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As the weather became dreary in Tbilisi, towards the end of November, Tim and I grew restless and decided to take a 3 day trip for his Birthday, which was on Tuesday, the 27th. Rather than wait until the end of December to go to Signaghi, as planned, we canceled our hotel reservation on Booking.Com and made a new reservation for a room, at the rate of $12.00 a night, for the 25th, through the 28th of November, in a resort town called Borjomi, which is world famous for it’s natural spring mineral water.
On Sunday, November 25th, we took the metro from Rustaveli station to the Didube station, where we boarded a van to Borjomi. The pleasant two and a half hour ride cost about $3.00 a person, each way. We arrived in Borjomi at about 12:30 in the afternoon. We couldn’t wait to explore the picturesque town that is surrounded by mountains, but first, we needed to find the guest house where we’d be staying. As it turned out, the house was just up the hill from the municipality, where the bus dropped us off. After greeting our hosts, and dropping our bags off in our lovely little room, that had a cabin feel to it, we set off to explore the town, and plan our next two days of activities. When we started to get hungry and weary from walking, we stopped at a restaurant called Metropol, that was in an old train station. We enjoyed the food so much, that it became our go-to place, for all of our meals, for the duration of our stay.
We had looked up the weather for Borjomi before we came and new that Monday would be the best day for being outdoors. We weren’t disappointed when we woke up, on Monday morning, to bright blue skies, knowing that it would be a perfect day to visit the Borjomi mineral water park. Before we went through the park entrance we wanted to take a cable car ride to the plateau at the top of the hill. On the way up we saw a beautiful waterfall, and when we reached the plateau, we observed stunning views of the Caucasus mountains and the town below. Upon descending by cable car, from the hilltop, we walked the few steps to the mineral water park entrance, where we paid a fee of 70 cents to enter the gate.
The first thing we saw upon entering the park was the beautiful glass pavilion where the original warm mineral spring, called, Ekaterina, lyes. We stopped there to have a drink of the famous Borjomi mineral water, before continuing our walk through the park. Most of the amusements were closed for the season, but we did stop at a waterfall, where next to it stood a stunning statue of Prometheus, who in Greek mythology, was said to have given fire to mankind, and was therefore punished by Zeus, who chained him to a rock, to ensure that his liver would be eaten by an eagle. We had decided not to visit the spring-fed swimming pool that was located a little further into the park. It was a bit chilly that day, and since the pool is outside, and there are no changing facilities, we didn’t think that we would enjoy it.
After our pleasant walk through the park, we crossed a bridge over the Borjomula river and headed back to the center of town. To the right of Main street, and down toward the end of a road, a Gothic style house attracted my attention, and we decided to walk down and take a look at it. The house was built in 1890by a German architect, for the Chancellery of the Imperial House of Romanovs. Presently, it is occupied by the Museum of Local Lore. When we got there we saw a sign that said that they were closed on Mondays, though the door was opened, and there were all kinds of building materials on the front porch. Just when we were about to leave, the curator came out and told us that though the 3rd floor was being renovated, we were welcome to come in for a guided tour of the first and second floors. We were thrilled since we didn’t know if we’d have time to come back.
The curator showed us into the first room where we saw archeological finds from the I-II Millenia BC, such as bronze tools and weaponry. Next, we were led up a marble staircase, to the second floor, where she shared with us the history of the area and showed us clothing from early settlements, samples of the first bottles of mineral water produced in the area, and a collection of fine porcelain and bronze sculptures, from the Romanov Palace. We really enjoyed the Museum of Local Lore, and thought it was a great portrayal of Borjomi history.
On Tuesday, Tim’s Birthday, we decided to go to the Crown Plaza Hotel to enjoy a day at their spa. We knew ahead of time that the weather wasn’t going to be great, so we thought a day soaking in a hot tub would be grand. The price of the spa was $25.00 each, and that included the pool, 3 or 4 different types of saunas, and the fitness center. When we checked in at the front desk, they told us we could pay later, since we didn’t have our passports with us, and they couldn’t put our data in the computer. After we changed into our swimsuits, Tim and I met out by the pool. I asked him if he and gone in yet. He said that it was cold. That was not what I expected to hear. I thought the pool was going to be warm and have Jacuzzi jets. I went out to talk to the girl at the front desk and learned that their spa did not have a Jacuzzi hot tub. I finally asked if we could cancel the whole thing because it just wasn’t what we had in mind. The manager was called and was apologetic and told us that we wouldn’t be charged. I thought that was really nice of them because it was our mistake. They had given us a tour the day before and I didn’t think to ask if the water in the pool was warm. I assumed it would be like the spa we had visited in Scotland, where they had 4 or 5 different Jacuzzi tubs with varried temperatures, from warm to hot.
We were a bit disappointed in the day so far, but we decided to try to make up for it by stopping at the Firuza Hotel for a Baileys and coffee. The Firuza, which means Blue Palace, was built in 1892 for the Consul. of Iran. After we had finished our drinks, I asked the desk clerk questions about the hotel and was offered a tour of their finest room. She led me up a marble staircase to the second floor where I got to see the most beautiful suite I’d ever seen. I cannot even remember what she told me the price was. I just know that it was way out of my price range. There was an elegantly furnished bedroom, two grand sitting rooms, and a balcony with mirror fragments from the ceiling, to the floor. I loved it, and told Tim, later, that we’d have to come back and stay there for a special occasion. That night we celebrated Tim’s Birthday by going out to eat at the Metropol and having a cake from the local bakery.
On Wednesday morning, after breakfast, we thanked our hosts and headed back in the van to Tbilisi. The Thursday after we got back, we worked out at the gym, but Friday it was raining, so we decided not to walk the two miles to the gym, but to take care of some errands in town, instead. OUr rent was due on December 1st, and since our host had requested that we pay her in US dollars, we had to go out and find an ATM where we could withdrawal US currency. We also had tickets to the Gorda Ballet, for Friday night, and since it was rainy we wanted to eat at a restaurant close to the Opera House where the performance was to take place.
After dinner, we rushed across the street to the Opera House, only to find out that the ballet had been canceled due to a couple of dancers being injured. We were led to the box office and told we could exchange our tickets for the Nutcracker Ballet that would take place on January 13th. I was a little disappointed about not seeing the Gorda Ballet, but I was thrilled that we’ll get to see The Nutcracker, which is one of my favorite ballets.
When we arrived at one of our favorite restaurants, next to the Opera House, at about 5:30, that night, we were surprised by the new faces of the staff we saw working there. We ordered our favorite Georgian dishes and a moderately priced bottle of Georgian white wine that we like. The server brought the wine to the table already opened, and it wasn’t what we ordered, but a much more expensive brand. We pointed out the mistake to the server and told her that it wasn’t what we ordered and we had no intention of paying for it. I suggested since we weren’t told that the establishment was out of the wine we ordered and the manager had taken the liberty of opening the more expensive bottle, that they should give us the bottle they had opened for the price of the cheaper one. The server went back to speak with her, but when she returned to the table she told us that the manager said that either we pay full price for the wine that was opened or it would come out of the server’s salary. We were outraged but at the same time, we didn’t want the server to have to pay for the wine. We took out a bottle of the more expensive wine, from our grocery bag, and handed it to the server, and told her they could now take the wine off our bill since they had a replacement. We didn’t get our food that night until 6:30. We had to rush through our meal to get to the 7:00 ballet. We vowed never to go back to that restaurant, and if that’s the way they treat their customers, I doubt they’ll be in business very long.
A visit to Vake Park
This is the brick oven used for the traditional bread making. It’s the best!
Our Local Vegetable Market
Our local vegetable vendor, always a welcome smile
Nice variety of fresh fruit and vegetables
Local Wine Shop
Here is where we buy our favorite Tvishi wine
Local Cheese Shop
This is where we buy our favorite Sulguni Smoked Cheese!
Fresh Flower Markets everywhere in Vake
Local Butcher Shop
That same weekend, at the end of November, we had begun experiencing some problems with the hot water heater at our apartment. We messaged our host on Saturday, December 1st, to let her know about the issues with the water heater and to ask her how we were to pay her the rent. She messaged us back that the neighbor would come late that afternoon, to collect the rent and to look at the hot water heater. He came but he was unable to fix it. She wrote us back and asked us to give him the rental payment anyway, and she would try to get a professional to look at the water heater on Monday. We told her that we didn’t feel comfortable paying the rent until the hot water heater was fixed. That night we went back on Airbnb to look for an apartment that we could book immediately. We decided we wanted to be near our Snap gym so we wouldn’t have to walk so far when the weather was bad. We found a brand new apartment in the Vake area for 630USD a month. We’ve been here a week now and are just loving it. It’s a modern, one bedroom, one bath, with a large living space, a nice kitchen, and plenty of hot water. Best of all, it’s just a short walk to the gym, and we live in a quiet area, that is just full of shops that have everything we need. This is our third move in Tbilisi. I’m hoping the third time is a charm!