Good morning Tbilisi – a photo essay by Rossana Bernardi3 min read

“I’ve been swept away with all kinds of emotions since I arrived in Tbilisi. I love every corner. I love the vibe. It’s the place where all Georgian microcultures and experiences, so interestingly diverse, combine together and make Tbilisi such a peculiar place.  I sometimes feel miserable in the face of its extreme contradictions; I see ghosts of the past and uncertainty about the present and future. But most of all, I am fascinated by the genuineness and affection of the people. I just feel at home here.”

A chill of morning energy runs gently down my spine as I walk along the cobbled streets of Sololaki. Behind me, an old papa carrying heavy buckets filled with matsoni (Georgian yoghurt) walks quietly and a distant “Malina, Malinaaa” (Russian for raspberry) echoes down the street. Tiny kittens pop out of courtyards and garbage cans, while a stray dog is resting on the sidewalk.

From one neighborhood to another, I lift my head up to appreciate the shapes of old pastel-coloured houses, neoclassical institutional buildings, Soviet-style concrete structures and shiny new skyscrapers. But I need to be careful; I might step on dog poo or a hole that might kill me.

Cars are already clogging the streets and drivers are playing with their horns. Will I be able to find a seat on my marshrutka (a kind of minibus common in post-Soviet countries) today?

The Tone (Georgian tandoor) is getting warm for baking and fruit stands are mushrooming along the streets. I am already craving for my daily lobiani (Georgian bean filled bread).

I will just take one and starve myself a bit until tonight’s supra (banquet). Ketuna’s bebia (grandma) is expecting me to eat the equivalent of one week of food.

When the sun starts going down, a pink-orangey light illuminates the reflective surfaces of the Vake skyscrapers. I can see the green hills surrounding the city from the windows of my university building. As I walk out, Salome (a candidate for the Georgian presidential elections) is watching me from a giant poster right above my head. Someone is singing Celentano in the painted underground.

Chavchavadze street feels longer than ever at this time of the day. We are playing tetris with our bodies inside the bus, just like when you try to put as many marshmallows as you can into your mouth. There’s always space for another one. When I get back to my ubani (neighbourhood) it’s already dark and my lungs are filled with leaden air, but I go up and up to enjoy the view. Lights are intense in front of me. They follow the shapes of streets, churches, palaces, statues. They become sparser towards the horizon. Fireworks are exploding somewhere far away. The city looks stunning from up hill. I must go, they are waiting for me. I just hope I’ll survive tonight’s chacha (Georgian grape distillate). It’s only Friday and I need to keep myself for Bassiani tomorrow. 

Rossana Bernardi is a graduate student from Diplomatic Sciences in Trieste, Italy. She is specialising in the Caucasus region within the CEERES program, University of Glasgow, Scotland. At the moment, she is conducting research on conflict transformation in Abkhazia. Rossana is also passionate about fine arts and is tirelessly looking for alternative ways to stimulate her creativity.