TBIL­ISI Clock­wise from far left The steel and glass Bridge of Peace strad­dles the Kura. Im­merse your­self in Ge­or­gian cul­ture at the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art. Find the lat­est fash­ions at Chaos Con­cept Store. Sam­ple the lo­cal wines at 8000 Vin­tages. The stylish

This is the year to visit Ge­or­gia’s cap­i­tal – a seedbed of cul­ture and edgy de­sign

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Escape -

We’ve long been in­trigued by Ge­or­gia: for its lo­ca­tion at the cross­roads of Europe and Asia; its pre- and post- So­viet his­tory and its eclec­tic ar­chi­tec­ture that ranges from Moor­ish to Modernist. The coun­try’s cui­sine, poorly rep­re­sented even in Lon­don’s in­ter­na­tional food scene, also re­mains a mys­tery. Bowl of elarji, any­one? (That’s corn­meal and cheese.)

While the re­gion’s Cau­casian moun­tains, ther­mal sul­phur baths and vine­yards have been at­tract­ing vis­i­tors for mil­len­niae, it’s the re­cent evo­lu­tion of the coun­try’s cap­i­tal that is catch­ing the world’s at­ten­tion. For­mer fac­to­ries are be­com­ing stu­dios, and young, ex­cit­ing de­sign tal­ent is pos­i­tively thriv­ing: Ba­len­ci­aga’s cre­ative di­rec­tor and founder of hip fash­ion brand Vete­ments, Demna Gvasalia, is the first Ge­or­gian to join The Busi­ness of Fash­ion’s ‘Hall of Fame’ 500.

At this year’s Mi­lan Fur­ni­ture Fair, Barn­aba For­nasetti threw a party for Tbil­isi prod­uct and in­te­rior de­sign duo Nata Jan­beridze and Keti Toloraia, oth­er­wise known as Rooms. The pair were in town to launch ‘Life On Earth’, a col­lec­tion of 12 pieces of fur­ni­ture hand­made from nat­u­ral stones and man­made ma­te­ri­als. Their style is edgy and rel­e­vant – they are stocked in New York’s The Fu­ture Per­fect, and have been picked up by Dutch brand Moooi. But the heart of their look is rooted in Tbil­isi: the new range is in­spired by the city’s Bru­tal­ist So­viet-era bus stops.

Here’s how to ex­pe­ri­ence the vi­brancy of this bur­geon­ing de­sign hotspot for your­self, be­fore head­ing to those min­eral-rich ther­mal spas for some es­sen­tial re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion.

STAY

Head to the his­toric neigh­bour­hood of Vera. Pop­u­lar with in­tel­lec­tu­als and bo­hemi­ans since the 20th cen­tury, it fea­tures tree-lined boule­vards and views down to the Kura river. It’s here that Stamba Ho­tel has opened in a for­mer pub­lish­ing house built in the So­viet era. De­signed by lo­cal ar­chi­tects Ad­jara Arch, it has a rooftop swim­ming pool, brass baths in the rooms and an Art Deco-style restau­rant (from £200 per night; de­sign­ho­tels.com). Close by is Rooms Ho­tel, which the cre­ative duo of the same name helped to de­sign: they have clad walls in 150-year-old re­claimed oak and brought 1930s New York glam­our ( leather arm­chairs, mar­ble sinks) to the in­te­rior (£136 per night; roomsho­tels.com). Both ho­tels are at the heart of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture here – they host reg­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tions and sup­port artis­tic res­i­den­cies, with Stamba Ho­tel’s in-house art stu­dio and co-work­ing spa­ces open­ing in Septem­ber.

SEE

For ar­chi­tec­ture spot­ting, try a wan­der down Chonkadze Street to see the city’s best Art Nou­veau build­ings, then walk across the Led-lit Bridge of Peace, look­ing out for the pre­car­i­ous-seem­ing tra­di­tional houses that hang over the river’s edge. Con­tinue your stroll with a trip to the con­crete Wed­ding Palace, a reg­istry of­fice built in 1984 that re­sem­bles a Ge­or­gian me­dieval church. Visit the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art to get a feel for the city’s cre­ative en­ergy (mo­mat­bil­isi.ge). Af­ter all that walk­ing, you de­serve a trip to Aban­otubani, a dis­trict in the Old Town where you’ll find a whole street of tra­di­tional pub­lic bath­houses that make use of the lo­cal hot springs. Then, as evening falls, head to Fabrika, a multi-pur­pose art and de­sign hub that opened last year and now con­tains thriv­ing stu­dios, ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces, cafés and an open-air bar that hosts pop-up yoga classes and late-night mu­sic (fab­rikat­bil­isi.com).

DRINK AND EAT

Khash, a Ge­or­gian tripe soup, is Culi­nar­i­umKhash­e­ria’s name­sake and spe­cial­ity, but ex­cel­lent cof­fee and juices are also on of­fer (@culi­nar­i­um_khash­e­ria). Ge­or­gia is one of the old­est wine re­gions in the world and, as you would ex­pect, Tbil­isi has plenty of bars where you can try its pro­duce. Head to 8000 Vin­tages, a bot­tleshop/ bar in the Sabur­talo dis­trict, where char­cu­terie and cheese is on of­fer along­side the am­ber-coloured elixirs (8000vin­tages.ge). For din­ner, try the old­fash­ioned fare at Keto & Kote or the cool, pale-pink painted Ezo for an in­ven­tive take on clas­sic Ge­or­gian in­gre­di­ents, such as a salad made us­ing the sweet, berry-like fruit of the na­tive jon­joli shrub (@in­staezo).

SHOP

For se­ri­ously cool fash­ion buys, hit Chaos Con­cept Store – the city’s first, which is lo­cated in a beau­ti­fully re­stored fac­tory (chaoscon­cept­store.com) – or N-duo Con­cept, which sells trendy brands, from Shrimps to Mother of Pearl (n-duo-con­cept.com). For a fur­ni­ture fix, head to Stu­dio 995. It art­fully re­stores and sells vin­tage pieces and de­sign clas­sics – be tempted by mid-cen­tury mod­ern arm­chairs re­uphol­stered in dark tan­ger­ine or char­treuse vel­vet (@stu­dio995).

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