museum of modern art adorned with masterpieces from contemporary Georgian artists. This adds an artistic and cultural touch to the overall ambiance, creating an inspiring environment for guests. As for rooms, they are designed to provide ultimate comfort and convenience. Luxurious features such as premium bedding, pillow menus, laptop-friendly workspaces, and air conditioning ensure that every guest enjoys a seamless stay. However, what sets these rooms apart is the breathtaking panoramic view offered from every window, allowing guests to wake up and fall asleep to the cityscape and even enjoy the view from the bathtub. The hotel also boasts a range of amenities to cater to the needs of its discerning guests. A 25-meter swimming pool invites guests for a refreshing dip, with a transparent roof that offers an all-weather experience. State-of-the-art fitness equipment, three saunas, a Jacuzzi, and a sunbathing terrace exclusive to hotel guests and members ensure that wellness and relaxation are at the forefront of the Pullman experience. For those looking to host events, the Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers provides an impressive 2,000 square meters of meeting and event space. The terrace, which can be tailored to every occasion, offers a stunning backdrop for gatherings, making each event truly memorable.

Heaven for Gourmets
In Georgia, sticking to a weight loss plan can be tough because the food is incredibly delicious. So, rather than stressing about it, just relax and enjoy the tasty flavors. Georgia’s culinary landscape is a treasure trove of delightful dishes and unique traditions. From the warm hospitality of traditional feasts to the ingenious use of local ingredients, Georgian cuisine invites you to embark on a gastronomic adventure that will leave your taste buds enchanted and your memories enriched. Georgian chefs exhibit unwavering dedication to procuring the finest local produce. This allegiance to freshness may well account for the enduring regional distinctions in Georgian cuisine, resiliently persisting into the 21st century despite the advent of international supermarkets like Carrefour. Amidst the regional diversity, certain dishes have emerged as culinary ambassadors that beckon all travelers and diners not to depart Georgia without a taste. My favorites include khachapuri (Georgian pizza), khinkali (big Georgian dumplings), mtsvadi (traditional Georgian barbeque), and Georgian salad with walnuts. And don’t forget to try Georgian wine – a tradition that goes back about eight thousand years and is deeply rooted in the country’s economy and culture. You even have the option to eat wine in an ice cream; Georgia is the only country where I tried such a unique dessert. By the way, you can join a wine-tasting event at Dumas Restaurant in the Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers Hotel. There, a sommelier will guide you through the different wines, providing recommendations on how to choose the best one. For those who have a preference for European or Asian cuisines, the hotel offers two excellent options – Dumas (a French restaurant) and the Sky Bar known as Weather Report on the 36th and 37th floors, which provides a stunning panorama of Tbilisi’s skyline. Dumas is a contemporary restaurant strongly influenced by French cuisine. As the newest gourmet destination in Tbilisi, it embraces an open kitchen design and presents a delightful menu. The restaurant takes pride in its wine selection, offering an exceptional array of both French and Georgian wines that pay homage to tradition and location. On the other hand, the Weather Report Sky Bar claims the title of Tbilisi’s highest bar. This elevated establishment serves an extensive selection of signature and classic cocktails, along with sushi and tapas. It’s the ideal spot to unwind with friends or celebrate a special date while enjoying breathtaking views of the city. Both options at the Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers Hotel offer memorable culinary journeys.

Old City
A trip to Tbilisi would be incomplete without visiting the Old City, which is just a 15-minute drive away from the Pullman Tbilisi Axis Towers Hotel. Nestled within the heart of Tbilisi, the Old City stands as a living testament to the rich history and cultural tapestry of Georgia’s capital. Stepping into this historic quarter is like entering a time portal. Cobbled streets wind through a maze of narrow alleys, revealing centuries-old architecture and stories etched in every stone. The hallmark of the Old City is undoubtedly Narikala Fortress, perched atop a hill overlooking Tbilisi. This ancient fortress, dating back to the fourth century, not only provides panoramic views of the city but also serves as a poignant reminder of the strategic importance the Old City has held over the ages. Wandering through the winding streets, visitors encounter charming houses with wooden balconies adorned in vibrant flowers – a visual feast that reflects the architectural charm of the past. The renowned sulfur baths, with their distinctive domes, offer a unique and relaxing experience, immersing guests in a tradition that has endured for centuries. The Old City of Tbilisi is not merely a relic of the past but a living, breathing entity that continues to evolve while preserving its unique character. It beckons visitors to explore its nooks and crannies, inviting them on a journey through time, where every corner reveals a story, and every stone echoes with the whispers of centuries gone by. Whether you’re strolling along the ancient city walls or sipping coffee in a cozy courtyard, the Old City is a captivating experience that immerses you in the soul of Tbilisi, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and wanderers alike. Rike Park, adjacent to the Old City, seamlessly blends modernity with history. Its contemporary structures, including the futuristic Peace Bridge, create a harmonious juxtaposition against the backdrop of ancient surroundings. Rustaveli Avenue, the bustling main artery of Tbilisi, connects the Old City to the modern metropolis, offering a vibrant mix of shops, cafes, and cultural institutions. The eclectic blend of old and new is perhaps most vividly encapsulated in Freedom Square, a central hub where the statue of St. George slaying the dragon stands as a symbol of Georgia’s resilience and freedom.