Day 42: Climbing the hills of Tbilisi
Tbilisi Travel Blog› entry 62 of 260 › view all entries
May 17th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
I'd been in touch with a girl from Tbilisi, who I'd met via Travbuddy. She'd agreed to show me around town and we met up at the old city.
Miranda is a refugee from Abkhazia. In 1994 civil war erupted in this region in the north-west of Georgia and the region tried to declare independence (it had been a separate Soviet republic for a short while in the 1920s, before the region was incorporated into the Georgian SSR. More than 250,000 ethnic Georgians were forced to leave the de-facto republic and these refugees, or IDPs (Internal Displaced Persons) are now living throughout the country, many of them in temporary housing provided by the government.
Although the republic is not recognized by any nation apart from Russia, it is not possible to travel there from Georgia. Well, it is possible to travel there, but you won't allowed back into Georgia if you do, so for me it wasn't much of an option to go there. For Russia the area is of great strategic importance, as it provides access to the Black Sea for their fleet when the Krim lease with Ukraine ends. So until there is any certainty for Black Sea access for Russia, they will happily keep on stirring the fire in Abkhazia and people like Miranda and her parents will be unable to return home.
Looking at Abkhazia as well as the South Ossetia province in Northern Georgia (which want to join North Ossetia in Russia), and the disputed Nogorno-Karabakh region in Armenia/Azerbaijan, make you just realise what an incredible mess the Soviet government made of their empire.
Anyway, enough politics. There was some sightseeing to do. After a quick tour around the old town we went up to the Narikala fortress, a 4th century fortress which dominates the skyline of Tbilisi. It remained in use until the 19th century, by which time it was used as a Russian munitions storage. An explosion of these munitions marked the end of the fortress and these days there is little more left than some ruined sections of the outer walls. The views from the top are excellent though.
We continued to walk along the rim through a decidedly ugly concrete Soviet era park to the Kartlis Deda, the statue of Mother Georgia.
At the top of Mt Mtatsminda is an amusement park full of thrill rides, almost all of them broken down or in very bad state. The park was built a few years ago by a rich business man, but he died before the completion of the park. It seems that in Georgia when your life passes away, so does your money, and the park was never completed. Supposedly the largest roller coaster in Europe was going to be built here and on maps and brochures it is advertised as “opening in 2008”.
Despite all this the amusement park remains open though, even there are hardly any visitors and most of the rides were not working. Staff was sitting around, chatting in de shade of a tree, waiting for some of the handful visitors to buy a ticket for a ride or attraction.
After a cup of coffee we walked down again towards the city centre (both the funicular and the cable car connecting the mountaintop with the city below were out of order).
Once back in the centre it started raining, so we took some shade in a restaurant where we had lunch and some drinks. After lunch we both went our separate ways again and I didn't do much else that afternoon. It kept on raining, so I spent my evening at the hostel using their shaky internet connection to call home as it was my little niece's birthday today.
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