Conde Nast Article Celebrates Tbilisi's Changes

The latest article in praise of Tbilisi was published recently by Conde Nast Traveller online, written by novelist and travel writer Tara Isabella Burton. The article goes through all the standard hip hot spots in the city for sleeping and shopping: Rooms Hotel, Stamba, the Grove Design Hotel, Chaos Concept Store. Of course, it also outlines the coolest bars and best places for Georgian food with an innovative twist: Café Gallery, Bassiani, Café Littera, Keto and Kote, Pur Pur.

Where this article diverges from the dozens of others that have gushed about Georgia as a newly discovered destination for the past five years is Burton’s personal connection to the city. She moved here with her mother in 2010, and engagingly recounts the ways that “Europe’s Most Curious City” has changed.

In 2010, she writes, “The streets near my apartment – near the 19th-century bathhouses whose natural sulphurous heat give Tbilisi (from tbili, for warm) its name – were uniformly unpaved. The odd rooster traversed my path from home into the Old Town, where unkempt wooden-balconied houses tilted at outrageous angles and ivy grew so riotously around the pockmarked gargoyles and angels of the wealthier homes that all light seemed to be choked out of the windows. It was impossible to get breakfast anywhere before noon, the electricity went out at least weekly.”

“Over the past decade,” she admits, “Tbilisi has become all but unrecognizable.”

Burton recognizes that the people have changed along with the architecture. “The Georgian Dream government, more nationalist than its predecessor, has come to power in part through extremely conservative, Orthodox Christian and homophobic rhetoric,” and part of the city’s new drive is “consciously counter-cultural.”

And in an emotional closing that anyone who has spent any time in Tbilisi and then returned later will understand, Burton muses, “The Tbilisi I loved will never be the Tbilisi I come home to. The city always changes; I change. The cafés I love most change name and shape and ownership or move halfway across town; I move with them. It does not matter. The city’s heart is there”


By Samantha Guthrie

Photo: Roberta Valerio

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10 October 2018 18:20