Archives for posts with tag: Tbilisi

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See my first post of favorites from this summer here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. 

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Storefronts of “Rosemary” and “Kiwi Cafe”

It’s been a rough few months, but there have been a few bright spots. Here they are:

Rosemary: I wrote a whole review of this restaurant here, and it has continued to be a comfy and tasty place. My friends and I held our Thanksgiving dinner there, and it was great! (And I didn’t have to/get to cook and clean).

City Mall Gldani: There’s a Carrefour near work, and only a short bus ride from home! This is particularly good, as the shops near my apartment are poorly-stocked and overpriced. I did have some trouble here with rude staff, but they were surprisingly receptive and apologetic when I filed a customer service complaint, so they’re still in my good books. The mall also has a Holland&Barrett where I can get my favorite licorice tea, a good-sized branch of Biblus bookstore, and some reasonable clothing shop options (I’ve had good luck with LC Waikiki lately).

The return of Kiwi Cafe: I’m so glad Kiwi has found a new location! This place doesn’t have the same funky vibe, but it has gorgeous high ceilings and much more space. The falafel wrap is as delicious as ever, and the bookshelf has grown!

Taxify: Though I entered the 21st century last year with my first smartphone, it didn’t support any of the quick-multiplying taxi apps. Now that I have a new hand-me-down smartphone that supports more apps, I’ve given Taxify a try and been very pleased with the service. I try not to take taxis very often, so I don’t have vast experience with Taxify yet, but so far is has been pleasantly boring–a rarity for Tbilisi taxis!

Dishonorable mention(s): the US elections, record low of GEL against USD

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

Rosemary/როზმარინი

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Rosemary has taken over Kiwi Cafe‘s old location at 41 Vertskhlis Kucha, near Liberty Square

Now, before I give you my review of the new restaurant, Rosemary, I have to give you the disclaimer that the chef, Grant, is a good friend of mine. As such, I’ve had his cooking many times, long before he opened the restaurant. In fact, when we were living in the same neighborhood, my apartment had an oven and his didn’t, so he asked if he could come over sometimes to use the oven–I was not at all opposed. Grant is a professional chef back in the US, and he’s from the state of Georgia, so many of his dishes are inspired by traditional Southern food, but he’s using the ingredients fresh and available to him in this Georgia.  As such, some of the dishes skew more American Georgian, some skew more Caucasian Georgian. He’s also got local wine and microbrews on tap.

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Burrito night!

I’ve been to Rosemary three times now–once for pre-opening burrito night, once for a welcoming tasting party, and once as a regular old guest, so I’ve tried quite a few of the dishes. My absolute favorite so far is Rosemary’s take on the traditional Georgian ბადრიჯანი ნიგვზით (badrijani nigvzit, eggplant with walnuts). Here, it’s served as eggplant fries with a Georgian-spiced walnut dipping sauce. I also really enjoyed the arugula salad with cheese, pear, and adjika-honey walnuts. My more carnivorous dining companions have all given rave reviews of every meat-centered main that has come their way (braised pork belly, chicken satskheli–inspired by satsivi but served warm, and pork tenderloin). I have enjoyed all of these, but to me they weren’t as stand-out and creative as the other dishes I mentioned above. The draught red wine was good, and although I’m not really a beer-drinker, I’ve enjoyed Alkanaidze’s brew.  The hot mulled wine was perfect for a gray, rainy day.

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Rosemary’s menu on October 16, with a glass of Alkanaidze in the foreground

One small detail where Rosemary really shines is that they bring you free, chilled (tap) water as soon as you arrive. It’s so nice to get that note of American-ness (and also to be able to drink water with reckless abandon). I was also glad to have my dishes arrive as courses–first the appetizer, then the soup, then the meat–another small detail that’s often overlooked in restaurants in Georgia.

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Clockwise from top left: Badrijani Nigvzit, Salad Tbilisoise, Chicken Satskheli, Pumpkin Souffle

If you’re looking for a taste of home, or something different from the ordinary Georgian fare, but still distinctly Tbilisian, I recommend you stop in to Rosemary and see what they’ve got for you to try that day.

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. There have been lots of new Georgian food products hitting stores this year, and there are constantly new restaurants and cafes opening in Tbilisi, so there’s a bit of a food theme (this time, at least), though I am willing to branch out.

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Clockwise from top left: Bubble Tea, Frixx Caucasus Chips: Tarragon Flavor, AlterSocks assortment, Chirifruit Carrots in Chocolate

Barambo Export Fig Ice Cream Barambo has been my favorite ice cream brand since my first summer in Georgia, but this year they really upped their game. The fig flavor is simply marvelous. I don’t know how to describe it other than delicious. (Widely available)

Chirifruit Carrots in Chocolate “chiri” means dried fruit, and this company is taking traditional Georgian dried fruit (which you can buy pretty much anywhere) to another level. They sell prettily arranged gift packs of dried fruit, and have some chocolate-dipped versions, a tasty innovation that I haven’t seen anyone at the bazaar selling. I spotted the label “Carrots in Chocolate”, and I had to try them. I’m very glad I did! It’s some sweet, dried, carroty-mush on a stick, dipped in chocolate. Maybe it doesn’t sound so good, but it tastes great! They’ve got the texture just right, and it’s sweet but not too. I haven’t seen this brand many places, but there’s usually a wide variety of their offerings at the Smart on Rustaveli (that’s where I got the carrots).

Frixx Caucasus Chips: Tarragon Flavor this brand entered the market last year, but this summer they introduced a tarragon flavor, and it’s my favorite! Crispy and salty chips with a bit of sweet and sour tarragon flavor–the combination works perfectly! (They’re also supporting local agriculture, so that’s a win, too.) (Widely available)

RealThai brand products (including noodles, sauces, and coconut milk) have been showing up regularly at my local supermarket, and I’ve even spotted their products at other little marketi in my not-so-posh neighborhood. They’re surprisingly widely available! It’s been a really nice way to expand my cooking repertoire this summer with Thai-style curries and oatmeal soaked in coconut milk.

Bubble Tea Tbilisi  I fell in love with bubble tea as a college student in the Boston area, and haven’t had any since I moved away, so I was delighted when I heard a bubble tea place was opening in Tbilisi. It might not satisfy those from Taiwan, but the tea I ordered hit the spot for me. The menu is extensive (though I stuck to the basics), and the boba was neither too slimy nor too tough. I’ve always loved the chunky, colorful straws that they give you to slurp up the bubbles–they make me smile. Definitely a nice change of pace. (7 Chavchavadze Avenue, Vake; next to the big Biblus)

AlterSocks Georgian-made fun socks! When I heard about these, I immediately went on a quest to find them. I failed finding the Tbilisi Mall location the first time (it’s behind the escalator in the atrium area), so I made a trek to Vake to pick some up in the Pixel Building. They have both Georgian and international designs, but the Georgian ones appealed to me most–khachapuri, khinkali, and a chokha! (And you thought those J. Crew taco socks were cool…) The fabric fells nice and soft, and the size that was supposed to fit me did.  Friends and family back in the US, don’t be surprised if Santa brings you some of these this year. (kiosks at 3 major shopping centers: Tbilisi Mall, Pixel Building Vake, and the shopping center with the Saburtalo Goodwill)

Batumi Dolphinarium  I went for the first time this summer, and the show was just amazing. It made me want to quit my job and become a dolphin trainer. Tickets sell out fast, so you need to buy them the day before, if not earlier. You can give the neighboring aquarium a miss, though. My friend described it, quite accurately, as “some dude’s dirty fish tank collection”. (51 Rustaveli Street, Batumi)

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

 

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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 for American fast-food pizza.  The prices are shocking at first, but an XL pizza is gigantic, and it’s legitimately American-style pizza.  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.

Ambrosiano: OMG this is the real deal! Imported mozzarella and toppings, truffle sauce–heaven! The crust isn’t perfect, but the toppings are so delicious it doesn’t matter much. Really nice staff, too.

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. 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). Locations near the Philharmonic and in the Fabrika complex.

Big Smoke BBQ A few years ago this would have been the best burger in Tbilisi, but the competition is stiff now that burgers are “in”. The pulled pork was amazing, and I loved how generous they were with the fruit in the homemade lemonade.

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 throughout the city. The coffee and pastries (both Georgian and French) are good (though they’re always out of my favorites!), 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: 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: February 28, 2017).

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

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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.

On June 13 (just over two weeks ago) Tbilisi experienced a severe flash flood that took the lives of 19 people (and 3 still missing, presumed dead) and destroyed the zoo and a dog shelter, leading to surreal photographs and international attention on our city. The immediate relief effort has been impressive: volunteers swarmed the area as soon as they could, and millions of dollars have been raised to support the victims and rebuild the infrastructure. (If you’d like to be involved in the immediate recovery, I’ve posted a number of suggestions for what you can do and where you can donate here). But what can we do to keep the community momentum, to continue supporting these people and prevent similar disasters in the future? Here are my ideas:

Ask Questions. Ask questions of politicians when they announce new infrastructure projects. (What will be the environmental impact? What building safety codes apply?) Ask similar questions of the journalists who cover those topics. Ask questions of the builders when you buy property. Ask questions of the landlord when you rent. If you don’t like the answers, or can’t get any answers, don’t support the project. Talk about the flood and recovery with your friends, and see if they have other ideas. Don’t forget the tragedy.

Support (with your wallet or with your activism) groups advocating for disaster risk reduction and reduced environmental impact: I know that Save the Children, the Red Cross (the Austrian Red Cross in particular), Tbilisi Guerrilla Gardeners, and Iare Pekhit (Pedestrian Rights’ Organization) have done projects in the past on these topics, and will very likely continue to do so in the future.

Donate money to relief organizations so they can have well-trained professional staff and resources ready to respond immediately when a disaster occurs. The Georgian Red Cross are the major players in this field here in Georgia.

Adopt an animal and/or support the animal shelters and rights organizations in their efforts to reduce the number of animals on the street and in shelters. If there had been fewer street animals and animals in shelters, fewer animals would have been in danger during the flood. Dog Organization of Georgia is one of these organizations, but I know there are others. (Last I heard, the Elizbarashvili Shelter that was destroyed in the flood is currently unable to give animals for adoption, but they should be up and running again soon)

Support civil society organizations Identoba, the Women’s Fund in Georgia, and wehelp.ge are all organizations with a different focus who stepped up in the aftermath of the flood and helped to mobilize volunteers and donations. But supporting civil society organizations in general is important so that citizens’ concerns are listened to. I try to keep track of new organizations and projects and/or their fundraisers on my links page. I keep that frequently updated based on what’s going on at the moment, so check back frequently! There’s a good chance that organizations and projects unrelated to the flood will now have a much harder time getting donors to support them, but that doesn’t mean that other projects become unimportant. Try to support them, too!

Support local businesses (or international companies contributing to the Georgian economy by providing jobs and paying taxes) so that the economy can expand and money will become less of a limiting factor in Georgia.

Make sure you are familiar with how to respond in a disaster. Here’s a cute video on what to do in a (non-flash) flood:

I’m interested to hear what other suggestions readers may have for long-term support in reaction to the flood. What other actions can we take? Have I missed any other, particularly lesser-known, organizations doing great work here?

Serious flooding in Tbilisi, with information still coming in. Check civil.ge, agenda.ge, and Democracy and Freedom Watch for updates. I’m home, safe and dry. I’ll post links to recovery efforts once they are available.

The most recent updates put the death toll at 19, with 3 still missing. The Tbilisi zoo was mostly destroyed and 66 animals were killed and many temporarily escaped, with one tiger still missing. Sadly, one white tiger killed a man while on the loose. The Tamaz Elizbarashvili Dog Shelter was also destroyed, with very few dogs surviving. Current estimates of the damage stand at 100 million GEL.

The community support in donations and volunteers has been overwhelming, but with this level of devastation, donations from other countries will be necessary. Below I have posted links to fundraising efforts by established, reputable organizations, as well as the information to volunteer or provide in-kind donations in Tbilisi. Please help as you are able.

Georgian Red Cross Fundraising Page

Fundraiser for the Tbilisi Zoo

IndieGogo Fundraiser for Tamaz Elizbarashvili Dog Shelter

Women’s Fund in Georgia Fundraising page (read their page for their plans for the money)

Fundraiser to Re-Build the School of Tomorrow

Fundraising Page on local crowdfunding platform wehelp.ge

The site itself is in English (click EN at the top left if you see the Georgian version) but the card information and bank confirmation is in Georgian. The following photos (courtesy of Remi Boissonnas) show how to complete the donation process.
STEP 1:
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STEP 2:

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STEP 3:

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Donation information from the Georgian Embassy in Washington

Dear friends,
You are probably aware of the extreme flooding and its consequences in Tbilisi, Georgia, that happened on June 13, 2015. The damage is still to be calculated, however some information is already known, 12 casualties, many missing, destroyed houses and destroyed Tbilisi Zoo.
If you are willing to assist those in need, below are the details of the bank accounts, where you can send the money.
We are grateful for your contributions and support!

Transfer of – USD, EUR, GBP:
JSC LIBERTY BANK
SWIFT: LBRTGE22
GE27LB0010045017001717

Transfer of USD; EUR
JSC TBC BANK
SWIFT: TBCBGE22
GE34 TB11 0000 0361 8088 08 – EUR
GE67 TB11 0000 0036 0820 20 – USD
NAME OF BENEFICIARY: ‘CHARITY ASSOCIATION TBC’ UNION

Donations to the State Budget: (info from agenda.ge)

People who wish to donate money to help Georgia recover from the disaster can transfer money to following accounts:

Intermediary:

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK, USA (USD)

SWIFT CODE: FRNYUS33

Account number: 021087992 GEORG

Beneficiary’s bank:

NATIONAL BANK OF GEORGIA, TBILISI

SWIFT CODE: BNLNGE22

Beneficiary: MINISTRY OF FINANCE OF GEORGIA

IBAN: GE65NB0331100001150207

State Budget

Intermediary: DEUTSCHE BUNDESBANK, ZENTRALE FRANKFURT AM MAIN, DE (EUR)

SWIFT CODE: MARKDEFF

Account number: 5040040060

Beneficiary’s bank: NATIONAL BANK OF GEORGIA, TBILISI

SWIFT CODE: BNLNGE22

Beneficiary: MINISTRY OF FINANCE OF GEORGIA

IBAN: GE65NB0331100001150207

Scholarship in Memory of ISET Students Killed in the Flood (info from ISET)

By internal (Georgian) wire transfer:
Partnership for Economics Education and Research
ProCredit Bank, Central Branch
Account Number: GE57PC0233600100011081
SWIFT Code: MIBGGE22
By international wire transfer:
Partnership for Economics Education and Research (PEER)
Citibank NA
SWIFT code: CITIUS33
ABA#:0210-000-89
Further credit: Citibank FSB, Washington, DC, ABA #254070116
Account #:  9250388020
Account Holder: Partnership for Economics Education and Research (PEER)
By US domestic wire transfer:
Citibank FSB
Washington, DC
ABA#: 254070116
Account #: 9250388020
Account Holder: Partnership for Economics Education and Research (PEER)

Official Volunteer and Collection Point Information

Volunteers are needed at the spots pinned in red–the information shows (in Georgian) what time to report and how many volunteers are needed, and blue and green show what donations are needed and where they can be dropped off. So far only in Georgian, but Google translate is giving a good jist. Watch the page linked to above to see when and where hands and supplies are needed, both now and in the coming days. Volunteers are no longer allowed to help with the physical clean-up of debris, but they are still needed for tasks like sorting and packaging donated food.

Because of tetanus concerns, volunteers are being given free vaccinations. Clinics offering this service are pinned on the map in aqua. For additional info, call the Ministry of Health hotline: 1505