My dear travellers, how are you today? After a sunny & sandy adventure in far-off Africa, little Marko continued his journey to the crossroads of East and West. Georgia, a country slightly “attached” on the map of Europe, but when you go there you realize that Europe has never even been there. On this trip, I had a slightly different company and I spent some fun time with my friend Bojana Rmandic, who says for herself that she is a sociologist who has found happiness in the profession of the 21st century – influencer.
Bojana and I are pure evidence that real friendships on Instagram can exist and that distance barriers do not present the problem of keeping in touch and occasional opportunity to visit some interesting destinations together with the help of our mutual friend Turkish Airlines, which this time also helped us and once again made our dreams come true and let’s us visit the heart of the Caucasus.
After a few hours’ journey and a short visit to Istanbul, we reached our desired destination – Tbilisi. The flights went by so fast because of our interesting chit-chat we were not even aware of how long the time had really passed… After the passport control and the take-over of our luggage, we were welcomed by our hosts – organizers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Tbilisi. Yes, this is exactly the reason of our visit to Georgia, because we were invited as international influencers to attend a magnificent fashion event such as MBFW Tbilisi.
As you are accustomed to by now, this time you will hear from me some general information about the destination. Although Georgia has a population of almost 4 million, it is a country with a turbulent history that will intrigue all adventurers looking for adventure. Currently, there are no direct flights from Serbia and the countries of the former EX-YU to this country that once belonged to the Soviet Union.
Important information is that you do not need a visa to enter the territory of Georgia if you have a Serbian passport or some of the countries in the region (BiH, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Croatia). Georgia is a truly unusual country and when you land in Tbilisi you will feel that you have landed in a completely different, unusual space. Before you book your flight ticket to Tbilisi please check do you need a Visa. If you need a Visa for Russia, you probably need also a Visa for Georgia.
Surely one of the first questions that pops into your mind right now is: Why travel to Georgia? What is so special about seeing it? We, the people of the Balkans, consider ourselves to be the best hosts and welcome our guests with kindness and warmth. That all stands out and is something that sets us apart from other nations, but the Georgians ( or Kartvelians is the proper name for the inhabitants of the Caucasian state of Georgia) have advanced it and given us our a real homework to do.
They are quite similar to our mentality and are a very cordial and cheerful people. Their standard of living is very similar to ours, if not lower, since we noticed at their prices in the markets that supplies are significantly cheaper than ours. In addition, talking to a couple of locals, we learned that their average salary is about 200-250 euros, which places Georgia among the countries with low average earnings (like Serbia).
The first day in Tbilisi was spent exploring the city and “cruising” the central streets where Bojana and I already had the opportunity to see some fashion accessories that would help us complete our fashion combinations that we had specially prepared for Fashion Week in Tbilisi. The first impressions are that Tbilisi is a city with interesting architecture, since they were part of the USSR Union, one can see the direct influence of imperial Russia on local architecture. I was impressed by the fact that Georgians are extremely proud of their history and Orthodoxy, so they built a large number of places of worship – Orthodox churches.
Also on the streets we saw a variety of night street markets that we just had to visit. On the street counters we saw many interesting things and there is almost no salesman who did not call us to look at his counter and make sure the quality of the product. I have to be honest and admit that Bojana and I stuck to cheeses and sweets the most! 🙈
The first day ended in the best way possible with a full bag of cheeses that we didn’t know what to do with, so we bought some buns that thank God kept fresh and ate all the cheeses with the orange juice. Bojana is a big fan of cheeses, while I leads the way in “love for sweets”.
The next day, we began cheerfully with songs from our music playlists that we faithfully store on our phones, so that hits from ’90-es others could be heard, which some would say “just evergreen songs please”! After listening to all our songs for the good morning, we were able to go and have some breakfast, since we had already consumed a lot of energy from waving our hands and singing for our “mini-concerts”.
The first breakfast at our hotel was exceptional! Our Hotel – The Iota Hotel that hosted us during our fashion adventure in Tbilisi is a hotel that almost all tourists who have previously stayed in it rated it with the highest ratings because of 3 things that adorn this hotel. This hotel supports the local community and takes all the necessary supplies and products from local farmers and small producers, which is truly commendable! The other thing is the interior of the hotel, which is modern and minimalist with elements of nature.
In the second picture above, you can see their “green” wall, which nurtures more people every day, so that we tourists can take an amazing photos everyday next to it. To top it off as one of the most important thing that is essential to every traveler, this hotel is located in the heart of the city not far from Liberty Square and the main street of Rustaveli, which is the heart of Tbilisi.
Since Bojana and I worked together to help the hotel “reduce” its food supply, we could move on to new working victories. We decided to visit Rustaveli Street before the fashion shows and visit some of the sights. Of course, first of all, there was one good photo as proof that I was going somewhere like all the normal world and that besides jeans I could sort myself out to be elegant, but since it lasted for a while…
After some time because of the modern façade of the Museum of Georgian Fine Arts, which houses a rich private collection of classical and modern fine art by a famous local millionaire, we decided to visit it. Admission to the museum is 15 GEL (local currency is Lari and about 1 Euro is about 3,27 Georgian Lari).
I am sure I would not overdo it if by any chance I would write that this is one of the best art museums in the world. The collection is comprehensive and extensive, stemming from the founders’ private collection. The museum displays over 3500 works created by over 100 Georgian artists.
The collection spans some 70 years of the artistic period and each exhibit room is dedicated to a different artist. If you are an art lover this is definitely the place to go. Upon entering the museum you will notice an interesting staircase that is made of glass, since I have a fear of everything, plus I watched the Ruby famous Mexican soap opera multiple times I chose to go by lift while Bojana was much “braver” than me!
How did this museum actually come about? George (Gia) Jokhtaberidze and Manana Shevardnadze began collecting artwork in the 1990s. After successful entrepreneurial endeavours, Mr. Jokhtaberidze began to buy works of art as a great art lover.
On one occasion during his visit to the gallery, workers packed an image that needed to be sent overseas for some very cheap, ridiculous cost. Soon Mr. Jokhtaberidze realized that the work would be lost forever if it were so scattered throughout the world without proper collection and adequate exhibition. Since most of the artwork was created during the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain, art was not yet well known in Georgia. That’s how the mission came about: collecting, restoring and preserving Georgian art. Initially, the mission did not include the idea of building a brand new museum building, the idea was to collect and donate all the art to state museums.
However, due to the collapse of the USSR and the ensuing economic and civil turmoil, state museums were in a difficult situation and unable to store all the artwork. After collecting various works of art for 23 years and managing the largest telecommunications company in Georgia, Mr. Jokhtaberidze saw an opportunity to buy a property outside the Georgia Parliament building. The opportunity quickly turned into reality and a plan was created to build a complex of buildings that would become the Georgia Museum of Fine Arts and the Art House.
After a two-hour visit to this amazing museum, we continued our sightseeing tour of Tbilisi. During our walk down the central street of the capital of Georgia, we came across many cheerful faces who gave us directions on how to get to location where Fashion Week was held. In addition to people, we also had the opportunity to meet our four-legged furry friends who found their shelter on the garden benches of central restaurants.
Georgians are otherwise big animal rights supporters and all stray dogs are registered and chipped (if you zoom in on the previous image you will see a yellow chip with the code on the right ear of the dog). You can see the center’s special “pet stations” for abandoned dogs and cats, which people employed by city services, as well as the local population, daily clean and put fresh food and drinking water for abandoned animals.
Since we decided to take a heroic walk of a few minutes, in about twenty minutes we were at our destination and we officially arrived at our first show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Tbilisi (MBFWT) is a Georgian fashion week sponsored by the Mercedes-Benz Group that takes place every year in the Georgian capital – Tbilisi. The Committee for the organization of Fashion Week in Tbilisi was established in 2015. During the fashion week, other cultural and artistic events such as the ARTGeorgia Art Exhibition and the BENEKST International Fashion Design Contest take place simultaneously.
I promise you that one of the following blog posts will be dedicated exclusively to Fashion Week in Tbilisi where you will find out more information about this fashion event that was noticed in a short time by the most eminent people in the fashion industry.
After the shows, we decided it was best to buy something to eat and get ready for bed because Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) prepared for us an interesting plan and program for the next day.
The next morning I was officially the most happiest person at the hotel since I slept well and fully prepared for breakfast and to continue with the plan and program prepared by our friends from the Georgian National Tourism Administration in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism of Georgia.
The plan was to tour the old part of the city and go to Sololaki Hill, where the “Mother of Georgia” is located, which with great pride is jealously guarding her beloved Tbilisi.
After a few minutes drive from our hotel we reached the Old Town. I do not know if by any chance you are aware of the fact that Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in the part of the world that lies in the southern Caucasus. Due to its favorable position, it was difficult to conquer because of the great powers, but throughout history Georgians have suffered a lot.
The only light at the end of the tunnel was Kartlis Deda, also known as Mother of Georgia, who is one of Tbilisi’s symbols today. A statue of a woman who symbolizes the spirit of a Tbilisi residents and this wonderful land located at the crossroads of East and West. The colossal statue, 22m high, represents a woman dressed in traditional Georgian costume: in her left hand is a glass of wine, as a symbol of hearty welcome to anyone with an open and pure heart who comes to town, and in her right hand, a sword is prepared, for those with some bad intentions except to be appreciated guests…
The Sololaki Hill where this landmark is located you can reach by a special cable car. The price is symbolic so that anyone who decides to embark on the journey of Georgia and visit Tbilisi should visit the old part of the city and feel the Great Spirit of Georgians who are still faithfully cherished today.
Our mood was at the highest level and our Balkan spirit was fully prepared to meet Georgian ones. The cable car ride takes a few minutes, just enough time to enjoy the view and get it recorded with your phone or camera. It is only when you reach the top of the Sololaki Hills that you really realize how big Tbilisi really is, despite its size, managed to retain its charm and the soul of the Caucasus, which carries with it a long history.
After this wonderful view from the viewpoint, we were led by a marked trail where we met many tourists returning on the cable car. A few minutes later a symbol of Tbilisi – Mother of Georgia just appeared in front of us. It was wonderful experience for us to see something like that.
We stayed there for a while, enough for Bojana and I to create adequate content for you which you gonna see next weeks on the blog. Only during the half hour we spent next to the symbol of the city did we see the large number of tourists coming to visit Tbilisi.
After we finished visiting the old part of town, a team of people from the Tourist Administration took us out for tea and to try some local sweet treats. Believe me, if I knew I was going to try some sweets I would fly over that hill without a cable car!
As we were in a hurry for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi shows, our sweet break was a little shorter than planned, so we hurried to the hotel for a quick fix. Believe me, it is harder than you can imagine!
Another day filled with interesting fashion shows, we saw some new fashion creations that were a real refreshment in the fashion scene. We could also conclude from the facial expressions of some of the leading editors of fashion magazines that this year has been extremely inspiring for Georgian fashion designers. I can’t wait to show you some of wonderful designers which I captured during fashion shows of the most famous Georgian fashion designers.
We spent the next couple of days mostly at fashion events, so we didn’t have much time to do some tours of the city, but we managed to capture two more free days that we decided to spend on exploring the beauty of Tbilisi.
One fashion designer told us that he found his inspiration for a new collection at a local amusement park. Bojana and I just looked at him and he gave us the smile and let us see for ourselves the extraordinary beauty of the amusement park located at the highest point in Tbilisi.
Welcome to Mtatsminda Park, a famous theme park located on the top of Mtatsminda Mountain, overlooking Tbilisi. The park has carousels, slides, roller skates, funiculars and a large wheel on the edge of the mountain, offering a magnificent view of the city. This park also helped to make us some interesting photos for our fashion outfit posts.
This amusement park completely brought me back to those carefree childhood days, when I had no need to worry about everyday irrelevant things but just aimed to have fun, enjoy the cotton candy and think about what next ride I would embark on. Today is a little different instead of rides in amusement park, I got into the most complicated theme park called LIFE and every day I have some rides that can change the course of my further work, but well everything is safe while you have an invisible belt that protects you from an unplanned fall .
Do you want to hear the story how this park was established? The park was founded by the Soviet government in the 1930s and was once designated the third most visited public park in the USSR. The late Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili along with his wife, Inna Gudavadze, began transforming the park into a 21st century theme park. Badri owned the park as a charity project, with numerous commercial properties in Georgia, including the Rustavi Steel Plant, Borjomi Water Company and Imedi TV.
Patarkatsishvili became a real opponent of the National Movement Party in 2007 and as a result was no longer a favorite person of President Mikhail Saakashvili, and in November 2007, his assets, including Mtatsminda Park and Imedi TV Station, were seized by the government, claiming that the company was “more times violated “the terms of the contract and failed to pay the lease fee.
Lawyers of Patarkatsishvili’s family immediately denied the allegations, saying they were “unfounded”. Following Patarkacishville’s death at his home in England in February 2008, his widow, Inna Gudavadze, began an international arbitration proceeding against the Georgian government, claiming Mtatsminda Park, along with the rest of Georgian ownership, was misappropriated by the government. On October 29, 2008, Inna Gudavadze hosted a press conference in Tbilisi advertising for Mtatsminda Park, as well as TV station Imedi were “Badri’s Personal Projects for Georgia and the Georgian People”. In July 2011, the Patarkatishvili family reached a year with the government that saw Mtatsminda Park return to Inna, and the family was swapped for those who exempted all claims of ownership through Imedi TV.
Following the presidency of Michael Saakashvili, Imedi Television also returned Inne and her family in October 2012 under a new government. In July 2014, the Georgia prosecution launched a criminal investigation against former President Mikhail Saakashvili and official member groups for their roles in the illegal expropriation of Georgian property owned by the Patarkasishvili family.
My dear adventurers, once again we have come to the end post from special series of post from my Georgian adventure. Time just flies so fast when you are having a good time! At the end of this post, I would like to thank my friends from Turkish Airlines and National Georgian Tourism Administration for this incredible adventure and Iota Hotel for their huge efforts to make our stay unforgettable and I felt like at home. Also I would like to say huge thank you to organizers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi for kind invitation.
How do you like this story about Tbilisi? Have you maybe had a chance to visit Georgia? I would like to share with me your experience! See you next week with another interesting story from Tbilisi, but we will explore this amazing city through some different “fashion” angle.
If you have a question, comment, suggestion or message for me, you can write me down in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via mail or social media, which you can find on the CONTACT page.