I loved Tbilisi - the capital of Georgia, which rises up along the banks of the Mtkvari River. In the old town where I stayed, houses crowd along higgledy-piggledy alleyways, ornate balconies jump out from all angles; ancient churches, mosques and synagogues jostle with the domed 17th century baths.
The cable car across to the fortress in the evening offers a fabulous way to soak up glittering vistas across the city. The Peace Bridge a completely modern glass and steel structure, aglow with thousands of LED lights.
Can you believe, the architects built the entire bridge in Italy and transported it across Europe in 200 trucks!
I spent a day in Tbilisi on my own, exploring some of the landmarks and galleries. The metro was a convenient way to reach the other side of town - Rustaveli Avenue, named after the great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli and the main avenue of Tbilisi, lined with trees and marvellous buildings showcasing the city: the Parliament of Georgia, the Georgian National Opera Theatre and several museums.
My first destination was the Academy of the Arts to view the Mirror Rooms, a hidden gem as it’s not well known to tourists and often closed. Within a replica of a Persian palace created by craftsmen from Iran. The 3 rooms are dazzling - decked from ceiling to floor with intricate mirror work.
Some parts have shards of glass arranged in geometric patterns, the mirrors reflect colours and light from the windows and grand chandeliers - a mesmerising sight.
I wandered on to MOMA, created by Zurab Tsereteli – a popular Georgian artist who was the President of the Russian Academy of Arts for years. A Charlie Chaplin exhibition was currently showing.
My next stop the Fine Arts Museum - what a treat! I could have spent a week here! 3,500 works spread across 3 floors featuring over 100 Georgian artists - with works ranging over the last 70 years.
I was very impressed with the quality and breadth of styles. A shame none of the names were known to me.
It was a joy to amble along the main thoroughfares and back streets. Around every corner a surprise. Through the old town, I passed an old caravanserai, converted into a hotel. Like many places I’ve visited, Tbilisi was also a stop on the Great Silk Road.
A crowd was gathering at the Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theatre - a small theatre established in 1981. At the top there is a peculiar leaning clock tower, created in 2011, each hour a puppet emerged to strike the hour.
Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral, is an example of Georgian architecture, from the 5th century and since 1920 the Patriarchal Cathedral - it's one of the most sacred places in Georgia’s capital as the cross of Saint Nino, who first brought Christianity to the region, is preserved here, with a replica on public display. Her cross is always depicted with two drooping grape branches, held together with her hair. Quite beautiful to hear a choir while we were there.
We passed a piece of the Berlin Wall and the seminary where Stalin studied, discovered Marxism, becoming an avid follower of Lenin. He left the seminary to become a revolutionary.
Tbilisi is such a mix - soviet style as well as classically designed buildings, beautiful parks, and everywhere the locals are out enjoying themselves with a glass of wine or two!
All too soon it was time to leave the beautiful city of Tbilisi and Georgia - a country we all loved, it has so much to offer. We headed for the border, farewelling our lovely guide Sali.
We were surprised by cows dawdling along the road without a care in the world - they gave our driver a challenge avoiding them!
Coming up soon the last of the Caucasus countries - Armenia.