Day 2, The Cheese Volcano, The Man-Rub, The Mosque and The German Girls

Tbilisi Travel Blog

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Cheese volcano anyone? Notice the butter, egg, cheese and impending heart attack.

I think I must have commented to my friends about how un “Georgian” our food was, because the next day, very first thing in the morning, they took me to a place that sold the cheese volcano, a food that is by far one of the most unhealthily delicious things I have ever eaten.

The cheese volcano is a type of traditional Georgian Kachipuri (hopefully I spelt that correctly), which means that it is bread with the normal kachipuri cheese.  This type of cheese was slightly sour, semi-melt able and fresh, I think (I’m not a cheese expert at all, I just like to eat it).

Either way, this wasn’t your normal kachipuri.  Imagine a medium sized loaf of bread shaped like an oblong caldera with the crater full of cheese and half a stick of butter.  Now, imagine an egg fried over the caldera.  This is the cheese volcano , caldera-bread filled with eggbuttercheese.

The Kur river, which flows through Georgia and Azerbaijan.

We all ordered the second to smallest version, and none of us could finish it.  I ate about 2/3rds of mine and I think that my heart would have exploded on the spot if I had finished it.

High on life and full of eggbuttercheese, we went to explore more of the city.  Our goal was to make it to some Turkish baths, which should have been no more than an hour of walking, but we kept on stopping at houses of worship from several different faiths.

Note: the traditional name for this type of bath is “hamam.”

Our first stop was in one of the most beautiful Orthodox cathedrals I have ever seen.  I found it interesting that there were dozens of people inside praying and visiting the shrines of all the saints.  I was impressed by how religious the Georgians seemed there.


We visited a Jewish synagogue next, and then an Armenian Orthodox cathedral afterwards.  They were both interesting, but then, suddenly, we found ourselves at the hamam and we went inside for the man-rub.


To explain things, the man-rub was a long time coming.  John, Charlie and I had spent an evening looking for a hamam in Baku so that we could sit around in our underwear and drink tea.  We were hoping for a big hairy man to give us a massage as well, but unfortunately we never found a place that was open.

So there we were, the three of us, sitting naked in a sulfur bath.  We had paid for the full hour and for the special treatment, which meant that we were getting a massage from a man, or, a man-rub.

Close to the Kur river on the edge of the old town. They all give me the creeps.
  The room was beautiful, with domed cupola style ceilings, a marble massage table off to the side and a very relaxing “bath” area full of sulfur water (even if the water was a bit too hot).  We were just talking with one another when suddenly there was a knock on the door and a man showed up.

I was the lucky one to be first in line.  The man slapped his hand on the marble slab, which indicated I was to lie down on my stomach.  He took some sort of rough pad and started scrubbing me vigorously.  He systematically scrubbed every part of my body from my head all the way down to my feet.  Then he turned me over and did the same thing.

Now, in America, there would be a significant amount of care and attention put into trying to avoid touching my testicles.  This wasn’t America and I was getting a man-rub in a hamam in Tbilisi, so such care was not given.  This man had a job to do and he had to get down in there to scrub some of those “difficult to scrub” areas.

To be fair, it seemed completely natural, and it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.  Besides that, the massage was relaxing.  At this point he was alternating pouring hot and lukewarm water over me and I was probably as relaxed as I have ever been.

He then turned me around and did the same thing, but with foamy soap, following the same process as before.  I finished by taking a lukewarm shower as the masseuse moved on to the other two.

I had been man-rubbed.  I don’t think I have ever been cleaner in my entire life.

It is interesting to note that the masseuse came in wearing underwear, but at some point took them off.  I’m not sure when or where that happened, but we were four naked men in a hamam.

Quick note: I don’t know if this was a Turkish bath or an Islamic bath.  Both of those terms seem to fit and might be the same thing.  If anyone has an idea about this, let me know.


Later that day, after leaving the hamam, we kept on exploring the city.  We found our way up a hill and into a mosque.  Of course, excited about visitors, the imam (or mullah, he answered to both), came out to greet us.  He started speaking to us in a broken English about the different parts of the mosque area.  We started talking back and forth and soon found out that he was an Azeri born in Tbilisi and that we could just communicate with him via Azerbaijani.  He had a lot of things to say and this turned out to be one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had.

First off, he was very interested in name dropping.  He talked about all of the religious leaders he was friends with.  He mentioned Cardinals from the east coast of the US.  He mentioned some professors in the US that he helped with different Islamic studies, Orthodox leaders, and other members of the community that he was close with.  He was trying to, correctly, portray Islam as a religion of peace and cooperation.   During this time he mentioned a lot about how he disdained terrorists who took people’s lives and that Jihad was never meant to kill people but to be a battle with Satan himself over one’s own body.

I took a risky move when I asked him about how Azeri’s in Georgia felt about Armenians and if there were ethnic tensions in Tbilisi between the two groups.  Generally, this is a topic that one should NEVER bring up with Azeri’s, even under some of the most diplomatic situations.  This question really got him talking, and not because he was offended that I asked.  He thought that the question was a good one and according to him, Azeri’s that live outside of Azerbaijan don’t care about things like that.  The Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Georgia live as neighbors and as friends.

Of course, this got him ranting about Azerbaijan and Azeri people and he had a lot of strong negative things to say.  He prefaced, a couple of times in fact, that Azeri people were very nice, but that they were simple and had a hard time thinking because they watched TV for all of their information.  He also made some disparaging remarks about Azerbaijan’s beloved past president and leader, which is something I thought I would never hear coming from an Azeri.

He was frank, he was candid and he made sure to let us know that he loved the Doors and the Rolling Stones, but that he didn’t grow up listening to Michael Jackson.

After that experience, we went down to see an English movie and by chance met a couple of German girls.  By “by chance” I really mean that I started talking to them.

These girls were really cool and we got to know them a bit better over drinks after the show.

We then went to McDonalds to eat, which was lame.

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Cheese volcano anyone?

Notice t…
Cheese volcano anyone? Notice …
The Kur river, which flows through…
The Kur river, which flows throug…
Close to the Kur river on the edge…
Close to the Kur river on the edg…
photo by: herman_munster