“Old photographs are scattered amid cameras, leather belts, and chipped crystal decanters”
woman anked by two soldiers rests against the tree’s base, ringed by vintage portable record players, a classic dialup telephone and an accordion in a scuffed black box. Not far away, stacks of vinyl records face outwards towards the passing crowds. Many are English or American but there are popular Georgian artists too, as well as a collection of Georgian church songs by the Rustavi Ensemble, which I pick up for less than the price of a cup of tea. I buy a that radiate out from Freedom Square, a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel. Pushkin was much taken by the sulphur baths that the city is renowned for, writing in 1829 that “never before have I seen, neither in Russia nor in Turkey, anything that can surpass the magni cent baths of Ti is”. His contemporary, the Russian romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov, made Tbilisi his home in 1837, although his house in Gudiashvili Square, as previously mentioned, was knocked down in 2012.
It’s heating up as we head back to the vicinity of Babilina, down a set of winding steps to the Gabriadze Theatre, its adjacent café, and midafternoon lethargy. There’s a crooked clock tower atop the theatre, an angel strikes the hour, the circle of life is reenacted, and we discuss the city’s cosmopolitan mix of Georgians, Armenians, Azeris and Russians over a plate of kebabs. We cross to the left bank of the Mtkvari River via the bow-shaped Bridge Of Peace, before taking a cable car to the top of Sololaki hill. The Narikala Fortress is inaccessible, as its Georgian name suggests, and Mother Georgia looks better from a distance, but the views across