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The Chandelier at the Opera. Photo from agenda.ge. See the full gallery here.

The Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (Tbilisi Opera) has finally reopened to great fanfare. Most shows have been sold-out, and it seems like everyone is itching to get inside and see the renovations. I was one of those people. Friday night, my friends and I went to see Swan Lake. While Swan Lake was a great choice of performance to watch, we would have been happy to see anything we could get tickets for that fit into our schedule so we could get into the building and take a peek. I’m the furthest thing from qualified to give a critique of the ballet, so I will just leave it at “It was pretty.” The performance was accompanied by a live pit orchestra, which always adds a nice touch. You can check upcoming performances on the Opera’s website (NB: I can’t find an English version) or see the schedule and buy tickets on tkt.ge. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office. The upcoming schedule features a Georgian ballet and a Georgian opera, in addition to some international favorites. I know nothing about these performances, but it seems like it would be an interesting and unique experience.

The renovations of the building did not disappoint–everything is sumptuous. Every inch is painted with beautiful designs, there are oodles of chandeliers, and the chairs are all velvet-covered. Leg room isn’t generous, but the seats are comfortable enough. The restrooms seemed to be the only place where money was an object during the renovation–in contrast to every other nook of the building they were not luxurious, but they were clean and functional, so I have no complaints. Throughout the hallways and in some of the smaller spaces there are exhibits of memorabilia from the theatre’s history.

My only complaint is beyond the theatre’s–audience behavior was quite shocking. I haven’t gone to the theatre in any other country in years (even before I moved here, I wasn’t living in a place with lots of theatre-going opportunities), so maybe this is not a Georgian problem, but one that has grown worldwide, but I was shocked to see people who had paid 80 GEL for the most expensive seats in the house who were fiddling with their phones on throughout the performance (they didn’t appear to be filming, which would have been even worse)–the glow was distracting, even from three floors up. The doors to the hall were constantly opening and closing, and there was quite a lot of loud talking. (from the adults. The little girls nearby were quite well-behaved) Despite the annoyances which kept me from being fully swept up in the performance, it was still quite enchanting.

I took a few snapshots of the decor, but they pale in comparison to those the pros took for the grand opening…so look at these instead.

 

I am an admitted lover of Georgian food, and there are of course many excellent options for that everywhere in Georgia (sometime I’ll do a write-up). Tbilisi, though, is home to a variety of restaurants featuring other cuisines for the times when you need something different. Foreign restaurants tend to be more expensive here because of the novelty–for the sit-down restaurants here, expect to pay at least 20 GEL for a meal, more at the really fancy places (but less at cafes!)

Asian:

Baan Thai: Is one of my favorite places for something a bit different.  It’s not as addictive as the Thai restaurant in my college town, but I’ve liked everything I’ve tried.  They’ll even deliver, so it was ages before I went to the physical location, which has quite a nice ambiance.  There’s another Thai restaurant in Vake (called “Thai”), but I didn’t like it quite as much.

Lemon Grass Thai Food: Though the name suggests a Thai restaurant, Lemon Grass in fact offers a wide array of international fast food options, ranging from Pad Thai and sushi to pizza, burgers, and even falafel sandwiches. With the feel of an American burger joint, the atmosphere is nothing special, but the wide variety of reasonably-priced and hard-to-find dishes make it well worth a visit. The Pad Thai is the best deal for Thai food in Tbilisi (though the quality isn’t quite as delicious and authentic as at Baan Thai), and it comes served with chopsticks for increased authenticity.

New Asia (Chinese): Is located just up the hill from Rustaveli Avenue, across the road from the conservatory  If you’re walking from Liberty Square metro towards Rustaveli metro on that side of the road, take a left up the hill after you pass Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. It’s the last place on that block on the right hand side.  I’ve been here twice, and the food has always been fine, though it varies a lot.  The dumplings are quite good.

There’s also a Chinese restaurant on Gargarin square that I enjoyed, though I have also heard that the quality there varies drastically (and I can never get the name properly, since they use a nearly-illegible font in both English and Georgian).

Asian Takeaway (next to Rosemary on Vertskhlis Kucha) has just a small menu and one table, but they offer cheap and tasty Indian, Thai and stir-fry dishes, and even are rumoured to deliver to lucky neighborhoods.

Also check out Strada‘s Korean menu (under American/European)

Indian

Little India/A Taste of India (there’s a name change causing some confusion.  The building is labeled “A Taste of India” but they haven’t re-branded all their media, the website is still “Little India”): One of the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever been to.  The ambiance is lovely, with private tables secluded by curtains and delicious food.  Try the garlic or onion naan, and a curry of some sort (I got some version of peas and cream, and it was AMAZING).  On the pricier end of things, but oh-so delicious.

Shree Restaurant (apparently there’s been a name and possibly management change, I’ll update when I make it back there to check it out) is one of the many cheap Indian restaurants allegedly near the Medical University  (It’s the only one I’ve found, though).  It’s on Nutsubidze Street near the corner of Asatiani.  The mixed veg and chicken samosas are both excellent, though the butter chicken wasn’t our favorite.  Everything is made right to order, so things don’t necessarily arrive at your table in any sort of order that you’d expect.  I recommend asking the staff what’s good, they’ve never led us astray.  They scared everyone by closing for summer, but re-opened in fall.

See also Asian Takeaway, in the Asian section above

American/European:

Tartine (French): a cafe-restaurant with locations in Vake and Old Town with nice cocktails and salads. I’m not blown away by their lunch and dinner options, but brunch there is a fantastic deal–27 GEL for a hot drink, an alcoholic drink, soup, and a main (including service).  There’s also the option for brunch without soup for 22 GEL.  The huevos rancheros aren’t exactly authentic, but they’re tasty and satisfy the Mexican food craving..

Hangar Bar (Irish):  is the place to go and watch American sports. The nachos are good.

Café Gallery:  Renowned as Tbilisi’s most famous gay nightclub, Café Gallery, is actually open all day as a café which features a combination of Georgian and non-Georgian dishes. They make delicious sandwiches, salads, and soups at relatively reasonable prices. I’m a fan of the Cafe Gallery sandwich with a homemade lemonade.

Ronny’s Pizza: The best place in Tbilisi to get pizza umaionaiso (without mayonnaise).  The prices are shocking at first, but an XL pizza is gigantic, and it’s legitimately American-style pizza.  The pizza in Telavi is better, but this is the best I’ve had in Tbilisi.  The small pizzas (personal size) are a decent value.

Pizza di Roma: A local pizza chain that makes something I consider pizza. Some of their toppings are questionable (coughcoughsulguniandmayonnaisecoughcough), but they also have proper mozzarella and parmesan, and all the item descriptions have been accurate. I haven’t had any surprise mayonnaise turning up on something that was listed as clean. The crust and sauce are good, so they’re starting in a good place. The pasta carbonara (made with ham, not bacon) and sea buckthorn “tea” are also worth a try. A real selling point for me is that at my local branch there’s a non-smoking section that the staff strictly enforce.

Pita+/Pita Fresh: (name changed, seems to be the same menu and management, though): Discovering this place and their delicious falafel was one of the food-related highlights of Fall 2012.  Low prices and great food, but unfortunately far from my house.  I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever tried the falafel, but there are other sandwiches on the menu, too, like chicken and burgers.

Kiwi Cafe: a vegan cafe in the old town. Perfect location for when you’re being a tourist on a hot summer day and can’t bear the thought of heavy food like khachapuri and khinkali. Featuring an international, rotating menu. The raspberry smoothie was my favorite thing I tried. I love their food, because they make the type of things I make, but with some new twists. And I don’t have to cook it myself!

Factory 27: Cool atmosphere, and decent food. Offering some things that are hard to find in other places, like burgers, hummus, and nachos.

Pipes Burger Joint: The burger itself is good, but they’re still finding their way with some of the specialty toppings. I found the pepper sauce on mine TOO peppery (and I love black pepper) while the salad was a bit flavorless. However, they’ve got a great base (they’ve managed to get good meat and buns), so I hope they work out the kinks. Maybe stick to a simpler option for the time being. Nonetheless, it absolutely satisfies the craving for a burger.

Strada: Inconvenient location, but great menu. The American-style pancakes and waffles are a hit with me, and they have a fantastic variety of fresh fruit infusion “teas”. They also have a Korean menu that gets good reviews, though I haven’t moved beyond pancakes myself.

Localino: Locations in Vake and Saburtalo. Fantastic pasta dishes. I tried the pizza and it was good, but not memorable, whereas I have dreams about the baked cheesy pasta with spinach concoction I got there.

Rosemary: Southern food with Georgian ingredients. See my detailed review here. 

Middle Eastern:

There have long been a number of Turkish cafeterias on Aghmashenebeli Avenue. I’ve tried a few and they have been fine, though I don’t know which is which

Amira: though I usually try to stay away from the fashionable restaurants in Vake, Amira is a pretty delicious Lebanese restaurant. All the dishes I expect to see are on the menu, and they all taste like they should. Can get incredibly expensive quickly, though. You’re paying for the nice atmosphere and fashionable address.

 

Coffee

Caliban’s Coffee House: the coffee shop attached to Prospero’s Books.  I quite like their cold drinks, and other things are fine, though not the best or the cheapest in Tbilisi. This is a place to go for the ambiance, and to feel like you’re back in England or America (or Canada, I suppose)

Entree: Is a chain in Tbilisi with locations on Leselidze and Pekini, two locations in Vake, one or two in Vera, and one on Marjanishvili Square (perhaps there are more I haven’t found yet).  The coffee and pastries (both Georgian and French) are good, and the wifi is usually pretty fast.

Literaturuli: a cafe chain that’s also a bookstore, with locations throughout Tbilisi and in some of the other major cities. They do decaf coffee and have pretty cakes, but their lobiani is actually my favorite.

Wendy’s: The American fast-food chain Wendy’s now has a location on Rustaveli Avenue.  As one would expect, they sell burgers and fries and chili and frosties (all of which are pretty tasty), the real surprise here is the “Wendy’s Cafe” which has a wide-ranging menu of coffee drinks at some of the lowest prices in the city (only 4 GEL for a latte! Wow!) Dunkin’ Donuts has now also opened a number of locations and is expanding fast. Wendy’s and DD often share a building, as they’re owned by the same parent company. They’re known for their coffee in the US, and by Georgia standards their prices can’t be beat.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: in the Tbilisi Mall and on Rustaveli seems to be the only place in Tbilisi with chai tea lattes. Yum. It’s not cheap, but I don’t even care.

(Originally Published March 25, 2012.  Most recent update: October 22, 2016).

Heretics and Colonizers (image from GoodReads)

Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia’s Empire in the South Caucasus by Nicholas B. Breyfogle* 

Breyfogle, Nicholas B. Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia’s Empire in the South Caucasus. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2005. Print.

Availability: Available in the US and UK in physical editions; formerly available at Prospero’s, but currently out of stock. Check your local academic library.

Let me begin by saying that this book is a little different from most of the others I have reviewed here. This is a true academic work, not a non-fiction book for the general public, and it assumes a certain amount of background knowledge. Since I have a solid background in the history of the region, I had HEARD of Dukhobors, but I was coming into this book without much specific background information, and I found it fascinating. The writing is interesting and accessible–not the snooze-fest that sometimes plagues academic writing. The research explores the Dukhobors, Molokans, and Subbotniks (sometimes referred to in English as Spirit-Wrestlers, Milk-Drinkers, and Sabbatarians respectively) in the South Caucasus. These religious sects were composed of ethnic Russians, but they were not Russian Orthodox, presenting a challenge to the traditional idea of Russian nationality. Some were exiled and others chose to move to the South Caucasus, where the regime thought they would be less likely to spread their “heretical” beliefs to other Russians, but they could be of use spreading Russianness to other areas of the empire. The tsarist regime’s treatment of the sectarians and their legal status was in near constant flux. In some ways and at some times, the sectarians achieved great successes in their new homes, while the (spoiler alert) Dukhobor Movement and weapons burning resulted in retaliation and exile/immigration for many of the Dukhobors.

This was one of those books that raised a lot of questions for me and encouraged me to look up some more information and learn more. I’d be interested in reading a biography of “Queen” Lukeria Kalmykova, for example, and I’m very interested to find out what’s going on with those who remained in Georgia at the end of the time frame covered in the book. (I asked a Georgian friend, and his reply was “Yeah, there are Dukhobors in Kakheti and Molokans on Aghmashenebeli Avenue. They’re still Russians. I don’t know about Subbotniks.”)

This book is perhaps not something with widespread popular appeal, but if you are curious about the topic I strongly recommend that you read it.

*I studied under Professor Breyfogle, so you may consider me biased. I don’t think knowing him changed my opinion of the book, but it did encourage me to read it, which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Loneliest Planet (Image from Wikipedia)

The Loneliest Planet

Language: English, some Georgian (not meant to be understood), Spanish verb declensions (good practice for me!)

Availability: available on DVD in the US

I can’t really say if this film was good or bad. It isn’t really a movie, as much as it is a gorgeously-filmed hike. Basically, you watch Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg and Bidzina Gujabidze hike through the Caucasus Mountains and deal with interpersonal issues. It’s certainly an interesting and eventful hike, the scenery is beautiful, and the actors are good (some of it I couldn’t tell if it was scripted or ‘reality show’). I heard a rumor when the film was first released that Gujabidze was a professional mountain guide, not an actor, but I can’t find any corroborating information. Though this was his first film, he has also appeared in a 2015 Georgian film so he may have changed careers. This film will give you a good sense of Georgian “anecdotes” that just do not translate well. There was also a funny bit on swearing in Georgian and English, if you’re interested in picking up some colorful vocabulary. If you are looking for a fast-paced or plot-heavy movie, though, this isn’t for you. As for me, I did enjoy watching the film, but thought it was a bit long given the style and subject matter.

Flight from the USSR (Image from GoodReads)

Flight from the U.S.S.R. / ჯინსების თაობა (“Jeans Generation”) by Dato Turashvili  

Turashvili, Dato. Flight from the USSR. Trans. Maya Kiasashvili. Tbilisi: Sulakauri Publishing, 2008. Print.

Availability: Easily available in almost any book or souvenir shop in Georgia, in Georgian, English, or Russian. US/UK editions to be released February 2016.

The story of a group of young Soviet Georgians who just can’t take it anymore so they decide to hijack an airplane and defect to the West. This historical fiction novel is more on the historical side (per my quick Google research), and most of the fictionalization lies in giving personality and dialogue to the historical personages. The story was initially written as a play in 2001, while Shevardnadze (who makes an unflattering cameo in the novel version) was still in power. That was certainly a brave act of artistic resistance. The novel version of the story was published in 2008, though the play remains popular (but I haven’t seen it yet). US and UK versions of the novel are slated to be published in February 2016.

When I decided to start reading this, I didn’t realize how timely my choice of reading material was–I began just after the Paris attacks, and therefore the idea of terrorism was at the forefront of my mind while reading it. One of the main themes of the book is the oft-quoted idea that the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is where you stand, and that the line between good and evil is not always clear-cut. The hijackers’ actions are not defended–everyone admits that engaging in terrorism is wrong, but they are all portrayed as sympathetic characters who are just trying to make the world better. As the novel tells it, the casualties of the hijacking were inflicted by the authorities, while the hijackers shared water with the passengers trapped aboard the aircraft. This brings into focus the harshness of life under the late-Soviet regime, and the upside-down reality that the terrorists took more care of citizens than did the officials whose duty was, theoretically, to protect them. The novel engages with the philosophical questions of violence, freedom, and the connection between the two. To me, Turashvili didn’t answer these questions; rather, he created an environment suitable for the reader to ponder them.

Though the book has a philosophical side, it remains a quick and enjoyable read. The action is fast-paced, and the prose is concise and readable. At under 200 pages, it’s also a quick read. Kiasashvili’s translation was quite good; it maintained a readable and colloquial style. The one real problem I found with this book was that the proofreading was terrible (/non-existent)! It was riddled with typos–some of them comically awkward (“shedding teats in the cemetery”) and some just bizarre (a Russian letter inserted in the middle of an English word). Note to Georgian publishing companies–I (and I’m sure plenty of other ex-pats) would be happy to check for typos in exchange for some lari. These errors prevented me from fully engaging with the book and immersing myself in it. I assume that the forthcoming US and UK editions of the book will fix these problems, making the book much more readable. I can’t speak to the quality of the Russian translation.

One last point to make is that the Georgian editions of the book (Georgian, English, and Russian) are published by Sulakauri Publishing, who have been in the news recently for an ad featuring a Hitler impersonator, which many feel is in poor taste. You may want to keep this in mind when deciding if you would like to purchase the book.

Some friends and I recently came across some very adorable puppies in the lobby of their building. We thought we should get them vaccinated and fixed, but weren’t sure how to do that or how to get enough money for it. We reached out to Dog Organization of Georgia for advice, and they offered to take care of these pups. The two girls are at the shelter getting vaccinated and fixed now, and they’ll keep an eye on the boy and the mother, and when he’s old enough and she’s calm enough they’ll take care of them, too. I’ve made a donation to help them cover expenses (though I don’t have enough to cover all the care for these dogs), and it would make me really happy if others could pitch in, as well.

One of the lobby puppies, who will get basic veterinary care thanks to DOG.

One of the lobby puppies, who will get basic veterinary care thanks to DOG.

USD Fundraising page: https://www.gofundme.com/3hr7pk

Georgian Bank Transfer Details:
Account Name: Dog Organization Georgia
Bank Code: TBCGBE22
Account No.: GE 17 TB08 5563 6080 1000 03

I’ve mentioned it before, Georgian has this great word “zeg”, meaning the day after tomorrow. It’s cute; it’s convenient; we need it in English. It seems that other people are finally starting to agree with me! Join me in using zeg in English!

This vlog from 2013 (we’re a little behind) has recently been making the rounds of the Georgian internet (slow news week, I guess), as the list of “14 Words the English Language Needs” includes two Georgian words:

You can watch an edited down version of the video that just contains the discussion of the Georgian words here (text Georgian, but video English)

Shemomadjamo has gotten lots of mentions on similar lists, but it’s usually wrong (it should be shemomedjamA შემომეჭამა) and the pronunciation is usually off. I also don’t actually find it such a useful word in reality. Zeg (ზეგ) however, doesn’t get nearly as much listicle love, and it’s infinitely useful.

Anyone care to join me zeg for a meeting of the Zeg Appreciation Society?

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I first went to the Black Sea and played in the water at Anaklia five years ago (there wasn’t much there at the time), but I hadn’t actually gone swimming until this weekend. I joined some friends for a quick weekend trip to Batumi, but we actually decided to stay in Gonio, just to the South, instead. Gonio (and neighboring Kvariati–we stayed just a smidge on the Gonio side) is known for being quieter and better for swimming than Batumi, where the focus is on sunbathing, boardwalk entertainment, and seeing and being seen. The water is supposed to be clearer than in Batumi, and you could see the bottom as far out as I swam. The water temperature last weekend was perfect, and the swimming was really enjoyable.  The scenery was stunning–green mountains leading into the ocean. The beach looks like this, though, so if you’re planning on sunbathing you might want to bring something rather thick to lay on:

Gonio Beach

Gonio Beach

That rockiness continues out as far as I could touch, and I found myself wishing for the water shoes that I hated as a child but my mother made me wear when I went creeking. If you have anything of the sort, or any water-proof sandals that will stay on your foot (not flip-flops) I would strongly recommend that you throw them into your beach bag.

 

There are often jellyfish in the Black Sea, and while they aren’t usually the dangerous kind, a sting will hurt. There were a few teeny tiny little guys in the water while we were swimming. They freaked me out, especially as I felt them rather than saw them (very odd texture). They didn’t sting us, though.

We did our swimming and sunbathing at Gonio, but went into Batumi for dinners (Adjaruli khachapuri, of course) and entertainment. The Boulevard was in full swing, and there was something for everyone. Bicycle (and multi-person bicycle thingamabob) rentals, ping-pong and billiards, concerts, bars and restaurants, ice cream peddlers, statues to take photos with, a ferris wheel, dancing fountains, a “3-D Exhibition!” of the 7 Wonders of the World…plenty of options. I was actually really impressed. Though I’d been there before, I hadn’t seen it at it’s height. You could stay entertained there for quite a long time.

We also visited the Gonio fortress, which was a pleasant surprise for me. I didn’t know there was such a major historical site nearby. Admission is not expensive (3 GEL, if I recall correctly), and the complex, dating back to the Roman period, is extensive. There is also a small, air-conditioned museum (the air conditioning was pretty great after spending a lot of time out in the sun). The walls still look quite formidable (I don’t know how much work has been put into keeping them that way). Archeologists working at the site recently discovered some Roman mosaics, but we didn’t see them–I’m not sure if that’s because they aren’t yet on display to the public, or we didn’t make it to that section of the fortress. It’s nice to stop into the historical site and get a change of pace from the beach-centered attractions in most of the area.

My friends playing around in the fortress

My friends playing around in the fortress

For the return trip, I tried the Metro Georgia bus, and I was VERY pleased. I bought my ticket online in advance with no problems. The seats were spacious and comfortable; the entertainment system, WiFi and air conditioning were all in working order; and the whole process was easy and stress-free. The bus doesn’t have an on-board toilet, but there was a stop at the halfway point where people could use the toilets (30 tetri) and buy snacks. The route runs between Tbilisi and Batumi (and you can transfer on into Turkey or Armenia). You can also buy a ticket to intermediate stations. As I was on the bus on a Sunday night in high season, it was packed from end to end, and didn’t stop at the intermediate stations because no one was coming or going. This meant we also returned to Tbilisi a bit early than scheduled–a very pleasant surprise since I like my sleep.

Though a long distance to travel for a short trip, it was a lovely weekend getaway.

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Poster for the Premier of Julius Caesar at Rustaveli Theatre

Julius Caesar / იულიუს კეისარი

performed by the Rustaveli Theatre Company in the Rustaveli Theatre

The Rustaveli Theatre Company seems to have been inspired by my 10th Grade English curriculum. We read both 12 Angry Men and Julius Caesar that year…perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tale of Two Cities are next in the repertoire.

Unfortunately, my attendance at this play was off to a bad start when my attempts to buy tickets online sucked me into the biletebi.ge drama. My money was taken, but no tickets appeared and customer service did not reply to multiple messages. In the end, I bought the tickets direct from Rustaveli Theatre’s box office, my bank returned my money, and I did not hear a peep from biletebi.ge. I retract my previous endorsements of their service.

I was looking forward to seeing this production, because I know the story well, and like it. In addition to reading it in school, I’ve seen two other professional productions of the play, so you could say I’m a fan. This version was also directed by Robert Sturua, someone so famous in Georgia that even I’ve heard of him! So my hopes were high.

Now, this could be considered a spoiler, so stop reading if you’re sensitive, but I suggest you continue reading on anyway. It might spare you some disappointment.

THEY ONLY DO HALF THE PLAY. Yup, that’s right. They only do half the play, clocking in at under 2 hours for a Shakespeare play! It’s crazy. It also changes the whole play. Caesar dies, everyone claps, and the cast takes their curtain call. Now the play is not about Antony, but about Caesar. And also, this version of the play is pretty boring–it doesn’t get into the psychology and aftermath of an act the way the real play does. It’s just a bunch of guys walking around, then killing their friend. I’m pretty sure my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Mealey, would NOT approve of this change. I certainly don’t.

In addition to my artistic differences over when to end the play, I didn’t understand some of the other choices made in the production. The setting seemed to be an old theatre or cinema, but who the characters were supposed to be or where/when they were never clicked for me. (My Georgian friend confirmed turned to me at one point and said that he also didn’t get it, so this was not just a language issue). I got the impression that the setting and costumes (mid-century gangsters, I think?) were chosen because they were cheap and accessible. I’ve been involved in and/or watched some productions that had similar constraints, but most high school and college productions I’ve seen have pulled it off MUCH better (and they are not the national theatre company, so the audience is understandably a bit more forgiving). They might have been able to pull it off had they done the second half of the play, because I was just starting to get into their world when they just stopped.

Like in most other productions I’ve seen in Georgia, the actors did occasionally burst into song or just start dancing. I didn’t find it added or subtracted anything from the overall play, but it seems to be the fashion.

Unfortunately, this was the worst play I’ve seen in Georgia, but it must be commended for its creativity. This production failed because it took a lot of risks; it’s just that they almost all fell flat. Nonetheless, it was certainly a more thought-provoking performance than the very risk-free and traditional performance of The Cherry Orchard at the Griboedov Theatre.

If you want to see Shakespeare in Georgian, I recommend you give Julius Caesar a pass, but run and buy your tickets to As You Like It as soon as you can!

One thing about living abroad is dealing with a different basket of available consumer goods. I’ve discovered many new types of fruit here in Georgia, and have really learned to use herbs when I cook. But there are also those things from home that we miss, or can’t live without. I personally bring a lot of “suitcase food”, but sometimes that plan fails. Here’s a list of my recon on some popular items in the expat crowd, and where you can find them. The answer is often, though not always, one of the major chains of grocery stores. However, not all branches will have the same things in stock, so even then it’s a hunt!

Bagels Furshet supermarkets (cheap! more Lender’s-level quality, though), Le Gateau, Dunkin’ Donuts
Brown Sugar if you don’t need the texture, a German brand of dark sugar is commonly sold in the bigger supermarkets and will add that touch of depth to the flavor. If you need that specific texture, there’s a specialty baking supply shop near the corner of Paliashvili Street and Arakishvili Street in Vake. I’ve never heard anyone call it by name, but please fill me in if you have more information!
Chickpeas (dried are more common) Tursa, Furshet, sometimes canned at Goodwill
Cumin Carrefour, Tursa (the Georgian word კვლიავი kvliavi is used for both cumin and caraway, so make sure you check! I’ve sometimes seen it just labelled სუნელი suneli or “spice”)
Dental Floss GPC and PSP pharmacies, Carrefour (becoming more common, but still more expensive than you’d think. Lately, it has been worthwhile for me to get some fancy stuff shipped from the US–prices here are so high, that it’s not so much more expensive, and it’s much more comfortable)
Gluten-Free products Georgita, small section at Smart
Mosquito repellent Supta Sakhli stores carry Off! Brand products, there’s also usually something in didi Carrefour, and seasonally in the larger pharmacies
Quinoa Carrefour
Soy Milk sometimes at Carrefour, but only sporadically in stock
Sunscreen is becoming much easier to find. The “perfumeries” (like Lutecia and Voulez Vous) also carry international brands of make-up and skin care, and usually have some very good, though expensive sunscreens. Navne often has American brands like Neutrogena and Banana Boat, but their stock fluctuates a lot (they’re also basically an overstock place, so make sure you check the expiration dates). Big grocery stores and pharmacies also usually have some, though limited selection and not great prices.
Tortillas Smart (check the bread area on the lower shelves), occasionally Carrefour

Shoes and Clothing are obviously available here, but it’s hard to find good quality, cheap, and in all sizes (apparently my feet are man-sized; I’ve been laughed at when asking for women’s shoes in my size). Tbilisi Mall has a variety of Western brands like Gap, Marks and Spencer and Zara (also on Rustaveli), but even low-priced Western stores are not low-priced here. You can buy anything at Lilo “Mall” though the quality is usually quite low; fortunately, so are prices. I’ve had some luck looking into shops on Pekini Street like KOTON and Promod, and I love Penti for colorful tights (all those stores have multiple branches). If you’re willing to hunt, there are second-hand shops on Pekini Street and surrounding the train station. My friends have had some great finds, but I don’t have the patience or innate sense of style to make it work. It’s worth noting, though, that tailoring is fairly cheap and easy to have done, so you don’t need to find the perfect perfect fit. I often find that I don’t care for the most common styles here (not a fan of either the bright and blingy fashion of many teens or the black and sacklike style favored by older women) and for me cheap online shopping and shipping through a package forwarding service like USA2Georgia has been better. Sierra Trading Post and thredUP have been my go-tos of late (Those are referral links which will give you a discount).

I’ll try to keep this a living document, and you can help by commenting with other places to find things, or asking if I know where to get something.